Google Apps for Education Evaluation Underway

Middlebury is evaluating Google Apps for Education as a possible replacement for Microsoft Exchange as its platform for email and calendaring. We’ve set up a website about this evaluation process that includes a summary of the process and the key questions we are asking. We will host an open session on this evaluation in early May in order to ensure that there are opportunities for the entire community to learn more about Google Apps for Education, to understand the evaluation process, and to provide input and feedback. The website is Google Apps @ Middlebury Project.  You can ask questions and make comments via this site, or feel free to contact Michael Roy (mdroy@middlebury.edu) .

20 thoughts on “Google Apps for Education Evaluation Underway

  1. Casey Mahoney

    I am behind switching to Google 100%. Microsoft Exchange is a TERRIBLE platform, and not a fair option for those on Macs systems. Switching to Google is an excellent choice and will make email/calendaring/etc. much simpler for those who already use Google and who will use it in the future (those who only use Microsoft Exchange, I would add, don’t use it because it’s the “email platform of choice” for a college community, but because it’s the stale platform they were handed when they got here).

    http://midd-blog.com/2009/10/13/the-googleverse-is-coming-to-midd/

    Reply
  2. Anika James

    I agree wholeheartedly. I (and many people I know) already forward all my Midd mail to Gmail so I don’t have to deal with the microsoft exchange platform. Please switch to google and make life easier for all of us. There is no reason to continue using a platform that is so inconvenient, underdeveloped, and, frankly, ugly.

    Reply
  3. Ryan Kellett '09.5

    Having seen this from both student and staff sides, I generally favor the switch to Google Apps for Education. It’s a no-brainer for students. But it will present challenges for scheduling, meetings, reminders, and more on the staff side. Outlook is very powerful when it comes to booking rooms, seeing other people’s schedules, etc. Google is coming along in that arena but I wouldn’t expect that shift to be without some pain. Of course, there are also privacy issues.

    So Midd is smart to get Google, and get it soon but it’s not as easy as many students think it is.

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    1. Ian McBride

      Ryan, I’m curious to know what you think are the major differences in Exchange and Google Calendars. I’ve used both systems extensively and can’t say that I prefer one over the other. It’s true that Exchange offers more features for room and equipment scheduling, but because we do room scheduling through R25 (with a few exceptions) none of the room or equipment resources have been entered into our instance of Exchange and there are no plans to do so, ever. Though it’s a recent addition, Google Calendar offers busy/free comparisons and I got our GAFHE admin to allow Calendars to be shared with anyone in the world (if you want), a feature that is not available in our Exchange environment.

      I understand that any time we change systems there is a lot of worrying that people will be frustrated by the change in interfaces and use. This is a normal part of using computer systems: they’re going to change. I think our recent updates to WordPress and Office show that the features added by the new versions of the software outweigh the cost of relearning the interface. Remember: it wasn’t all that long ago that people at Middlebury read their email by opening a terminal window!

      Reply
  4. Corinna

    Hi,
    gmail is my personal email as it is the email that best deals with spam (in my opinion). I also am grateful to have it because I use google docs for work quite a lot.
    If not for those two points above, I would not use gmail though. I find it clunky, hard to get organized in visually unappealing. I would put a big “NO” vote to using the gmail application for work, if I were asked…
    Thanks,
    Corinna

    Reply
  5. Allison Coyne Carroll

    I would welcome the move to Google Apps. As an employee who works a fair amount of hours from home–due to the hours my international constituents keep–working in Webmail on a Mac has been quite problematic at times. There are many instances where I’ve actually used my personal Google account to complete my Middlebury business.

    I’ve also had considerable experience with other Google apps including Calendar and Documents, and have had little to no concerns.

    Reply
  6. Topher Hunt

    I for one am married to Gmail for its email interface. So much easier when you don’t have to worry about organizing mail in a thousand subfolders, you just click “archive” and use the search bar to find anything. Based on my Helpdesk work experience, for me the most crucial part of a change like this is that those people who want to keep using the same interface (ie MS Outlook) can continue to use it with minimal interruption.

    As a Linux user by default, of course Exchange offers minimal compatibility.

    I’m not extremely familiar with the Google Apps setup, but what’s the cost comparison for using Exchange vs. GApps for a year?
    Also, I notice that the apps would be hosted remotely. I love the idea of each user having more storage space by default than Exchange currently allots, but would we then become dependent on Google’s reliability for backups etc?

    Reply
  7. Barbara Merz

    So the Midd users that follow this blog are the kind of Midd users who use and understand Google Apps! Probably it’s the non-blog, lower tech Midd users who’ll be a hard sell. Really clear, understandable descriptions of what this is all about, presented through avenues like MiddPoints, staff meetings, admin level meetings etc. will be important if fear & rumors are to be avoided as far as possible. I hope this process can move along quickly.

    Reply
  8. Carrie Macfarlane

    I use Google Docs and Google Reader frequently. I even use Google Sites occasionally. I hope we’ll make the decision as quickly as possible. I know there are many issues to consider, and I am grateful to everyone who is working on them. I just ran into one issue which I found surprising.

    I have a midd google account and a regular google account. Because I use Google Reader, I make all of my google docs accessible to myself thru my regular google account: when someone shares a doc to my midd google account, I share it to my regular google account, and I find it there when I need it.

    This week, when I was logged in to my regular google account, I emailed the URL of a doc that had been created in midd google docs to its author. It wouldn’t allow her to view it. She couldn’t log in with her midd google account or her regular google account. It seems as though the URL for the doc was different because I was accessing it with my regular google account.

    Maybe there’s something that I could have done to make this work. Regardless, I guess what I really want at the moment is to have Reader accessible thru midd Google. Then I wouldn’t have to share docs from one account to the other. I tried to import my RSS subscriptions to midd Google, but I wasn’t able to do so. (I couldn’t log in to reader.google.com as cmacfarl@middlebury.edu.)

    Thanks!

    Reply
  9. Arabella Holzapfel

    I do the same thing as Carrie – I have a regular google account that I use for Google Reader and and also as my primary google docs account. When other team members create g-docs, they send it to my midd-google address. I get the doc from that account, and ‘share’ it with my regular google account. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one doing this!

    I use my regular google account as my primary account because I can log in from anywhere – the midd-google instance needs the “@middlebury.edu” part of the email address “hardwired” for lack of a better term. I can only seem to get that when someone else sends me a link to a google doc sent to that address.

    Reply
    1. Carrie Macfarlane

      Jess pointed out to me today that go/gdocs will get you to the midd-google login page! :)

      Reply
        1. Carrie Macfarlane

          Thanks Ian. http://reader.google.com/a/middlebury.edu won’t allow me to use my Midd google account. Whether I try to log in as cmacfarl or cmacfarl@middlebury.edu, it tells me “The username or password you entered is incorrect..” Can you log in with your midd google account to http://reader.google.com/a/middlebury.edu?

          On the other hand, http://sites.google.com/a/middlebury.edu does allow me to log in with my Midd google account.

          I’ve started keeping a second browser open just so that I can share midd google docs with other midd users. In other words, there are workarounds, so I don’t see this as high priority. (But I do wish it didn’t have to be this way!)

          Reply
  10. Peter Hamlin '73 Music Dept. Chair

    I like the MS applications fine. I like Google Apps fine. Neither one is hard to use.

    I think we should base the decision on economics — make the change if it saves a lot of money — don’t make it if it doesn’t. Also make sure there aren’t deficiencies (I note two below — not deal-breakers for me, but I’d want to be sure that Google can mostly do what MS can do.)

    One weakness I’ve noticed in Google Apps is the lack of “track changes” feature — when editing documents collaboratively you have to identify your changes (reformat to a different color, write in your initials, etc.) manually.

    Also, I would find the limitations of Google calendar “repeat” to be annoying — unlike Outlook, you can’t edit the repeats (i.e. Monday and Wednesday) — you are stuck with a small number of standard options like every weekday, mwf, tth, etc. — but it’s not unusual for me to need to create my own patterns.

    One personal thing: I have an Android phone which doesn’t support MS Exchange directly. I use an App called Touchdown to sync with Exchange but it’s a little awkward. So for that reason I’m thinking also of using gmail and Google Calendar as my main calendar/mail interface. I expect that Android slate computers will be players in the near future, too — so compatibility with Google will be handy.

    Reply
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  12. Corinna Noelke

    Hi,
    I use google’s excel spreadsheet A LOT to share with different departments and it has changed the way we handle workflows quite a lot (to the better). BUT the spreadsheet is absolutely not up to par with excel. We often end up downloading the spreadsheet from google into excel for quick filtering or quick data entry and to then either delete when done checking for things for the former occasion or uploading the updated spreadsheet back into google doc for the latter. Unless google’s spreadsheet that comes with google education is up-to-par with excel heavy spreadsheet users will not be able to be productive in a google doc environment.

    Reply

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