McMaster to shift student emails and calendars to Microsoft 365 starting in May
C/O Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash
On March 8, McMaster University announced that all student email platforms will be changed from Gmail to Microsoft 365 cloud in May 2021.
All faculty, staff, retirees, and medical students have already made this transition in 2020.
“The feedback that we’ve had so far from staff, faculty and our medical students has been extremely positive,” said Gayleen Gray, chief technology officer at McMaster.
This change comes from the McMaster IT strategic plan that was launched in 2019 to improve the digital tools that the institution uses.
“There’s a number of initiatives to bring the institution forward into what we call a 21st-century university,” said Gray.
These initiatives include more modern digital toolsets, collaboration tools and projects that will help McMaster work, learn and teach. The overall goal is for the university to work more creatively and collaboratively.
Although students already have access to Microsoft 365 products, the conversion to Microsoft will streamline communication and online collaborative tools to one platform.
“[University Technology Services] also learned that when people have their email and calendaring integrated into the Microsoft suite of tools, they tend to be a lot more curious, a lot more interested in and more embedded in the opportunities that are available there,” said Gray.
The change was partially made to improve the accessibility of the email and calendar systems. International students will have easier access to Microsoft than Gmail. According to the Office 365 Hub website, the university hopes to prepare students for professional environments through an early introduction to Microsoft 365, as the majority of workplaces utilize Microsoft services.
The email migration will occur in May 2021, after the winter 2021 semester is over. A communication plan and strategy will be announced in April 2021 to explain this process. The email migration will be managed by the project team and all existing emails, calendars and contacts will be copied to students’ Microsoft Exchange/Outlook account.
Students will have access to their Google Apps for Education environment, such as Google Drive, for both the fall 2021 and winter 2022 terms, according to Gray. Students will also be notified before their McMaster GSuite account is fully terminated in 2022, to allow them to manually back up and save any data they wish before this happens.
This change will allow the university to avoid the costs that they would have faced in 2022 due to the recent announcements of the changes to storage policy that would reduce the amount of storage available for institutions using Google for Education environments. The switch to Microsoft will allow McMaster to avoid costs in upgrading to additional storage
“We were looking at the opportunities and weighing them out and the reality is, it won’t make sense for us to stay within that Google for Education environment, explained Gray.
Due to the high amount of data that students currently store, the transition was inevitable. Some McMaster students have expressed concerns anonymously on social media, while others have started a petition against this transition.
[#1131] mcmastsr switching from gmail to microsoft is a change no one asked forPosted by Mac Confessions on Monday, March 8, 2021
This decision was made with the input of the IT student advisory committee and the multidisciplinary project steering committee. The project steering committee includes two undergraduate students, two graduate students, a faculty member, chief librarian, the McMaster Students Union president, along with the chief technology officer and a few other individuals.
“Our biggest goal is to ensure that this is as smooth a process as we possibly can make it. We’re very interested in the feedback that we’ve been hearing because it’s helping us to ensure that we’re gearing the project to make it as smooth as possible,” said Gray.
[#1132] Wow. Genuinely angry that McMaster is switching to Microsoft 365. Gmail is just SO much better in my opinion. I…Posted by Mac Confessions on Monday, March 8, 2021
“We’ve heard from students who had concerns and [who are] feeling uncertain about it . . . we’re always happy to hear from students, we’re taking that information and we’ll use it to help us improve the way the project rolls out,” Gray explained.
For students that are unfamiliar with Microsoft 365 tools or want to learn more about them, training and one-on-one sessions will be held throughout the migration to provide support. These can be accessed through the Microsoft 365 Hub as the change occurs. They can also access the frequently asked questions list, which will be continually updated.
“We will have lots of time come the end of the semester to focus on this and to support students and answer all of their questions . . . rest easy and we’ve got your back,” said Gray.