Ordering and reading with eStudybooks is easy and safe with SURFconext

eStudybooks makes digital study books available easily and at a favorable rate. SURFconext helps to provide safe and fast access to the eStudybooks portal. So that the user can easily order books and have them available everywhere and at any time. For this we use SURFconext attribute aggregation.

eStudybooks: digital study books available online

In the eStudybooks-pilot, SURF and the institutions are researching the offering of digital textbooks to students and teachers. The Hanzehogeschool is taking part in the pilot in the coming academic year, making it the first university of applied sciences in the Netherlands to offer these digital textbooks. First-year students from 5 study programs can participate. In this pilot we will investigate how you can offer textbooks at a reasonable rate and make them available everywhere, online and offline, via direct, secure access. In order to provide direct and safe access, SURFconext in combination with attribute aggregation is cleverly used during this pilot.

3 x SURFconext

  1. Users who participate in the eStudybooks pilot use SURFconext in various ways (Figure 1). First, a book package is purchased in the eStudybooks portal of SURF. The user logs in via SURFconext with their own institution account. After the user has paid, this user will be saved that the book package has been purchased.
Figure 1: Flow eStudybooks and SURFconext attribute aggregation
Figure 1: Flow eStudybooks and SURFconext attribute aggregation
  1. After this, The user can log in to the application that supplies the books. For the eStudybooks pilot, this is done at BUKU (https://buku.io/), a Groningen company that makes digital textbooks for higher education available via a subscription model. Here too the user logs in via SURFconext.
  2. While logging in, SURFconext first checks with the eStudybooks application which book packages this user has purchased. The purchased packages are passed on to BUKU via an attribute. Single sign-on ensures that the user usually does not have to enter his username and password again. However, the user sees the first time a screen that shows which attributes are shared by the institution and the eStudybooks application with BUKU.

Benefits of SURFconext attribute aggregation

A student purchases his books from a central and trusted party, eStudybooks from SURF. The books that have been purchased are passed on to the supplier in the form of an attribute via SURFconext. This has two major advantages:

  • The supplier of the digital textbooks does not have to make an extra link, but at the moment of logging in via SURFconext it can immediately see which books the student is allowed to use. This setup makes it easy to add other suppliers of digital study books. A SURFconext link and agreements about the articles and settlement are sufficient to be able to start immediately. The infrastructure is designed in such a way that license information for other types of service can also be easily shared with the providers of these services.
  • By using attribute aggregation, less data has to be shared with the supplier of the digital textbooks. In theory, the supplier has sufficient attributes that state which books have been purchased and a pseudonym of the user. In this pilot, BUKU also receives the e-mail address and name of the user because this benefits the user experience.

First experiences attribute aggregation

The use of SURFconext and attribute aggregation is experienced as very positive within the pilot. Users have no questions or complaints about logging in and passing on the attributes. Because all attributes are shown to users at the time they log in to BUKU for the first time, it is also very clear to the users what happens. For the supplier, BUKU, this functionality was easy to implement.

There are still a number of technical challenges. At this moment a student can only use his purchased books if he can still log in with the institution account. If the student is going to study or graduate from another institution, he can no longer use the books. An eduID, 1 educational identity in support of lifelong learning, may offer a solution in the future.

More exchange than just book lists?

To limit the amount of information that is exchanged during login, we now work with book lists. In the future it might be desirable to also exchange information about the purchase of individual books, other licenses or, for example, extra storage space. Before this can be implemented on a large scale, we must first investigate whether the exchange of much more data during login can be done sufficiently quickly and reliably.

Participate or think along?

Together with the pilot partners, the eStudybooks project team will further investigate a number of non-technical subjects in the near future, such as a good pricing model, sufficient degree of coverage of digital titles for the participating programs and a good connection to open, online, personalized and flexible education. You can follow the project via the eStudybook page. Do you want to know more about the eStudybooks? Please contact Hans-Peter Ligthart (hans-peter.ligthart@surfmarket.nl), project manager eStudybooks or Pim Slot (pim.slot@surfmarket.nl), relationship manager eStudybooks.

Has this blog inspired you and do you see opportunities to use attribute aggregation in other places? We are very curious about your ideas. You can share these with Femke Morsch (femke.morsch@surfnet.nl), product manager SURFconext.

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