After writing about UC Berkeley's decision of choosing Google products over Microsoft for their internal email systems on campus, the question came to mind. Do universities even require such systems on a scale that includes students?
UC Berkeley, California, currently plans to implement Google Apps for Education as their latest campus calendar and email system, having compared Google and Office 365 using an ‘Assessment Matrix’.
Some of the factors that influence their decision were calendar and email features, the ability to keep security on-site, and student familiarity with software.
When you consider user familiarity, Google services are well known and used by students on a regular basis. When UC Berkeley were considering their options, an analysis of CalMail revealed 25 percent of students forwarded email with Google already, with the corporation claiming the largest percentage share by far.
So what is the point of academic institutions providing an email address, if most students rely on their own accounts anyway?
When I attended university, I used my email account for two purposes. One, to check my seminar reports and any cancellations -- by setting up a forwarder on the system to send emails from my university address to my Gmail account automatically.
Second, and used far more regularly, was using it to gain online purchase discounts.
Naturally, I was only able to complete both actions when the university network decided not to go in to meltdown -- which happened on a frequent basis.
Most students already possess a favoured email account, such as Gmail. Bypassing a university email account would mean that it could simply become another data point to collect at registration, and could be stored within university servers. Students would still be able to receive announcements and communicate with their faculties without being required to use the coveted '@university.edu' address.
Student addresses generally expire after you finish your studies, making the system seem to me both short-term, expensive, and pointless. If email addresses were collected and lecturers passed on the information, then costs could be cut and students would not have yet another email account to check during the day.
Academic institutions could decrease expenditure by removing the large email infrastructure, or at the least, offering addresses only to faculty staff. Universities are struggling with financial difficulties as it is, and perhaps this investment could be used in other ways to improve the student experience and facilities available on campus.
Sure, it can come in handy for the student to have the @university.edu name. However, is it really worth the cost of the infrastructure, when we have email addresses anyway?
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