Email provider may not have future at U of C

By Michael Grondin

Talks are currently being conducted about the future of the University of Calgary’s email provider. In the future, the decision may be made to switch to a cloud provider like Gmail, Yahoo or Microsoft.

A technical review committee has been established to evaluate the available options.

According to Marc Wrubleski, technical manager for the department of mathematics and science and the chair of the technical review committee, a plan must be developed in order for the U of C’s technical systems to be up-to-date and working with students’ needs.

“My committee is tasked with producing a roadmap for the university around email and collaboration technologies,” said Wrubleski. “Within the task list that we have, we have identified and are in the process of figuring out what we need and how we need to do it.”

One of the main observations the committee has made is that many students do not use the email, and instead are using other options. This committee is evaluating whether using one of these providers, which have applications and extra online storage, will be more efficient.

Other schools across the country are switching to cloud-based providers as well. The University of Alberta is currently in the process of switching to a Google platform, and the University of Ottawa has moved to a Microsoft product.

“There’s not necessarily anything wrong with what we have now, but there are other alternatives out there that may provide more features,” said Wrubleski. “We are looking at the kinds of things we have to do, for example we are doing an audit on the systems we currently have, and we are asking the stakeholders involved and the users.”

The main task at hand, however, is finding the best way to connect with the students and ask them what they would like to see with these technologies.

“We are also engaging the Students’ Union to find out how best to engage the student body in general,” he said. “Because the university is looking at changing things, we need to best find out what the students actually need and want out of these tools.”

Four SU representatives are sitting on the committee to give student input.

Wrubleski said it is still very early in the process, and a lot more time is required to investigate what is really needed.

Director of infrastructure services at the U of C Doug Doran said it is important to know what students want and what they use on a daily basis in order to understand how to make the email more appealing.

“My thoughts are the cloud service providers in the space have very good agreements for universities, and many of these services would be free for students,” said Doran, stating that it’s about proper communication with students and, from a governance point of view, knowing how to best interact with the users is a priority.

“I’m looking forward to getting the student perspective on this decision, and I think the students should drive where we go on this,” said Doran.

Fifth-year International Relations student Mohamed Ahmed thinks that many changes should be made to the current system to facilitate student needs.

“I think the [U of C] email would be better if it were a little more permanent and we could have it for longer. Another thing is I just don’t find it very user-friendly,” said Ahmed. “I just don’t want to be bothered with it.”

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