Relocation of Student E-mails Set for Winter Break

Relocation of Student E-mails Set for Winter Break

Over winter break, students will join faculty in using Microsoft 365 Office, replacing Google as the student e-mail provider.

By Hanna Ellington
The Razorback Reporter

Faculty and students will use the same e-mail provider for the first time in a decade, reducing complications in campus communication, the IT Services spokesman said in an interview.

Student e-mails are set to migrate from Gmail to Microsoft 365 Office during Winter Break. 

Since 2012, faculty have been using Exchange, a Microsoft product, and students have been using Gmail, said Erin Griffin, an IT specialist. Students and faculty had used a university-hosted e-mail service, Griffin said.

Graphic depicting email
Students will soon switch e-mail platforms. Photo from Flickr

Google does not charge for licensing, but could not be used by faculty because of data mining concerns. The UofA instead paid for licenses for faculty and staff to use Microsoft, which does not mine data, said Chris Butler, the communications director for IT Services. Students had to be put on another platform, and they preferred Gmail, Griffin said.

“I know the reason that faculty were put on [Microsoft] was because Google servers, one, they data mine parts of Gmail, that’s why the product is free,” Butler said. “So for certain restrictions on research being done on this campus, we had to use a Microsoft product, more secure e-mail for those, and so that’s why faculty was never put there.”

Since 2012, faculty have been using Exchange, a Microsoft product, and students have been using Gmail, said Erin Griffin, an IT specialist. Students and faculty had used a university-hosted e-mail service, Griffin said.

The Computing Advisory Committee decided last year to move student e-mails to Microsoft. Microsoft licensing has changed since 2012, allowing the U of A to provide the system to all users, Griffin said. While student representatives urged the committee that students want to keep Gmail and its features, the faculty did not want to lose their access to Microsoft, according to committee minutes from October of last year.

The overarching reason for the shift is to lessen the communication barrier between students and faculty, who up to this point haven’t been able to use the same calendar tools to ease scheduling, Butler said.

“There was a lot of barriers between faculty and students being able to schedule office hour meetings because they were on different calendaring platforms, and that really created some barriers,” Butler said.

Looking to the future, students could be better off by switching to Microsoft in college. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have at least one Microsoft service, according to Microsoft’s website.  

“When students graduate, they’re most likely going to use a Microsoft product. If you look at Fortune 500 companies, I mean, chances are you will use Outlook and Office 365,” Butler said.

The move is set to occur over sometime between Dec. 19 and Jan. 13 because students will be out of classes, Butler said.

“Because we issue e-mails with rolling admissions, summer is actually not a great time to do it,” Butler said. “New applicants for Fall 2020 are already on Outlook, so we have kind of started that, and there’s really no great time to move current students. So, it was just decided that at a new year, when they were gone for several weeks, that we would do it during the holidays and then port their messages over.”

Students are apprehensive about the switch as they are unsure about what will be at stake with the new platform.

“I don’t know what I will lose or gain by switching to Office,” said Aidan McGinn, a UA junior.

Messages and calendar events will migrate automatically to the new platform, and e-mail addresses will remain the same, according to the IT website. Students will gain access to the full UA directory, Bulter said. 

Students will continue to have access to Google Suites, which includes resources like Drive and Documents, Butler said. The larger files take more time to attend to, so a different decision will come down the road, Butler said.

“I’m still going to use it because it’s the best, and it automatically saves it for you,” said Kaci Elrod, a UA sophomore. 

Although the benefits out Outlook seem to outweigh the costs, students are still worried about losing Gmail as their e-mail provider.

“I’m a big Gmail person, so everything I use is Gmail,” Elrod said. “I have a personal e-mail that’s Gmail and I have a Mac, so I feel that works better with my computer. So, going to Outlook is going to be hard, but, I guess it’s going to be okay.”

While e-mails have switched in the past, Microsoft is set to be the common platform for students and faculty. 

“We are a Microsoft campus for the foreseeable future,” Butler said.

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Originally from Kansas City, Hanna Ellington sought out the University of Arkansas to spice up her life and expand her horizons outside of Kansas. She’s tried a little bit of everything, working as a public relations chair, social media specialist, novice documentary filmmaker, and now a reporter for the Razorback Reporter. As someone half-versed in technology, she’s seeking to dive in and help both herself and her readers understand the ever-changing world of technology in the modern age.