Notre Dame’s Office of Information Technologies has teamed up with Student Government to provide current students with a new e-mail system though Google Apps.
“We are hoping the system will be up and ready for students to migrate in the middle of the summer, so we can e-mail students and get them to migrate their accounts before they get back this fall,” said Katie Rose, project manager of the OIT’s latest initiative.
Graduating students will also be allowed to migrate to the new system and OIT will eventually open Google Apps at Notre Dame to all alumni. Rose said that the timeline for allowing alumni to use the service is uncertain at this point.
“Right now we are working to create incoming first year student accounts within the Google system, and after we are done with that, we will be working to integrate existing accounts into the new system,” Rose said.
According to Rose there is currently a team of about seven OIT professionals who are working to implement the new e-mail system.
“We know that students have not been satisfied with the existing system and have been asking for systems more like Google,” Rose said. “Student Government has been voicing the same concerns.”
The transition is happening quickly. Notre Dame announced this last week that it would shift to Google Apps over the summer while maintaining current student e-mail addresses. Other schools like Clemson, Arkansas State, and UNC Greensboro have already made the switch, as have international institutions like Hebrew University, Universidad Panamericana, and Nihon University.
Google’s services, built on its worldwide network of data centers, can scale with little marginal cost, and as such represent a far cheaper alternative to having every school in the world host its own e-mail servers and hire the technical help needed to keep them operating. But, as the University of Washington announcement reminds us, those decisions can have a human cost, just as car-building robots affected the auto industry. Critics also wonder about the possible dangers of outsourcing so much information to one company and about potential liability surrounding education records, but such concerns aren’t in danger of derailing the Google Apps express.
From a student perspective, the move makes sense, at least if campus IT operates with the same sort of “efficiency” and “uptime” that characterized my own school’s in-house efforts. With another collegiate year behind us now, are those of you in campus IT worried about the impact that hosted apps could have on your jobs? Or is this a necessary shift that will simply eliminated IT grunt work and free people up for more interesting work?