Created by Internet2, Shibboleth is open-source middleware designed to allow access to protected resources, such as WebAssign, based on credentials provided by your institution.
When you want to share secured online services or access restricted digital content, the Shibboleth system offers a powerful, scalable, and easy-to-use solution. It leverages campus identity and access management infrastructures to authenticate individuals and then sends information about them to the resource site, enabling the resource provider to make an informed authorization decision.
For example, when a student requests access to WebAssign, her home organization requests her to authenticate (if she has not done so already) and then passes on the information that she is enrolled in Biology 562 to the site housing WebAssign. WebAssign uses the fact that she is enrolled in this course to determine her eligibility to access homework.
WebAssign is an early adopter of Shibboleth, being one of the first commercial services to implement Shibboleth and a charter member of the InCommon Federation.
Federations allow higher education institutions to share information and resources between themselves and their business partners in a trusted, standardized fashion that protects privacy, respects copyright, and fosters collaboration and innovation. Trust decisions between participants can be made based on information about users shared in a standardized format. Several federations are supporting the Shibboleth middleware.