Student email moves to the Cloud

THE BROCK PRESS/Cate Talaue

THE BROCK PRESS/Cate Talaue

Students are ready to say a long-awaited farewell to the current student email system known as Birch, transitioning to Microsoft Office 365 beginning in early May.

The University has been using the Birch email system for more than a decade now, which offers limited functionality and a poor user interface, while Office 365 will have more tools that will enhance communication and collaboration.

This change has been a project between the University and Information Technology Services (ITS) for the last eight months, spearheaded by a team of dedicated individuals who recognize the need for a more comprehensive system within the institution.

In response to the demand for a new email system, Associate Vice-President of ITS, David Cullum and Director of Client Services ITS, Andy Morgan explored alternatives to the current system, such as Google, but found that Office 365 offered more tools to support the needs of Brock students.

Within this new system, students can look forward to storing up to 1TB worth of information in the Cloud, 50GB of email space, easy cell phone integration, a calendar that can be shared, an online version of Microsoft Office and OneNote. The Office 365 services are similar to Google’s Cloud services, but operates through Microsoft.

A number of students are eagerly awaiting this transition, including incoming 2015/2016 BUSU executive Spencer Dawson, as well as current BUSU Vice-president of Finance and Administration and future President, Kyle Rose.

“The perks that will come with it will allow for more organization. The possibility of getting in contact with professors and other students no matter your location through audio and visual technology is also in the works for the future, which is similar to Skype for Business. It’s going to be incredible,” said Dawson.

“Personally, I don’t use my Brock account right now because it’s a hassle, but what this platform will offer will be much better than what we have now,” said Rose. “Think about how many students don’t know that a class has been cancelled because they don’t check their Brock email. This step forward makes logical sense and seems to be the way that many other businesses are moving towards.”

Second-year Physical Education student, Stephanie Sanders, came to Brock this year after completing a diploma at Humber College and was unimpressed by the current email system on-campus.

“I’ve found that there’s been many times when it won’t let me sign in. It never gives an accurate number in terms of how many emails I actually have and I really dislike that I can’t forward my emails to my personal account that is attached to my phone. At Humber, I was able to do this and it was so much easier to stay on top of my emails.”

ITS, Marketing and Communication, and students will be working closely together over the next few months on an awareness campaign to ensure the community is aware of Office 365 coming to Brock.

The University also be doing a pilot test with a number of students throughout April, hoping to garner as much feedback as possible to optimize the experience that users will have with this new system. A Student Advisory IT Committee will also be formed within the coming months to ensure that the students’ voices are being heard.

A website will be launched, as well as accompanying email communications, providing additional information and instructions on how to navigate the new system. Any questions or concerns can be directed to Andy Morgan at amorgan@brocku.ca.

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