New email system answers students’ calls for alternative

Check your inbox soon, Western students, as the university plans to press send on a new email system for you in the coming months.

Starting this fall, Western will begin the process of moving undergraduate students to Microsoft Office 365, a web-based collection of programs, including email and calendaring services. Currently, Western’s email system is managed ‘in house’ by Information Technology Services (ITS).

The new system will address numerous common complaints from the student community about the current Western-supported system, said Jeff Grieve, ITS executive director.

“Students have told us our current email platform is just not meeting their academic needs. We’ve clearly heard the message – loud and clear,” he said. “We are actively taking steps to improve their experience.”

Chief among those complaints are capacity and portability.

To address those, Office 365 increases individual mailbox storage from 50 MB to 50 GB, and integrates far more seamlessly with mobile devices than the previous service. In addition, the suite offers free access to Microsoft’s Student Advantage Program, which includes access to MS Office Pro applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and Lync – on up to five different personal devices.

Some restrictions apply for students at affiliated colleges, although officials in the trio of schools are working to make the opportunity uniform for all undergrads.

Before landing on Office 365, ITS evaluated a number of systems during the process, weighing email and calendar functionality, as well as the potential for the new system’s integration with other systems on campus. The Student Advantage Program, for instance, was made possible by an existing Microsoft campus license agreement implemented earlier this year between the company and university.

“We looked at several email solutions in the marketplace, as well reviewed what our peer universities across Canada are doing with email,” Grieve continued. “We feel Office 365 is a great fit for Western. There is a lot to be excited about.”

Beyond Calgary, Queen’s and other Canadian universities, all institutions in the QS World University Rankings Top Five – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Imperial College of London, Harvard and Oxford – have all adopted the system as well.

In November, ITS will recruit student volunteers to participate as members of a pilot group. In January, those volunteers will migrate to Office 365 and offer feedback to ensure a seamless migration for all students.

In February or March, all undergraduate students will migrate to the new system.

“We are very excited to able to offer our students a state-of-the-art email platform along with greater access to common productivity tools that they can use everyday,” Grieve said.