University e-mail from Google

I’ve just read a story on the BBC website announcing that Trinity College Dublin have switched to Google’s e-mail.

This is both an encouraging and surprising development but it sounds like the partnership approach Google offer isn’t dissimilar to the Microsoft offering launched a couple of years ago. On the one hand I think this is a step forward and removes the headache of maintaining an email service from the Universities but on the other I was surprised to read:

“The addresses and domain name still remain the same – but underneath the bonnet, it’s a service provided by Google.

These e-mail addresses, which can be accessed from any online computer, can be kept by students when they leave universities.”

This is where I have some reservations. I’m not convinced that we’ll be providing University email in the future. What will be the benefits of giving students life-long Google powered email addresses as opposed to life-long University managed ones? Either way would a student use that email address forever or are they more likely to use and maintain a separate account before, during and after their time at University?!

I’m pleased Google are looking to offer services to the sector but I would like to see us looking at creating systems which allow students to come to us with their own personal email, ID, preferred tools and for us to communicate with them via these. As far as I can see this development is a step in the right direction but it is replacing one Institutionally supported system for another and whilst I am a huge fan of Google’s services I’d like to see us giving students the freedom to use their tools of choice.

With regard to staff though I think this would be great. For staff it’s much more important to have an account. It gives us credibility, it demonstrates we are part of the academic community and it is an important part of our identity so I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on Trinity College and seeing what lessons we can learn from their move.

5 thoughts on “University e-mail from Google

  1. Google run webinars explaining the benefits of Google Apps for your Domain and there’s another Education one running tomorrow. I missed the last one (stupid 7pm start times for all these kinds of things!) but it would be interesting to see what they could offer. In particular they offer LDAP authentication which would make it much easier to integrate.

  2. Yes, if the students already have a Gmail address it would just get confusing if they had to log out of that and log back in with their University account. It would be much better if they could somehow import their existing Gmail address.

    The problem I have with Gmail is that it doesn’t have a very good folder or topic filtering system, although the threading is brilliant. The spam filtering is fantastic though.

  3. The original thinking was that you should search for emails not sort them into folders and while this works to an extent, I think there are increasing calls to introduce a folder structure to Gmail. They’ve recently added it to Google Docs and Spreadsheets (and Presentations and whatever else they’ve got there now!) so the chances of it coming to mail have increased.

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