How can we continue to engage and meet the needs of our candidates with learning content, testing, badging, continuing education, and myriad other services while providing a seamless and streamlined candidate experience in our program’s multi-platform ecosystem?

That’s a common question certification and credentialing program sponsors are asking. Alpine Testing Solutions (Alpine) is responding with answers and potential options.

“We continually look for ways to streamline processes and eliminate roadblocks for programs, their candidates, and users,” explained Gina Raney, Product Owner, CertMetrics. “One of the many ways we do this is by offering add-on modules in CertMetrics, one of which is the CertMetrics Single Sign-On (SSO) Module.”

“Our growing program is in a predicament. We need a solution that will help us cost effectively streamline certification processes and provide a seamless experience for our candidates,” stated one program sponsor.

The program has multiple test delivery providers (TDPs), a Learning Management System (LMS) and a badging platform. The program staff was finding it challenging to efficiently and cost effectively manage and track candidates and authenticate their identity consistently across all platforms. Candidates were expressing frustration because they were required to log into multiple platforms with different login credentials to register for exams, obtain LMS content, or access and share badges. These issues were making it difficult for the program to keep candidates engaged. Costly mitigation of issues was on the rise along with an increase in help desk tickets. The program sponsor knew it was imperative to find a solution and opted to implement the SSO Module.   

With claims-based authentication in place, users and candidates now log in with a single pair of credentials and seamlessly move from platform to platform as if it were a single system. Candidates are able to easily schedule exams, obtain learning content from the LMS and access and share badges. Help desk tickets and maintenance costs have decreased significantly and the program staff now has more time and resources to focus on building, growing and maintaining their program.

“We have a vast international audience. We translate our exams and LMS into 12 languages. Our goal is to provide an optimal experience for our candidates, including consistent use of the candidate’s preferred language, as they navigate our multi-platform ecosystem,” explained another program sponsor. “By including the language code in the SSO payload, each platform displays the candidate’s preferred language. This goes a long way towards demonstrating our commitment to our candidate’s experience.”

The candidate experience can be further streamlined by combining SSO with the Scheduling Page module. This combination allows the candidate to SSO directly to a specific location in the destination site. For example, a candidate could be handed to the TDP’s site in the exact location to schedule a specific exam. This results in fewer clicks and potential navigation errors for the user.

According to Raney, “Our clients have unique needs that vary depending on size, number of partner platforms, exam volumes, and goals of the program. If a client decides to pursue SSO, our Technology Team and Solution Designer(s) consult with the client to assess their specific needs. Part of that assessment and consultation includes presenting the options that are available with the Egress SSO and Ingress SSO technology we employ.”

Egress SSO & Ingress SSO

With Egress SSO, a candidate is authenticated when logging into CertMetrics. The candidate can then be handed off from CertMetrics to a third party, often a TDP or LMS. The handoff is done without the candidate having to enter a username and password. 

“It is typical for programs to initially ease into SSO by choosing the Egress SSO solution first, because it is a very quick win in terms of implementation time. Candidates can enter CertMetrics with a username and password and can then access third-party platforms, such as the client’s TDP or Learning Management System (LMS). In the TDP and/or LMS platforms, they can finalize their exam appointment details or sign up for courses or assessments without having to enter login credentials again. They can also access other approved third-party platforms for badging, exam vouchers, and so on, if offered through their program,” shared Raney.

In the case of Ingress SSO, candidates are handed from a client platform to CertMetrics. The candidate has already been authenticated in the client platform and is allowed to come into CertMetrics without having supplied a username or password.  

“Implementing Ingress SSO is a comparatively heavier lift for the client than the Egress SSO implementation,” stated Raney. “It requires the client to do some development work up front. A client may opt to do the necessary development work to become the source of truth for data if they desire to do so. We collaborate with the client so they can make an informed decision on how to proceed.”

Increased Efficiency & Security

Studies show that for many organizations, a large percentage of help desk tickets are related to login issues, which take valuable time and money to troubleshoot and resolve. With SSO, IT staff can spend less time managing user accounts and can be more productive and concentrate on other essential business processes.

Alpine takes great care to make sure the candidate authentication process is as solid, secure, and streamlined as possible for the client by using standard and trusted protocols such as JSON Web Token (JWT), Open ID Connect (OIDC), and WS Trust.  

We collaborate with the client on the authentication protocol(s) that are suited for them based on their set of data. We then consult on what matching needs to be enforced to authenticate a user so that we have confidence that the user is indeed authorized to use the account,” shared Raney. “There are also safeguards for new candidates who don’t exist and need to have an account created.” 

Is SSO a Good Fit?

“Through requirements gathering and detailed technical discussions, Alpine’s Solution Designers and Technology Team work together with clients interested in SSO to determine if it is a good fit,” offered Raney. “Our objective is to understand the program’s goals and requirements, and then give the client the information necessary to make a well-informed decision. Maybe SSO is not appropriate right now, but it could be a promising option somewhere down the line.”

If you are interested in exploring how SSO might benefit your program, or other ways in which Alpine could help your program achieve its goals and objectives, please contact us!