Is the university email system outdated?

Is the university email system outdated?

Summary: UC Berkeley gained press exposure through their decision to use Google Apps over Office 365. But do universities even need email systems?

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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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5 comments
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  • RE: Is the university email system outdated?

    A half-way house option would be to give students @university.edu addresses that redirect to their personal email address. It would still require the university to handle the addresses, but it would at least remove the need for so much storage, etc - and students wouldn't have to check an additional mailbox.
    matt_hullabaloo
  • WOW. Do Some Research

    Both Microsoft and Google have students keep the e-mail addresses afterwards. In some cases, you need to switch them from @student.university to @alumni.university. You at least used to have to notify Microsoft of graduation because then they'd turn on ads. Infrastructure is all outsourced, so you're saving by using Microsoft and Google, not by having none at all. Giving up on on-premise is one of their major selling points.
    A big reason why educational institutions like having a Microsoft Office 365 is because they can tell students this is where they are going to receive announcements, and ensure that the messages make it to those addresses, since they have a relationship with the provider. If you provide your own e-mail, that opens a can of worms about "I never received it - maybe my provider blocked it?" that universities don't have the staff to address.

    On the other hand, Microsoft at the least doesn't (or didn't(?), when some made the decision) allow faculty and staff to utilize the free offering. How about a re-write of the article?
    WebSiteManager
    • RE: Is the university email system outdated?

      @WebSiteManager:

      For many university staff & faculty that forward a good amount of information to students, it's a good idea to drop the necessity to provide university e-mail accounts to students. The "I didn't receive the message" argument is pure BS as every major e-mail provider has really good service these days --- students can get all their texts, tweets, & friend updates --- they can get university messages just as well.

      And in doing so, students don't have to forward their messages, check an additional account each day, or even worry about missing important school messages because everything is going to an address they've used for years. But student should be able to request a university e-mail account if they don't already have one they regularly use.
      jlt0x
  • RE: Is the university email system outdated?

    There are a lot of IT services on university campuses that could be dropped or outsourced now that the commercial infrastructure is available to support them. Email is just one of them. When universities *were* the Internet, it was a valuable and unique resource, but now it's just a commodity service.

    The use of email as a student "credential" is a different issue, and needs to be addressed separately. It might have been sufficient ten years ago, but like the old plastic student ID cards, it is easily circumvented.
    terry flores
  • RE: Is the university email system outdated?

    If you drop the .edu address how will students get their cheap software?
    Shmythey