This page contains frequently asked questions about Nebraska Connect. If you have a question that is not answered here, feel free to contact Andy Boell at (402) 721-7710 x221 or [email protected].
Q: What is Single Sign On?
A: Single Sign On is a technology that enables configured systems and users to sign into one system once then have access to other services. An example you may be used to would be being able to use your Google credentials to access GMail, Drive, Calendar, etc. You only need to log in once but it allows you to access all those services.
Q: What services will I have access to?
A: This is still a work in progress. Right now, the main service you will be connected to is the NebraskaCloud Portal. Inside this portal will be numerous apps/websites that, once configured, will be able to be accessed without the need for the users to log in again. Examples of services that may be accessible are: ADVISER, Learn360, HippoCampus, NVIS and PBS Learning Content. More services are sure to come in the future.
Q: What is the timeline?
A: With this still being a work in progress on many aspects, a timeline is not exactly an easy question to ask. The primary service driving this is the ADVISER system. Schools participating as either pilot schools or early adopter schools (EAP) are being contacted first. But there is nothing stopping non-EAP schools from participating. According to the NebraskasCloud Technology Plan, approximately 80 public schools should be connected (statewide, not just with the NNNC) by September 30, 2016. Other districts may have opt-in roll-out by September 1, 2017.
With that all said, the NNNC would like to get as many schools configured and connected to the Single Sign On system as soon as possible. The more schools that are participating, the more need there will be for getting services added in a timely manner. Our goal is to be a leader across the state and to help drive the services that are added for the benefit of our schools.
Q: Is participating in the NNNC’s Single Sign On system a requirement?
A: Participation in the NNNC’s implementation of Single Sign On is not a requirement. However, in order for schools to participate in the ADVISER system, you must be connected to the state into their Single Sign On system. The NNNC is providing a system that increases security when compared to other implementations across the state. The NNNC also has dedicated staff to assist in the setup, configuration, implementation and troubleshooting. If as a school you choose to not use the NNNC, you will need to make the necessary arrangements with ESUCC to connect to their system directly. However, if you choose to partner with the NNNC, our staff can integrate into your existing Active Directory and have you operational in a very short time. Additionally, the NNNC offers the ability to connect to services that may not be available with the NebraskaCloud Portal.
Q: What are the technical requirements?
A: The technology at the core of the NNNC implementation is Microsoft’s Active Directory Federated Service (ADFS). Our goal is to enable the schools to maintain local control of their directory. Therefore, each school must have an Active Directory environment to participate. Our recommendation is to maintain a separate domain-tied ADFS server rather than installing the ADFS service on a domain controller. This is both for security and to preserve directory configurations should an error occur.
Q: What if we are not a Microsoft/Windows school?
A: No problem as you are in good company! Many of the NNNC schools are completely Apple-based schools without a single Windows machine in their building. Many of the individual ESUs have the ability to host the necessary servers in their facilities, or can recommend minimum hardware specification to allow your school to participate.
Q: Does this mean I will need to learn how to manage a Windows server?
A: Not necessarily. Your ESU can provide assistance in the area of server management. And we have also developed a method for managing your local user accounts by leveraging customizations to some of the major student information systems (currently PowerSchool and Infinite Campus). With these customizations, you can manage basic user accounts (including creation, enabling, disabling and updating) all from the student information system you are already familiar with. Of course if you want to get in and manage a Windows server, go right on ahead as the customizations are not a requirement, just an option.
Q: This sounds like it will cause me more work. Won’t this save us time?
A: Depending on how you want to set up everything, using Active Directory can help to simplify life in the IT world. For example, when you have a new student, you need to create for them a computer account, a record in the student information system, an account to their student e-mail (or for many schools, a Google Apps for Education account). This is in addition to any other systems your school may use (i.e. learning management systems, counseling/guidance systems, learning object repositories, etc.). The setup process for this new student requires a lot of manual data entry, which is prone to human error. By using Active Directory, you can be assured that the student is able to use the same password for all applications. And if that password needs to be changed for any reason in the future, all you need to do is modify it once and it’s changed for all accounts. Consistency for your users and less time for your IT department.
Q: What Active Directory attributes are required?
A: This will vary depending on the services your school uses. We are maintaining a document that outlines exactly which attributes are required for each service and how to manually update them for each user. This document can be found here. If you are using our student information system customization to manage your Active Directory attributes, those pages will be updated accordingly.