Marketing & Communications  


June 11, 2007 - Aquinas College has become the first college/university in the state of Michigan to transition its e-mail and calendaring systems to Google’s Apps Education Edition. The College switched to Google technology over the weekend (June 9 & 10), moving its 2,800 students and 400 faculty and staff to the cutting-edge technology for electronic communications and scheduling. Aquinas joins only a handful of other colleges/universities nationwide that have joined the technology partnership with Google.

“This technology is revolutionary,” says Joyce LaFleur, director of Information Technology Services at Aquinas College. “Aquinas is setting the pace with this technology in Michigan and other schools are watching what we’re doing.”

Last month, Information Technology (IT) representatives from 22 Michigan schools attended a conference in Ann Arbor to learn more about the Google Apps for Education technology. At the conference, LaFleur shared a presentation on her department’s experience with the new technology during its testing phase. Currently, more than a dozen Michigan schools are testing the Google product while the rest are still assessing the benefits of a possible switch from their current antiquated systems.

Google's Apps for Education was designed to allow colleges to transition from their outdated e-mail systems and replace them with Gmail, Google's popular e-mail service already being used by millions of students nationwide for their personal accounts. But unlike standard Gmail accounts, according to Google, schools can maintain their ".edu" addresses, have students log in from school Web sites, brand the system with their own logos and block advertisements that typically appear in standard Gmail accounts.

According to a Detroit News article, small colleges could spend $300,000 in first-year costs alone in order to upgrade their own e-mail to something comparable to Google’s. For similar services, businesses pay Google $50 a year -- per user. But for Google Apps, colleges pay nothing to Google for their services. Google launched the education program late last year.

The move gives the search engine giant an early introduction to thousands of college students whom Google hopes will continue to use and recommend its products after graduation, according to published reports.

In addition to e-mail, the Google Apps Education Edition suite also gives faculty and students access to Google's online word processor and spreadsheet programs, calendar functions and a customizable personal home page. Also, where Aquinas allowed for 500 megabytes of storage for an e-mail account, the Google system offers four times that amount.

The word processor, for example, lets two or more users log into a document at the same time and work together. The program also allows college papers to be saved online, and users can access the most up-to-date version -- eliminating a maze of e-mail attachments that can lead to needlessly repeating work or turning in the wrong version of a paper.

"We're talking about real-time collaboration on a document," said Greg Vedders, senior network systems administrator at Aquinas. "Students can share early drafts with a faculty member and get a response in minutes or hours, rather than days or weeks."