The university today took the first step in its yearlong move to Google Apps for Education, a cloud-based computing platform that will give users across all three U-M campuses access to more than 40 collaborative tools and services.
Everyone on the Ann Arbor campus now has a Google account that allows access to Google apps with a uniqname and UMICH Kerberos password.
“I am very excited about providing these tools to our community,” says Chief Information Officer Laura Patterson. “Moving to a collaborative, cloud-based environment will fundamentally change and help improve the way we communicate, teach, learn, and conduct research here at U-M.”
Existing applications — such as CTools and Microsoft Office — will remain and, where possible, integrate with Google to provide even greater benefits.
Starting today, students, retirees, emeritus faculty, and U-M Online subscribers also can move, or “migrate,” their email to Google by using an online assistant that allows them to select the information they want to keep.
Most staff and faculty will have to wait a bit to use Google Mail and Calendar. Those services will be added in phases over the summer. Due to regulations on how restricted data is handled, certain units, such as the U-M Health System, will not switch to Google email and calendaring. Those users, however, will get the other Google collaboration tools.
Bill Wrobleski, who is heading up the project, says today’s rollout follows a two-month period of testing.
“So far, the project team has completed four pilot migrations, the last of which took place on Feb. 27,” says Wrobleski, director of infrastructure projects for the NextGen Michigan Program Office, Information and Technology Services. “A final pilot group will transition in April, bringing the total number of people with Google Mail and Calendar to about 1,500.”
Among the early movers to Google were members of a Faculty Learning Community that met monthly in the fall term to gain hands-on experience and to share ideas for how to use Google apps in their teaching.
“Faculty have been incredibly creative,” says Matt Kaplan, managing director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, which co-sponsored the sessions. “In the winter term they are experimenting with a wide range of apps such as Docs, Moderator, and Google + to promote student collaboration and engagement.”
Other early adopters include:
• IT staff from various units and others involved with the project in an advisory or support role.
• The School of Natural Resources and the Environment.
• Information and Technology Services.
• Google Guides — student temporary employees, and staff and faculty volunteers trained to provide supplemental, basic support to their peers immediately following each move.
The rest of the Ann Arbor campus will transition in phases in May, June, July and September. The Dearborn and Flint campuses will follow. (UM-Flint will not implement Google Mail and Calendar at this time.)
The move to Google is part of a series of initiatives managed by the NextGen Michigan program, a strategy for changing U-M’s IT service approach by investing in the “next generation” of computing technologies.
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