In 2012, higher education thought-leader Eric Stoller wrote about the importance of digital identity development.

“Currently, social media are the dominant set of interactional spheres where digital identities are made manifest,” he wrote. “Critical development is taking place and higher education needs to be incorporating proactive digital identity development opportunities.”

“Institutions should be teaching students about the importance of context in online communications, the fluidity of privacy, awareness of nuance, and the power of community-building through social media.”

While math, writing, science and history comprise the core curricula, digital is no longer the new kid on the block. Now more than ever, technology in the classroom is fully embraced, as youth today are growing up in in a digital world. Digital identity touches many industries, such as healthcare and banking, but what about education?

For one, identity-verification technology could make schools safer. An app called Gateway to School offers a simple way to identify people visiting a school. Parents are identified by digital identity cards containing QR codes which they scan when visiting the school. The app also allows school security to confirm the identity of visiting strangers, by storing photos of their identity cards, their phone number and photo. Upon departure, an ‘exit code’ is also sent to the visitor’s phone, which confirms their exit.

Blockchain, the disruptive technology that has impacted various sectors from healthcare to food production, can be used in education. Blockchain can have many applications, such as assisting with transcripts, which is a labour intensive and time-consuming process. It offers a secure database for student test scores and data from online learning systems.

At the IdentityNORTH Annual Summit this past June, Peter Wilenius, Vice President of Business Development for the non-profit Canarie, described in a session how his organization provides access to a digital infrastructure for students, faculty and researchers.

Peter Wilenius, VP Business Development, Canarie

Canarie gets funding from the federal government to promote the advancement of information and communications technology, Wilenius explained.

Together with 12 of the 13 provinces and territories, Canarie delivers digital infrastructure that connects Canada’s educational and research institutions to each other and to organisations around the world. With the Eduroam network, students and faculty can walk into any university and easily access high-speed wifi.

“Students can access it with one credential, no matter where they are,” said Wilenius, explaining that students expect such seamless service in a modern digital economy.

Canarie is looking at embarking on new projects with SecureKey, a leading authentication provider that simplifies access to online services.

Together, the two showed how they can strengthen trust in identity verification in Canada’s higher education community.

The work Wilenius and team are doing demonstrates how digital identity can benefit users from all demographics and industries, and support research and development. With the right tools and access protocols, more collaborative learning and support can be provided for the next generation of innovators and leaders.

For more details on the IdentityNORTH 2018 Annual Summit sessions, including “Higher education meets higher standards for security and efficiency”, join our community mailing list to view the full Conference Report.

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