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Bath Spa University

Information Manager Digital Resources, Bath Spa University

OpenAthens helps Bath Spa University increase use of protected resources by 35 percent.

When Bath Spa University were looking for a solution to their single sign-on needs that wouldn’t increase the cost and burden on their IT staff, they quickly recognised the benefits of OpenAthens.

Students at Bath Spa Uni

Easier login with single sign-on

Bath Spa University had been successfully using ‘classic Athens’ along with IP authentication for a number of years. However, library staff realised that students and staff were regularly forgetting their username and password. This resulted in end users regularly contacting library staff to ask for their login details, or choosing not to use electronic resources at all.

The university wanted a single sign-on solution to make it easier for their 8,000 students and staff to access electronic resources.

Matt Durant, Bath Spa University’s Information Manager (Digital Resources), began to research the options available to the university to introduce single-sign-on. He recalls: “The project started off with the title ‘Shibboleth’ because we thought this was the only option available to us. However the project title quickly changed to ‘Single sign-on’ once we had seen a demonstration of OpenAthens LA in 2009.”

Easy to install, feature rich and cost-effective

Bath Spa University took the opportunity to be one of the first universities in the UK to implement OpenAthens. Matt explains the reasons behind the decision: “OpenAthens offered out-of-the-box statistics that would help librarians calculate the value each resource delivered to the university. This is only available through Shibboleth by accessing complicated log data – something our librarians wouldn’t appreciate.”

OpenAthens’s simple administration features also reassured the university that they could provide an improved staff and student user experience. Matt comments, “It is a lot easier for us to configure the system for authentication – making sure all students have hassle-free access to the resources they need.”

Bath Spa University recognised that OpenAthens LA would not only benefit library staff and end users, but the wider infrastructure of university staff. “Computing Services at the university were worried they did not have the time or expertise to program and support the open source software offered by Shibboleth,” Matt explains. “We were therefore excited at the option of a fully supported service from an organisation that has played such a massive part in authentication in the UK.”

The overall cost to deploy was another critical factor. “Whilst opting for Shibboleth was initially free, there would be significant cost and time implications for staffing the project that we wouldn’t need to worry about with OpenAthens,” Matt explains. “This presented a real cost benefit to the university.”

Fully supported, every step of the way

OpenAthens was implemented in the university during September 2009. Matt highlights how Eduserv’s ongoing support and expertise resulted in a quick and easy installation, leaving university IT staff to focus on their core business: “The support we received from Eduserv was great. When we experienced a couple of difficulties Eduserv sorted it all out for us straight away. From our point of view, the implementation was completely hassle-free and we were able to use the service in no time.”

This straightforward installation resulted in the positive user experience that Bath Spa University were looking for. Matt comments: “The benefits to staff and students could be seen immediately. The training and support we received meant library staff could easily manage the system and provide a better service for end users. The feedback we have received from all our staff and students has been incredible.”