One of the key goals of our 1:1 Chromebook deployment with Post-16 students was to allow students to instantly access all of their academic resources in one place, at any time. To this end, we centralised control of existing e-learning resources and invested in a large number of e-book and e-learning platforms that would achieve this. Then we got to work building these resources into a nice federated e-library that students could seamlessly access 24/7 in FrogLearn. It was a challenge, but we managed to get there with some great outcomes!
The big barrier to getting the federated e-library up and running, was that a lot of electronic resources designed for schools did not offer single-sign on options. FrogLearn is our VLE, and while the product is excellent, a school VLE platform can’t be expected to natively single sign on to every resource a school may have. With some creative tweaking, however, we managed to get FrogLearn to sign users into the twelve resources that made up our e-library.
We had resources from Kerboodle, Cambridge Elevate, VLE Books, GreenFile, EBSCO, Digital Theatre Plus, Gale, Infotrac, Britannica, New Scientist, Integral Maths and Philip Allan. Unfortunately, only Britannica had native single sign on support with FrogLearn. So you can see the challenge that faced us!
Single Sign On…there’s a hack for that!
The first step for us was to ensure that users could sign into Frog and securely be signed into their accounts for all of these resources. So, to start off, we ensured that every user had accounts in each product with a standardised username and password format. We also developed macros for each product which would ensure that students weren’t given login prompts to change passwords the first time that they logged into the resources. Users needed a standardised username and password format for this setup to work.
After this, we developed a PHP oAuth script which, when placed on a web server, would resolve a student’s Frog username as text and submit this data into a login form along with the password convention for the tool. If you use FrogLearn, then this is all handled by enabling the Get User Details API in Groups and Policies. The core parts of the PHP Script which resolves a user’s username in FrogLearn can by downloaded by clicking here and a good guide on using oAuth and the FrogLearn APIs can be accessed by clicking here. Hopefully it should provide a nice basis for developing any single-sign on script. However, if you want a bit more support, or more information on how to deploy the scripts for all of the tools above, just drop me a line at @TheEdTechSchool on Twitter or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With some resources, like VLE Books, we took this process a step further so that users would be redirected to an individual ebook after they were silently logged in the background. If a hyperlink was inserted in FrogLearn, which had a book’s ISBN as a query string at the end of a URL, then the script would carry out the oAuth process and redirect users straight to a specific book. Most school e-book platforms expect students to search for their texts. However, it’s much easier for the student if we can directly show them what is available for their subject.
Now that we had completed this process, we had a method for seamless single sign on for the twelve tools that I outlined above. If you would like any advice on enabling single-sign on for any of these tools, feel free to get in touch.
Curation and Organisation
The next stage was to make this entire resource well organised. We created a ‘Post-16 All Resources’ site on FrogLearn. Then we created sites for each A-level subject and linked to each subject site on the ‘All Resources’ site. Using rules we ensured that only the subjects that students took would appear for them. After this, it was time to post specific resources on all of the subject sites.
A good example is the AS English Literature site (see below). The site is divided into core texts, wider reading for stretch. It is organised in such a way that students can easily navigate to any e-book with a single click. Likewise, AS History was populated with core, essential and further texts for students to read. This was to ensure that the site had the basic materials for the course but also additional material which was signposted to stretch the most able students. A standardised theme and layout was adopted so that students would get a consistent feel when they were navigating the e-library.
The end result is a consistent, well organised and easy to use e-library that allows users to click on any resource and instantly gain access to it. It’s simple, well organised and effective.
By hiding a self submitting Google Form in each login script we could capture the login count for each platform in one Google Sheet alongside usernames. This makes usage analysis a dream! It also showed us that our strategy was a success with students.
In just eight weeks, during our first half-term, we had nearly 900 views of e-books on VLE Books, 169 logins to Cambridge Elevate from English, 134 logins to Kerboodle from Science and 194 articles read from the Philip Allan Archive alongisde great traffic for the other resources. Best of all usage is growing! In time, we will see if students who engage with the e-library have better academic outcomes.by