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Students, faculty, staff work together to successfully implement new Google Apps system

By Antoinette Mercurio

Email and Collaborative Tools Team

The Email and Collaborative Tools Team received the inaugural President’s Blue & Gold Award of Excellence in April 2012 for their achievements in implementing the new Google Apps for Education system.

After months of preparation, the migration to Google Apps for Education was a success.

The email accounts of 23,000 students, faculty and staff were migrated to Gmail – 21,000 of which moved over during the Thanksgiving long weekend. Students and faculty who chose to opt-in were transferred to Gmail from Rmail, while staff was automatically migrated from GroupWise. Although it may seem like it happened overnight, this massive migration was planned far in advance by a dedicated team of close to 50 people. The Email and Collaborative Tools Team consists of a group of students, faculty and staff who helped investigate the options for a new system, facilitated the decision to move to Google Apps for Education and then made it happen.

“We initiated the process over two years ago, completed a market survey, created a set of requirements and then went through a request for proposal process” said Jim Buchanan, project manager of the Email and Collaborative Tools Team. “Out of this process we discovered that Google was the best option.”

The committee took into account the diverse needs of Ryerson community members. Their transparent consultations delved deeply into complex related issues, including privacy, security, accessibility, jurisdictional and legal ramifications, costs and features. Committee members developed a proposal for a new communications technology that gave the Ryerson community an email, calendaring and collaboration platform that puts people first. For their outstanding work and partnership, the Email and Collaborative Tools Team were recognized with the President’s Blue & Gold Award of Excellence, a new award established this year.

The team was looking for 24-hour service, a reasonable size of inbox to keep emails – Google offers 25 gigabytes of free storage – and flexibility in terms of how to manage and organize emails. The big selling point was Google Drive and Docs, which enables more than one person to modify a document at the same time.

“It’s changed the way we work,” Buchanan said. “It makes projects easier to organize and manage. It’s a powerful tool for us. Giving us access to the Google suite of products is going to enable us to collaborate on another level. It’ll change the way we work to have that collaborative ability, creating and sharing documents without even meeting with colleagues.”

Still, Buchanan says Google Drive and Docs isn’t meant to replace meetings. “The value in meetings is creating that personal relationship. Google is an alternative to save time on minor details that were once time consuming.”

During the migration the collaborative team worked through the long weekend to provide ongoing support. The team continues to provide support now that the migration has taken place. They are still working on GroupWise issues for staff and are trying to find alternative options for those who want to go back to RMail.

Training sessions are still available to learn how to navigate and customize Gmail and Google Apps. For more information, visit http://ryerson.ca/google/training.html.

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