Brown University goes Google

Brown University goes Google

Summary: Brown may have gone Google, but it was not an easy choice over Live@Edu.

TOPICS: Google

John Hay went to Brown University 155 years ago. He went on to do all sorts of important things, but today, he is best known on campus as the statue whose nose students rub for good luck before exams.  Maybe Microsoft should have rubbed his nose before pitching Live@Edu to Brown, since they just announced that they "went Google" this week.

Joining the ranks of schools who have had to choose between Microsoft's Live@Edu and Google Apps for Education as they deploy a hosted email solution, Brown University announced Monday that it had "Gone Google." I had a chance to talk with their CIO today and he revealed that the choice was not an easy one.  Both companies, it seems, have really compelling products, but in the end, project timelines, rather than John Hay's shiny nose, gave Google the upper hand.

Brown had already deployed Google Apps for its students about a year ago and the product has been very well-received by students. Brown's CIO, Michael Pickett, told me that student adoption of shared documents and the collaborative features in Google Apps has been quite rapid. In fact, he felt that it really supported Brown's recently updated curriculum that encourages students to self-design a major and course of study, noting that students were rapidly engaging faculty via Google Docs (and, in fact teaching them to use the tools).

Now, with the help of Appirio, a third-party Google partner, for conversion and training, faculty and staff have come on board as well. Mr. Pickett noted that Google's native Exchange conversion tools were so effective, though, that Appirio has focused far more on training Brown users to utilize a new email and calendar tool, as well as to think of ways to better leverage the collaborative tools like Docs and Sites.

There's that E-word, though, and it's worth mentioning here. Mr. Picket explained that the school would have actually preferred to stick with a Microsoft solution. Their Live products (including Live@Edu) were "not an inappropriate solution," he said, but the features they needed weren't going to be available soon enough to meet Brown's needs. He noted that "The Microsoft option will be a very competitive product." When I asked him if he was willing to specify which features pushed them towards Google, he declined to answer, suggesting instead that it was better to move forward than look back. He was also quick to note that both Google's and Microsoft's solutions in this space were quite good and he recommended that universities evaluate both to see which might meet their needs better.

We finished our discussion of what he characterized as a very smooth and successful deployment with a few words about learning management systems. He and other CIOs are watching the evolution of learning/course management systems carefully, particularly in the context of tools like Google Apps, which could, in some cases, mitigate the need for a full-fledged LMS. He wondered whether at some point a provider like Google might simply make modules available within Apps that would leverage the existing collaborative platform and provide LMS/CMS functionality. That is an angle worth watching.

Topic: Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Wow I cant believe you even posted this without them

    saying why they chose it
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Brown University goes Google

      @Johnny Vegas He did say why. It's because both are basically pretty much equal in the end but google was more "ready" right now.

      Google has been leading the internet collaborative stuff for some time. Microsoft has been focusing on thier core line which is collaboration with their own server products. In general, you will find that "low end" collaboration favors googles because it's cheaper and it's more internet penetrated. "high end" expensive solutions (like large corporations stuff) often involves MS because housing your own personal equipment is more flexible and powerful. Plus, it's more secure and integrates well with Office and .NET and Dynamics (for manufacturing).
    • He did say. They basically had already adopted Google Docs, and Google was

      just faster and easier to roll out. I imagine that they also wanted to reduce dependency on MS Office to reduct the amount paid for MS Office licenses. Remember, the MS solution essentially requires MS Office, which is NOT free.
      • Neither is Google Apps


        Did you know that?
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Brown University goes Google

    It's also important to think about the cost and resource requirements for maintaining MS Exchange on a University-wide scale. By switching over it eliminates literally racks worth' of servers, freeing up space, electricity and people. I'm actually surprised that the math would be anywhere near compelling to stick with hosting the mail and calendaring 'in-house'.
    • Live@Edu is Microsoft hosted

      @jpamental Please take the time to look at what Live@Edu actually is not on-prem, it is totally hosted by Microsoft. No software needs to be installed at the school.
  • Otto the bus driver on The Simpsons went to Brown

    he said "Almost got tenure too."
  • Microsofts Education offerings are terrible for students

    My college has ExchangeLabs or whatever it is called now and half of the students couldn't log in for the first few weeks. Now any student who knows anything about computers and would want to use it properly refuses to use it for the simple reason that it doesn't work.

    You can't add the mail accounts to a mail client on a computer or phone, they must be accessed through the web interface. The web interface doesn't work properly, if at all, on Webkit browsers, there is a forwarding rule option to make all mail go to another account but the setup page for it doesn't do anything. Apparently there is online storage, no one uses it though because its not advertised well enough.

    It is unfortunately a really terrible product that doesn't work in the way it should and looks like it does a lot when actually most things don't work or are limited so much that you can't use them.

    I am a student, I have been forced to use the system for the last 2 years (although I have only checked my email on it about 10 times). On the other hand, I have a Gmail account and it works brilliantly.
    • Sounds like an integration issue

      @558742 If they were trying to sync Live@Edu accounts with their Active Directory accounts (synch'd usernames & passwords), it sounds like they rolled it out to students before they had the integration work done. Don't discount the offering just because someone didn't implement it well.
  • And once they learn the hard way...

    ...they will switch back again. Just like these guys:

    And there are many other similar examples too.
    • RE: Brown University goes Google

      @Qbt - Makes me wonder if they will eventually go back to hosting email services (for example) themselves instead of out-sourcing it.
    • RE: Brown University goes Google

      @Qbt - Using a MS website (technet) to support your argument is laughable. I think the road ahead is fairly smooth for Google - they have a lot of headspace to grow the product, improve SLAs and reliability, and build upon successful deployments. This will be an exciting battle between MS and Google, and I think consumers will reap the benefits.
  • RE: they switched back again

    RE: Qbt Of course if Microsoft offers a priced incentive that the rest of the world normally wouldn't get, they would switch. Probably came out of Microsoft's advertising dollars.

    The second reference is from the Microsoft site, so of course it's going to be biased toward Microsoft. There are more people that stay with Google than switch back.
  • RE: Brown University goes Google

    If I went to school there, I would refuse to use the school's email system.
  • RE: Brown University goes Google


    If you are saying that Google is not free that is incorrect. For Education there is a different product (Google apps for education) that is free, the Microsoft product (Live@EDU) is free as long as institutions have a campus wide agreement with Microsoft.
  • RE: Brown University goes Google

    Theres that E-word, though, and its worth mentioning here.
  • RE: Brown University goes Google

    I don't understand the reason behind choosing them

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