After several months seeking student and staff input, Washington University selected Microsoft Live@EDU to provide e-mail, calendar and Web space to a pilot group of students during the fall 2009 semester.
The pilot project with Live@EDU is a step toward offer-ing students e-mail and online services that are an improvement over the University’s current approach, said Andrew Ortstadt, associate vice chancellor for information services and technology.
Each WUSTL school independently provides e-mail services to students. The features of the different systems vary, and many students have multiple University e-mail accounts.
“When compared with the University’s current systems, Live@EDU provides better communications tools and eliminates multiple University e-mail accounts for students,” Ortstadt said. “It also allows University information technology staff to better focus on supporting technology that enhances learning and other academic initiatives within the schools.”
A team of representatives from the Office of Student Records, Student Union, the Student Technology Advisory Committee, Alumni and Development, and University information technology organizations selected Live@EDU for the pilot study in May after evaluating several vendors, including Google Apps for Education.
The group concluded that while both Live@EDU and Google Apps for Education would be an improvement over the current approach, Live@EDU gives students more storage space and access to unique communication and collaboration tools. Live@EDU also provides features for greater integration with other WUSTL systems, Ortstadt said.
“The Microsoft Live@EDU solution offers several advantages with excellent features,” Ortstadt said. “The toolset is based on Microsoft’s enterprise collaboration products and gives the end user easy-to-use features for managing all aspects of communication. The e-mail component is much more robust than Hotmail, which is the Microsoft tool that many students may know.”
Each Live@EDU account includes 10 gigabytes of e-mail storage and 25 gigabytes of file storage, calendaring, instant messaging, built-in social networking integratio and Web development space. Free Web access to Microsoft Office tools such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint is planned for Spring 2010. In addition, the Live@EDU address book can be synchronized with University directories, making it easier to find WUSTL e-mail addresses for people without Live@EDU accounts.
Microsoft has a team of staff dedicated to supporting Live@EDU and has invested in technology that helps to link Live@EDU with other WUSTL tools and environments. “The ability to closely link technologies between Live@EDU and WUSTL not only brings many benefits to our students but also offers several benefits for University operations,” Ortstadt said.
While there will be many advantages to using the Live@EDU tools, Ortstadt said, students who prefer other e-mail tools will continue to be able to forward e-mail from their Live@EDU account or use other e-mail clients to access their e-mail.
“Google has a strong student following and a good product,” Ortstadt said. “We feel that the Live@EDU approach gives students a very robust University solution with options for how students integrate it with their personal communications tools, including Gmail.”
If the pilot is successful, all undergraduate e-mail services will be migrated to Live@EDU, and graduate student e-mail services will be evaluated on a school-by-school basis. A final decision regarding full implementation of Live@EDU will be made at the end of the pilot program in early 2010. A communications plan is also being developed to keep the University community updated as the project moves along.
For more information about this project, contact Information Services and Technology at 935-7597.