University announce decision on student email upgrades
The final decision on a replacement for the current student email platform was revealed on 5th June. The university has been investigating a replacement since April 2011, and the decision has been made to move from Outlook Web Access (OWA) to Microsoft Office 365.
CIS started the investigation into a new platform after it became clear that OWA was no longer fulfilling the university’s needs, citing “low storage capacity” as one of the many features that promoted the change.
Utilising an innovative method for CIS, they asked students to identify their primary email needs as a starting point before beginning research (full results are available at ).
Students were consulted throughout the process which tested two potential systems, meaning that the university was provided with a wide range of feedback before administrative needs such as cost and legality were taken into account.
Microsoft Office 365 was chosen for reasons including Microsoft’s transparent data storage policy and existing support within the university network. It is a similar platform in style and function to the current desktop Outlook program available on Windows, or Entourage on Mac, although will have increased folder capabilities and an improved overall usability as a result of increased speed, an intuitive layout and integrated keyboard shortcuts.
Once the Office 365 system is fully implemented, CIS have expressed an interest in exploring the options that Sharepoint and IM could provide for group collaboration. However, they emphasised that DUO will remain the primary source for educational resources.
It has been confirmed that emails and contacts will not be lost as the process is a migration onto the new platform rather than a complete rework. Current student email addresses will not change and the link will simply replace OWA on DUO.
New accounts will have better IMAP access for desktop email applications and mobile phone syncing, which ought to resolve current issues on some computers.
Office 365 will only be available to undergraduates and taught postgraduates as staff and research postgraduates are being moved to the Exchange 2010 platform, which has been described as having “similar service improvements”.
CIS are running a roadshow on 14th June to provide students with an opportunity to test the software, with a hopeful release in time for the 2012/13 academic year. A range of tutorials will be released with the official switch for those who are uncomfortable with the new system.