Switch to Microsoft Outlook after significant research

File photo

File photo

This summer, the student mailing system will switch from Google Gmail to Microsoft Outlook, following a decision made after substantial research and reasoning.

Along with Microsoft Outlook, students will gain access to the entire Microsoft 365 environment, an interconnected cloud-based system with powerful web applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Calendar.

“We would never be making a change if we hadn’t completely researched it and believed it was the best move for the students,” said Michael Mandeville, a help desk analyst with CIT.

As of six years ago, students have operated with Gmail, since that was the most powerful program available at the time. However, faculty have since switched to using the Microsoft 365 ecosystem and its version of email, Microsoft Outlook.

Faculty switched to Microsoft because it began to offer more benefits than Google, like a higher degree of security and more effective applications. However, students have continued to use Google because switching the entire student body over to Outlook would have been more trouble than the Microsoft programs were worth. Now, however, CIT says the benefits are great enough that they outweigh the disruption.

“It’s gotten to a point now where the features are strong enough, the security is strong enough, and the benefits of standardizing on one ecosystem are far outweighing the costs,” said Robert  Bobeldyk, the assistant director of teaching and learning with CIT, who oversees online applications like Moodle and Portal. “We’re finally at that tipping point for moving forward.”

“There are three areas that give us reasons to switch. The first is security,” said Bobeldyk. “Google has access to all of its users’ information. With Microsoft, there is much more respect for intellectual property.” And while Google stores its users’ information in offshore locations, Microsoft contains its users’ data in a specific warehouse in Washington State.

“Second, there is a much stronger feature set in Office 365,” said Bobeldyke. Powerful programs like Microsoft Excel, Word and Calendar would be cloud-accessible for students and professors to collaborate and utilize in educational environments, rather than switching between Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

“Third, if we standardize on one ecosystem we can better utilize our resources for support and we can enhance some of the learning management system,” said Bobeldyke. By standardizing on one ecosystem, Bobeldyke says that there will be superior integration with applications like Moodle and Portal.

“All three of those areas we’ve kept an eye on, and all three of those have been better in Microsoft than with Google,” said Bobeldyke.

Though CIT is excited about the new opportunities for collaboration and productivity students will have through the Microsoft ecosystem, they are also aware of the potential difficulties and inevitable frustration.

“Any time you’re throwing a change to a large group like the students, there [are] growing pains. There’s always a bit of confusion,” said Mandeville. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, CIT will be looking for students to test out the new Office 365 implementation. If interested, email the HelpDesk.

For student pilot testers, CIT is “specifically looking for students without a high level of technical knowledge, as [they] want the ability to test the clarity of [their] documentation and communication surrounding the changeover,” said Mandeville.

For students with an affinity for Google products, don’t be afraid. CIT only aims to transition email systems from Google to Microsoft; other Google applications will still be available for student use.