SquirrelMail is dead, long live Gmail!
Transitioning to the Google Cloud
Yes, Mount Royal University’s infamously glitchy student email service SquirrelMail has finally passed into the great e-beyond to join GeoCities, Altavista and other ghosts of Internet past.
In its place, Mount Royal has followed the University of Alberta’s lead and switched over to Google’s suite of programs, called Google Apps.
The new service gives MRU students access not only to the world’s third-most popular email platform, Gmail, but also Google’s entire suite of cloud apps, such as Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Drive.
“The University of Alberta had extensive discussions with Google about advertising, privacy and how to best protect students,” said Andrew Reil, the acting co-ordinator for the Student Technicians and Resource Tutors (START) program at MRU.
“It was when that was all settled — that there was a good balance of privacy and protection — that many other institutions, including ours, jumped on board and took advantage of the same deal.”
While Reil agreed that SquirrelMail needed to be replaced, the component of the new Google Apps suite that excites him most is the introduction of Google Drive: Five gigabytes of cloud storage available to all MRU students.
“The sharing of apps and documents between students, and between faculty and students, is what is really going to be valuable,” Reil said.
To go hand-in-hand with the rollout of MRU’s Google Apps, Information and Technology Services has also installed Google’s Chrome browser onto all student PCs and Macs around campus.
“It’s a fast, stable platform that really works well with Google’s other offerings,” Reil said of Chrome. “We’ve noticed that a lot of students are moving to Chrome, and ITS respects that. We’re changing with the times too.”
Though faculty members cannot get full access to MRU’s Google Apps suite, Reil said he believes that, as time progresses, more professors will make use of shared Google Drives and calendars to help communicate and collaborate with their classes.
“While the adoption rate among the faculty right now is low, it is only the first year for students. As more faculty members learn about it, and become more comfortable with it, I imagine that number will grow.”
Reil also expressed hope that in the future Mount Royal will have access to its own private YouTube where student projects and videos can be uploaded without risk of them leaking to the public.
“Video is becoming a more important way of doing educational projects, and to have that within the protection of an educational institution where only a class can see it is advantageous.”
While a number of students in their senior years might not make the transition — having already kludged together their own system via Dropbox or Office 365 or Gmail — this does represent a massive investment for first-year students at Mount Royal and those who will arrive in future years.
The future of computing is said to be in the cloud, and Mount Royal University has decided to embrace that concept wholeheartedly.