Parkland email system soon to change
Parkland’s email system is comprised of three different entities. Staff members currently use a Novell program called Groupwise. Students use a more dated form of Novell, called Netmail. Then there is Cobra email, which is another dynamic in and of itself.
Using three different systems can present difficulties, which is an issue that Parkland College is attempting to address. The goal for Campus Technologies has been to get all three platforms combined into one and this aspiration is finally on the horizon.
Serious evaluations were done and the decision was made to switch to Microsoft Outlook for the new email system.
With the implementation of Microsoft Outlook email, all those with an active student, staff or faculty account will be able to download the Microsoft Office Suite for free.
Professor of Mathematics Erin Wilding-Martin is especially excited about the email change both for herself and her students.
“It sounds like it will streamline email communication so students don’t have to deal with two addresses. And the bonus is that it will come with free Microsoft Office access for students, so everyone will be able to put Word and Excel on their personal computers,” Wilding-Martin stated. “This is a big help for classes that require the use of these programs.”
Wilding-Martin has been teaching here at Parkland for 14 years. She can remember when programs like Blackboard and WebCT were used. Then Cobra was implemented, which allows direct email between student and professor. She explained that there are some drawbacks to the current email system.
“The confusion about where a student should go to check for emails from their instructor. Should they check their student email? Or Cobra? I usually send emails to both just in case. But if a student emails me from Cobra and I reply, it only goes to Cobra. So unless they have their Cobra email set up to be forwarded, they have to know to go check Cobra for the response,” Wilding-Martin said. “A secondary concern is that with the current systems, I can’t send a student a very large file.”
The confusion associated with Cobra and Student email can be frustrating at times. It often leads to the question of who is liable when information is not delivered or received. More often than not, it will be the student that suffers from not receiving important information due to email difficulties.
Olivia Brady is a Computer Science major with a Technical Emphasis. Brady is not a fan of the current Novell email system and hardly uses Cobra email, except to contact her instructors when necessary. She explained how Outlook could help improve communication from a student perspective.
“I have an Outlook account already and find it easy to use. However, Outlook account doesn’t just give access to e-mail, it also gives access to cloud storage (OneDrive) and the online version of some of Microsoft’s most used software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint…),” Brady said. “Now the online versions don’t have all of the features as the full product, but if Parkland buys Office 365, Microsoft has a deal where any student will get it as well. This means every student at Parkland would have access to download the full version of Microsoft Office programs for free. Office normally costs around $140 for a one time PC download or around $70 for a year of 365 on one PC.”
Innovation and the development of technology are major parts of the transition to Outlook. Currently, students have a tough time accessing their email from any sort of mobile device. Doug Brooks, Associate Director of Campus Technologies, hopes to change this with the new email transition.
“We’ve had a number of reasons to switch from Novell. The trend seems to be going towards a more cloud-based system that is modern and also accessible. This is really the reason that sparked the change,” Brooks said.
Brooks explained that they did extensive research and evaluating between the two major competitors, Google and Microsoft and Microsoft came out on top.
“Microsoft is the best way to go, at least for educational purposes,” Brooks explained.
There are many benefits to transferring to this Microsoft cloud-based system. Students will have access to more data and the Microsoft Suite.
“The new email will be 50gb per user. It’s a huge benefit with big bonuses. All students will be able to access Microsoft Office Suite for free. That’s up to five full, downloadable copies. They can use them however they please as long as their student account is still active,” Brooks added.
Staff and faculty will be transferring email accounts over the summer. Due to a number of reasons it was not feasible to transfer all the student accounts so close to the start of fall semester. Christmas break of 2015 is a much more likely bet.
For information on the new email change, or any tech support visit the new TechSD desk located in room A184 or call 217-353-3333.