Overview and Background


With the start of the new academic year approaching, it is time to finalize plans and prepare for this year’s Two-Step Verification enrollment cycle for new Penn students.  This year’s process will be much like previous cycles, but there are a few new wrinkles, largely due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the challenges it presents.  


3 Highlights:


• All students (graduate and undergraduate) will be required to complete Two-Step enrollment by Tuesday, October 13th.  This is the day after the end of the “DROP/ADD” period, Monday, October 12th.

• Students (graduate and undergraduate) who have not yet enrolled in Two-Step will begin seeing a “countdown” message (same as used in previous years), beginning September 13th, informing them of the need to enroll for Two-Step and providing a link to the enrollment page.

• We will be fixing a coding error that has allowed graduate students entering after last Fall to create PennKeys without immediately enrolling in Two-Step.  This update will coincide with the student enforcement deadline.


More context on these points provided below:


Question: Will Two-Step enrollment be different this year because of COVID?


Answer – It will be the same as possible.


In the early days of the virus crisis, it seemed unlikely that students would be returning in the Fall.  This raised the question of whether it was still advisable to wait until October to enforce Two-Step for new students, since they would not be on campus at any time to receive additional support, which had been the reasoning behind the October deadline in the past.  In other words, why not move up enforcement and improve remote student security right away?


As the uncertainty around the return to campus continued, and after consultation with stakeholders who would be affected by a change, the decision was reached to retain the October deadline and make as few changes to the existing process as possible.  So, while this Fall is likely to be quite different than most years in terms of how many students are on campus and when, we are planning to use our existing tools and processes, only changing them where conditions require.


The Two-Step Verification operations team is currently updating the support documentation and reporting tools provided in years past to make sure they are appropriate in an environment where far more users will be remote.  Additionally, we are exploring enhanced after-hours support for Two-Step, and have developed new, on-demand enrollment reports to help School leads track their students’ progress.


Code Fix


As a separate issue, shortly before the COVID lockdown, the Two-Step Verification team became aware of a coding error that was allowing graduate students enrolling after Fall 2019 to choose not to enroll in Two-Step immediately upon creating their PennKeys (as had been agreed to be the policy for graduate students following Fall 2019).  The technical fix for this has always been simple, but as it would have suddenly required a population of new graduate students to enroll in Two-Step at the same time they were adjusting to being off-campus without in-person support options, we chose to delay enforcement for these unenrolled graduate students until the Fall cycle for undergraduates.  Currently, any unenrolled graduate students are free to enroll prior to the Fall if they choose, but we will not require them do so until the October 13th deadline.


Plan for Incoming Fall 2020 Students


Students will be required to register for Two-Step Verification for PennKey no later than October 13th, which is the Tuesday following the end of the “DROP” period for class registrations.  All students will be required to be registered for Two-Step Verification by October 13th.


Beginning September 13, all students who are unenrolled in Two-Step will begin seeing a “countdown” message during PennKey login, informing them of the need to enroll, the deadline, and providing a link to the Two-Step enrollment application.


Any students who remain unenrolled after October 13th will be required to enroll before they can login again with their PennKeys.