The Technical College System of Georgia: Increasing educational opportunities by unifying identity management for 150,000 students


colleges and 88 campuses sharing resources across Georgia


unified identity and access management system


students annually, plus faculty and staff, using Okta to access essential applications

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  • Scaling opportunity for the Georgia workforce
  • A student-obsessed solution—on time and on budget
  • System-wide results—ahead of schedule
  • Anticipating the benefits of lifecycle automation
  • Expanding educational opportunities even further
Scaling opportunity for the Georgia workforce

Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) leaders struggled to standardize resources across the entire collegiate system, from urban to hyper-rural campuses. To ensure all students, alumni, and staff had cross-campus access to essential applications while protecting sensitive data, they needed to transform siloed identity systems into a single, shared model.

A student-obsessed solution—on time and on budget

After considering incumbent solutions, the team chose Okta because it could quickly scale to deliver on the team’s “student-obsessed” vision. Okta’s ability to handle complex, enterprise identity management, and the Okta Customer First team’s ability to deploy the new platform quickly made it the clear solution.

System-wide results—ahead of schedule

In less than three months, the TCSG team, with the help of Okta Customer First, rolled out Okta Single Sign-On and Okta Multi-Factor Authentication to all 22 colleges and the system office. By the summer semester, 100% of students, faculty, and staff were using Okta to log in to essential TCSG applications.

Anticipating the benefits of lifecycle automation

Next, the TCSG team is moving user profile sourcing from an incumbent solution to Ellucian Banner and automating provisioning and deprovisioning tasks using Okta Lifecycle Management. Automation offers huge savings in time and effort and will improve TCSG’s security footprint by reducing manual tasks.

Expanding educational opportunities even further

Going forward, the TCSG team plans to adopt Okta Advanced Server Access, to manage administrator and developer access to on-prem servers. Additionally, as a concurrent project, TCSG is looking to Okta to maintain secure identities in an expanding world of online education. Specifically, identity will be critical as the team works towards supporting alumni over their lifetimes.

Phase One could have easily been an 18-month project, but everybody saw the vision and stepped up. Our team and the Okta team completed work in record time.

Steven Ferguson, CIO, TCSG

Scaling opportunities for the Georgia workforce

The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) has 22 colleges, 88 campuses, and approximately 150,000 students on an average year. Providing high-quality, equitable educational opportunities for every student is a central priority and a major challenge.

“To educate the future and current workforce of Georgia, we have to ensure a student’s education doesn’t depend on their zip code,” says Steven Ferguson, CIO.

TCSG’s new eCampus initiative aims to create a scalable technology platform for sharing resources cost-effectively across the entire system—from urban to hyper-rural areas—so that everyone can take advantage of high-demand programs.

Identity and access management (IAM) is foundational to the effort. “To do shared services, we have to have a shared identity model,” says Ferguson.

Siloed identities result in system-wide challenges

In the beginning, identity at TCSG was siloed, which made it difficult to share resources across the system. Every college had its own IAM system, with limited visibility into whether a student taking a class at one college might also be enrolled at another.

To facilitate cross-campus registration, the burden fell on the individual to access all available resources using disparate systems with unique logins. “Protecting data is extremely important, and providing seamless, secure access ensures faculty, staff, and student data remains safe. ” says Ferguson.

To secure critical data and provide access, IT needed to make sure everyone logging in to TCSG systems was exactly who they were supposed to be. Making identities shareable and universal would go far to eliminate the need for workarounds.

As it was, the team struggled to manage TCSG’s complex environment of on-prem and cloud solutions, with different levels of access for students, faculty, and staff. Account provisioning and deprovisioning required hours of repetitive, manual labor, and accounts were frequently forgotten rather than terminated. While IT automated some lifecycle tasks using ad-hoc scripts, they required time-consuming manual updating and were not transferable between colleges.

“We were 22X-ing everything,” says Ferguson. “When errors occurred, we spent hours troubleshooting.”

Beyond scaling TCSG systems to secure student data and share resources, IT also needed to help prove that the college system was accomplishing its workforce development mission. To meet that goal, they needed technology that would connect identities to individuals like a fingerprint, staying with them throughout their educational and professional careers.

A student-obsessed solution—on time and on budget

Governor Brian Kemp allocated funding from the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to make it possible for Ferguson to bring on an IAM partner for the eCampus platform. Ferguson’s team began by evaluating their incumbent solutions but decided to look further, to find a partner more easily suited to a hybrid-cloud, best-of-breed environment.

“When we tried to scale our prior solution, the technologies were there—you could build all of those integrations—they just weren’t seamless,” says Ferguson.

The team chose Okta because it could quickly scale to deliver on the team’s “student-obsessed” vision. Okta’s ability to handle complex, enterprise identity management, and the Okta Customer First team’s enthusiasm for getting the eCampus platform up and running quickly made it the clear solution.

Timeline was indeed critical. Ferguson was aiming for a go-live the week before summer semester, which gave the team less than three months to meet their deadline.

TCSG’s Okta Customer Success Manager worked closely with Okta Professional Services and TCSG IT to support a speedy implementation. To help TCSG teams ramp up fast, Okta Education Services delivered two four-day private training sessions for 30 participants each.

In less than three months, TCSG launched Phase One of the eCampus platform to 22 campuses and the system office. By summer semester, every student, faculty, and staff member was using Okta Single Sign-On (SSO), backed by Okta Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication (AMFA), to access critical applications at each college. “We had 100% Okta adoption, right away,” says Ferguson.

Phase One apps included Microsoft Office 365, the student information portal, the learning management system, and a new customer relationship management system. Each campus had its own instance, which meant the team rolled out 22 separate Okta tenants for each application, with a sandbox testing environment for each.

Scaleable, system-wide results—ahead of schedule

Ferguson started the conversation with Okta in the fall, so it took just six months to go from research to full deployment. “Okta Customer First has been way ahead of scope and way ahead of schedule for the entire project,” he says. “They obviously know what they’re doing.”

Ferguson also credits TCSG leaders with eCampus project success. “We had executive buy-in and support from Day One, and that was key to making sure we could do this at speed and at scale,” he says.

“Today, every college is up and running,” he says. “Now, they’re going back and adding a wish list of items—taking advantage of more Okta functionality, including Okta Lifecycle Management, which we had planned to implement in Phase Two.”

Getting AMFA behind key applications immediately raised TCSG’s security profile, while also transforming user experiences across the system. With Okta for identity, students, faculty, and administrators are able to securely log in and access necessary resources with less friction than ever before.

“The most important thing is just getting an enterprise handle on identity so we’re not cobbling together 22 different sources of information,” says Ferguson. “Now, we have a true enterprise solution that allows us to seamlessly integrate and authenticate users as needs arise.”

Anticipating the benefits of lifecycle automation

Following the success of their initial deployment, the TCSG team is starting Phase Two of the eCampus project early, moving user profile sourcing from an incumbent solution to Ellucian Banner, TCSG’s new student information system. Okta Lifecycle Management implementation makes it possible for students, faculty, and staff to be automatically provisioned to downstream applications according to their status in Banner.

“As we go forth and automate with Lifecycle Management, we’ll see huge savings in time and effort,” says Ferguson. “We’ll be able to detect and fix errors faster, and the automation will free IT staff for more meaningful tasks that serve students more effectively.”

Automation will also go far to improve TCSG’s security footprint, he says. “When students drop out, or faculty or staff change, we’ll be less reliant on manual processes to keep accounts up-to-date.”

License management is also a big consideration for the college system, and Ferguson anticipates significant cost avoidance resulting from improved reporting and accuracy around the number of software licenses in use at TCSG. “That’s pretty important as we adopt more SaaS offerings,” he says.

Expanding educational opportunities even further

The team also plans to adopt Okta Advanced Server Access (ASA), to extend Okta SSO and AMFA to servers hosting on-prem applications, such as Banner. “ASA works with the rest of our Okta solution to help us control privileged access, securing our students’ information as our administrator teams and developers authenticate into our server systems,” says Ferguson.

By providing core identity solutions, Okta is helping TCSG modernize its IT ecosystem and make better use of shared resources. Next, the team looks to scale student and faculty opportunities even further, sharing resources with other college consortiums around the country and the world.

TCSG leaders are looking at micro-credentialing programs, which offer students a competency certificate in a specific area of focus in a short time. “Those strategies expose us to massive, open online course systems that students can register for and consume automatically,” says Ferguson.

For TCSG, the mission is all about scaling equitable opportunities for the Georgia workforce, and Ferguson is also looking to Okta to help his team prove mission success.

“Working with students to ensure they are successful after they’ve graduated—that’s all a part of our eCampus initiative,” he says. “With Okta and our new CRM solution, we can stay in touch with alumni and easily reprovision them back with the same identity they had when they were here.”

For Georgians, it means educational opportunities and career support will always be just a log-in away.

About Technical College System of Georgia

With 22 colleges, 88 campuses, and ~150,000 students annually, the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) oversees the state’s technical colleges, adult literacy programs, and a host of economic and workforce development programs. TCSG provides a unified system of technical education, adult education, and customized business and industry training programs, with the aim of building a well-educated, globally competitive workforce.