Willis Independent School District

Cloud SSO allows teachers use a variety of learning apps with no user account stress!

Willis Independent School District logo

Willis Independent School District

  • Willis needed a secure and automated portal to access all applications with 1 set of credentials per user (that they can reset themselves if required).
  • Techers are now using all resources at their disposal because it’s so easy. They have seen big improvements in resource management, making it a more stimulating learning environment for

Automated account provisioning increases efficiency frees up staff to maximize their talent

Willis ISD is located 45 miles north of Houston in Willis, TX, serving roughly 8,500 students and staff. Encompassing sections of Montgomery and Jacinto Counties, Willis ISD facilitates 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 1 high school, and an alternative campus in one of the most rapidly growing US areas.

Willis ISD first investigated Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions to manage digital textbooks and provide students and staff with individual accounts for greater security and accountability. “This push for SSO is just really 2 years old,” said Deborah Menefee, Willis’ Executive Director of Technology, adding “I think a lot of that is because of the digital textbook resources.” Other apps were underutilized without a central access point for users and management control for IT staff and teachers. “Ultimately the resources just didn’t get used, they were too much trouble. A teacher might have a favorite resource,” described Menefee, “and she would get all the login information for her students in that one, but not use other resources because it was just too much to manage.”

Further, Willis wanted to stop using generic accounts – an effect of difficult access management for cloud-based apps. “We tried to use generic accounts, maybe for a whole campus or a whole grade level,” Deborah said, relating the scenario: “What we sacrificed was the progress monitoring or the ability to see what students were doing individually in those resources, any kind of grading or activity, accountability – we totally sacrificed those features. There was no individualized assignment or differentiation assigned by the teacher because everybody was under the one generic account.”

“You guys have always listened to what your customers said and made improvements on what we needed.”

Stephen Shannon, Senior IT Manager at Willis

Decision Making and Implementation

With 6 years of UMRA and SSRPM experience, Willis ISD looked to draw upon its long-standing confidence in Tools4ever’s solutions. “We’ve partnered with Tools4ever since 2010.” recalled Stephen Shannon, Senior IT Manager, “You guys have always listened to what your customers said and made improvements on what we needed.” At the time, however, Tools4ever’s HelloID SSO remained in development stages forcing the district to implement another solution.

The next spring, Willis discovered a fully-released HelloID and jumped at the more affordable solution and the opportunity to expand its partnership with Tools4ever. “The idea of using SSO through a product we already have integrated with our system,” Stephen reiterated, “just makes sense.” The district was able to see how HelloID would operate in their environment and finalized their implementation that fall.

Post-Implementation

HelloID’s facilitation and management of access to the district’s educational resources directly addressed the drivers behind their initial SSO search: digital textbooks and resource management. According to Digital Integration Coordinator Courtney Brown, “I would say the biggest benefit has been because it’s so easy to access, our teachers are using resources they’ve never used in the past.” “The other big benefit is that, when a student gets home and they need to access homework or something in their toolbox of digital resources, they log onto HelloID and know that it’s going to be
listed there,” explained Courtney. “There’s no longer any worry of ‘what’s that website?’, ‘what’s my login for that one?’ – Mom doesn’t have to worry about ‘I didn’t bring my book home’ – it’s all there on one site,” she continued.

Additionally, the IT staff at Willis believes HelloID’s ease of use will only lead to stronger adoption and hopes to see greater decreases in instructional downtime: “We have a lot of students that move from campus to campus – and that’s a consistent product at each campus,” Courtney further detailed. “So they know even when they go to another campus, they’re still going to have those resources and they’re still
going to know how to login and access them because they’re familiar with the program.”

Willis’ 7-year history with Tools4ever leaves them assured that support will address any challenges encountered. “I get a reply back within an hour,” figured Stephen, “normally the question or issue is resolved with the first response.”

Moving forward, Willis intends to capitalize on the expanding reporting mechanisms within HelloID to provide concrete, granular data regarding resource access. “We used one the other day when we were talking with our principal to show them the top 10 apps currently utilized in the district,” Courtney said, “and we looked at how many have logged in during the last 7 days.” The district is also taking full advantage of HelloID’s new Directory Agent capabilities connected to Active Directory, mapping user groups and attributes and updating their SSTP connections. “The connection of AD into the SSO – that real-time change of data has been pretty awesome.”