BFH goes edu-ID

Monday, August the 3rd, 2020: The day starts with a big bang. Early in the morning, the engineers at SWITCH “flip the switch” (pun intended) and Berner Fachhochschule (BFH) has gone edu-ID.

Philippe Seewer, IT software engineer / IT architect at BFH, gives an insight into the preparatory work at BFH:

Significant changes are tough

Well, to be honest, it is probably more a loud pop than the proverbial start of the universe. Still, it is a change that affects pretty much everyone in our organization. For a long time, almost all publicly accessible non-Microsoft resources have used SWITCHaai as the method of choice for authentication. Among these is our own Moodle server – today an essential service for all courses. No access to Moodle does not necessarily mean classes would shut down, but it would undoubtedly be a lot harder.

Accordingly, we selected August for the switch on purpose. Although the bachelor/master semester start is a few weeks off, research and continuing education courses take place. However, since it is a bit quieter than other times of the year, this gives us at IT-Services the necessary time to implement significant changes.

Communication, preparation and more communication

On the technical side, the implementation at BFH could be considered a bit boring. Given the context, we had to select the linking after admission strategy and control everything from our identity management solution. Integrating an organizational registration page and pushing to the affiliation service was technically not a big challenge since we develop the IdM-solution ourselves. Add in the excellent support by the engineers from SWITCH – it was pretty fun.

The challenge was, of course, in getting everyone to create an edu-ID and register it – that is around 13000 students and faculty members.

We started informing departmental key-staff in autumn 2019 and got our official “go” at the start of 2020 by the IT committee of our management. In retrospect, securing positive management backing was one of the critical points in the process and helped a lot.

The second critical point in the process is testing. Not the results per se, although they are essential. Being able to show and demonstrate these results live to application specialists and “critics” is a large part in expectation management.

Another critical point was getting help from our communications office. Being able to “fork off” the crucial aspects of writing, creating and translating end-user content to an expert is a huge relief.

June started with the first official step of the process: Documentation on the intranet and the official website went up, the “blue button”
(registration page) went live, and every user got an email asking to create and register an edu-ID. Then phone-calls, tickets and emails started coming in – a lot more than expected. Having gone through several iterations of what to communicate, we still overestimated our users.

Help arrived in the form of two short videos demonstrating the process by our e-learning staff, demonstrating the process. Tremendously reducing the number of tickets and calls in our ServiceDesk, those two videos are currently the most-watched videos on our – now edu-ID protected – video platform.

The videos, more email reminders in July and the transition in August forcing users to have an edu-ID has led to a registration rate of close to 60% of all users. With more to come.

Transition day

So, Monday morning August 3rd, BFH transitioned from classic SWITCHaai to SWITCH edu-ID. And long story short: It went without a hitch. Yes, of course, there were some smaller hiccups as expected with such a change. Nevertheless, nothing has yet happened that prevents us from declaring the switchover to edu-ID a success.

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