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UI to transition all undergraduate students to new email service

BY REBECCA MORIN | AUGUST 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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Email at the University of Iowa just got a whole lot sleeker and took the phrase “a new year, a new me” to the next level.

In an Aug. 13 press release, the UI announced that the current campus-wide university email service will transition from Microsoft Outlook to Microsoft Office 365.

Tracy Scott, the director of service management and support at the UI Information Technology Services, said all undergraduate students’ email should be integrated to Microsoft Office 365 by the upcoming spring semester in January 2014.

However, Scott said, ITS will not initially integrate faculty to the new service.

“We are focusing on students for now. Faculty and staff represent more complexity because of the kinds of institutional information they communicate using email,” he said in a statement. “We are going to work through those details to see if it is appropriate to let faculty and staff use this service while we evaluate the performance of the service with students.”

Scott said the new software will be available at no cost to the university, but staff time and resources were needed to configure Office 365 and integrate it with the UI’s Microsoft Exchange system.

The additional cost breakdown relating to staff time and configuration resources were not available as of Monday evening.

The UI started using Microsoft Exchange for faculty, staff, and students in 2007. Microsoft Outlook was just one software offered through Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft Exchange is still being used on campus today.

According to UI officials, the university conducted several analyses of Gmail, Microsoft, and several other programs before deciding on Microsoft Office 365.

“We found that the Microsoft Office 365 solution integrates much better with our existing Microsoft Exchange infrastructure on campus than the Google solution would,” Scott said. “Also, Microsoft allows us to provide email to our users either on premise or in the cloud, while Google is a cloud-only solution.”

However, one regent university has been using Google mail for several years. CyMail, Gmail software branded to Iowa State University, was implemented on Aug. 4, 2009.

“At the time, students on the evaluation committee thought the Gmail offering was the best option,” said Jim Davis, the ISU vice provost for Information Technology and chief information officer.

“The new impressive Microsoft Office 365 offering that the University of Iowa is switching to wasn't available for comparison when we chose Gmail in 2009.”

Costs relating to the transition at Iowa State could not be obtained as of Monday evening.

With the transition to Office 365, UI students will receive larger mailboxes —they will increase from 1 GB to 25 GB. The new service will allow students to use a new document storage and collaboration tool, which will include Office Web Apps, including Excel, Power Point, Word, and OneNote.

Video conferencing and online meetings will also be available with the new email service.

However, with the announcement of the new software, many students are express indifference.

“If [the UI] switches to 365 because it works better, than I have no problem per se,” UI sophomore Joseph Wilson said.

The UI is one of several schools, including University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Duke, and Ohio State, that are in the process of moving or have moved to Microsoft Office 365. Yet, some students from other universities are also showing little interest in the new program.

In all, Microsoft Office 365 has over 20 million users in education.

“Any loyalty of communication doesn’t really fall with email,” said Josh Kelly, a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “[Email services] are one of those things you just have to constantly adjust to.”


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