By Aaron Guggenheim, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 13, 2012
After five months of planning, the University unrolled the first phase in its NextGen Collaboration Project with Google last week, officially transferring current e-mail services to University Gmail and giving students, faculty and staff access to the full suite of Google applications.
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Bill Wrobleski, director of infrastructure projects for NextGen Michigan, said while all users have access to Google apps currently, students are the only ones with access to a University Gmail account. Due to the complexities of the project, he said staff members will not be given access to University Gmail until early this summer, adding that the old University e-mail system will be retired at the end of the summer.
Students can now migrate their old e-mails and calendar information to their new University Google account, according to Wrobleski. However, despite the 5,000 students who have migrated their data so far, he said he didn’t think many more students would complete the transfer soon.
“We expect a lot of the students aren’t using the current U of M system or if they are, they want to start fresh with their Google system,” Wrobleski said.
Wrobleski said he is excited about the potential of the new partnership with Google because it provides enhanced sharing between users. He said class lists eventually will be available on Google servers for classmates to access, allowing them to collaborate on documents, e-mails and other resources without the need to know other users’ uniqnames or e-mail addresses.
“People can share and collaborate with work,” Wrobleski said. “Not just in Ann Arbor or around the University campus, but for research colleges around the country.”
Despite a smooth migration process, Wrobleski added that one difficulty with the project is encouraging the University community to adopt Google. He said his team has been using a significant amount of advertising to raise awareness about the project.
“Some things have gone really well and some things are more challenging,” Wrobleski said. “It is always challenging to implement change on a campus of 100,000 people.”
Rita Girardi, marketing communications specialist for NextGen Michigan, said most students are experiencing a smooth transition. She said the help center designed to aid with the transition has only had about 100 calls a day, and there is extensive help information on the project website.
“The challenge is bringing it up on their radar so that when (problems do) happen, they are not blindsided by it,” Girardi said. “It is challenging to do that too, to get people to read e-mails and the communications.”
Wrobleski said he hopes all students would take advantage of the apps offered by Google, even if they continue to forward their University e-mail to their personal e-mail accounts. He said he thinks that it will become more widely used in the classroom, and eventually students will want to adopt their new University Google account in order to better work with each other.
LSA junior Sabrina Palombo said she has always used Google apps and e-mail for her classes because she enjoys the functionality and adopted the new system early.
“I like Gmail, I like the interface,” Palombo said.
However, Palombo said she initially had problems with her conflicting University and personal Google accounts, but found help on the project website and quickly resolved the issue.
LSA sophomore Chaturi Wijesundera said she uses Google apps extensively already.
“I use them for everything,” Wijesundera said.
Wijesundera added that because of her existing personal account, she has no plans to migrate over to the new University system. She added that she hasn’t logged into her University e-mail account since she set it up to forward to her personal Gmail account.
“For me personally, I don’t (see the purpose of migrating because) I already get my e-mails from U of M to this Gmail account,” Wijesundera said. “It is not really useful.”