The University of Calgary has partnered with Microsoft to change the university’s email system this August. And Microsoft’s throwing in some licensed software with the new service.
With Office 365 — the email service that Microsoft developed for university and business clients — all students will get free access to the Microsoft Office Suite. The Suite includes Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, free of charge.
Students will have license to download and access Office on five devices.
Select students and staff will start using Office 365 on Aug. 8. Incoming first-year students will receive email accounts under the new system. Returning students will have the option to migrate to the new service or keep the old one until Sept. 2 when the service launches campus-wide.
Students will have access to 50 gigabytes of email storage, and one terabyte of space to store files on Microsoft’s cloud storage, OneDrive. The current U of C email system has three gigabytes of email storage.
U of C email addresses will stay the same once the switch is made.
Mike Rannelli, chief information officer for the U of C, said Microsoft will maintain students’ U of C email accounts even after they leave university. He recognized the commercial benefit Microsoft gets in providing free software for students.
“If you train a K-12er on Microsoft versus another tool, the likelihood is that when you come through your educational cycle you would continue to align with Microsoft,” Rannelli said.
Microsoft provides their email service to the University of Toronto, Dalhousie and Queens.
In Microsoft’s agreement with the university, they are not allowed to scan emails for content, advertise on the service or sell students’ information.
“That email is your email and Microsoft is truly managing that on our behalf,” Rannelli said.
According to U of C’s webpage on Office 365, the new system is being adopted because the current one is old, expensive and unreliable.
The U of C spent $150,000 to adopt Office 365. Microsoft experts were brought in to help start the service and to make sure the transition goes smoothly. Rannelli said this will be a one-time cost.
“Could we have done this without those costs? The answer is yes, but I’m hesitant in that we want to make sure we have a successful rollout and students appreciate the direction we’re going,” Rannelli said.
The U of C hired no extra staff to maintain the new system.
The decision to change email providers was made at the Office 365 sub-committee. Students’ Union vice-president student life Jonah Ardiel sat on the committee.
Ardiel said the U of C adopted a policy called the Electronic Communications Policy that prohibits the use of preferred email — the ability to link another email address to your U of C account and use them as one account. Ardiel said you won’t receive responses to emails sent to faculty or staff members on your preferred email account.
“You can still send it, you just won’t get a reply. They’ll reply saying you have to correspond with a UCalgary account as per our policy,” Ardiel said.
Rannelli offered a solution to this problem.
“There’s nothing stopping a student from fundamentally forwarding that email to one of their Google accounts or a Yahoo account. There’s nothing preventing you from doing that,” Ranelli said.
Students who wish to transfer emails from their old inbox will need to use this technique to migrate them to the new one. Office 365 will not transfer your inbox from the old email system to the new system. While Ardiel is concerned about some aspects of the new system, he’s hopeful about Office 365.
“While I’m disappointed that the new system doesn’t automatically migrate existing emails into the new accounts and that students won’t be able to reply to emails using their preferred email anymore, I feel the benefits of the new system and access to software definitely outweigh these inconveniences to students,” Ardiel said.