WSU faculty move to Google

Starting March 1, Weber State University faculty and staff will switch from using Novell Groupwise to Google Apps for Education. WSU has used Novell Groupwise for the past 19 years.

“This is a very large change,” said Ty Naylor, information technology communications, events, training and education coordinator. “It’s going to affect all faculty and staff — any employees of the university are going to be moving to Google Apps for Education.”

Google Apps for Education is a cloud-based operation the university will utilize. The service will provide increased functionality in addition to all the features that faculty and staff already have with Groupwise. In addition to Gmail now, Naylor said, with Google Apps for Education, university faculty and staff will be able to video-conference with up to nine individuals, make calls and receive voicemails from their computers, send texts to others and collaborate on documents and projects.

“I think the biggest thing is collaboration and sharing content,” Naylor said. “What really comes into play is now we can start adding more applications. We’ll now have the ability to grow with other applications and collaborate easier in the university.”

According to Naylor, another large aspect of the transition is increased mobility.

“We can now do everything on any device,” he said. “We can now have the same functionality on our iPhone or iPad or Android device as we do on our desktop, because we’re just going through a browser. It allows PCs and Macs and mobile devices all to work on the same playing field.”

Naylor said another good thing about the new service is that now everything is hosted off-site.

“So we’re not taxing the bandwidth of our computers here locally. We do have a storage capacity of 25 gigs for mail, which is a nice feature as well. So you can keep documents and other things for quite a long time.”

Bret Ellis, vice president for information technology, said the largest reasons for the switch are Google Apps for Education’s compatibility with Macs, the increased mobility, and because WSU students are already using Gmail, and this switch will have faculty, staff and students on the service.

“It’s not just the e-mail,” Ellis said. “It’s the calendar, it’s Google Docs, Google Voice, Sights — it’s utilizing the technology for more than just e-mail. With Groupwise, we were fairly limited in what we could do. And now with Gmail, it’s not just e-mail, it’s apps. And the apps are what make it really valuable.”

Naylor said 74 of the top 100 universities in the nation use Google Apps for Education, including many Ivy League schools and schools closer to home, such as Utah State University.

Faculty and staff won’t have to face learning this new system alone, though.

“We’ll have a library of resources for them to train on,” Naylor said. “We’ll have e-books, we’ll have PDF documents they can print out, we’ll have video courses online — we’ll actually even have training classes that they can go to before and after the transition. We want to give people the option to learn about it before it happens, and learn about it after it happens if they run into any issues. ”

The date of March 1 was chosen for the transition because it’s right before spring break, so new users will have that time to get acquainted with the system, if necessary.

WSU students won’t really see as big of changes as faculty and staff will, as WSU students switched to Gmail last year. Naylor said students will now have the ability to collaborate with their professors with a bit more ease, though.

“Now the professors will be on the same system that they (WSU students) are. It does enable the professors to have more meaningful contact with the students.”