It’s a Google world

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Back in 2006, Lisa Bazley, chief information technology officer and director of computing services, and her Information Technology Services team brought campus-wide Wi-Fi to the college. Soon thereafter, students, armed with laptops, were downloading reference materials, uploading research papers, and dashing off emails from wherever the spirit moved them.

Wi-Fi, laptops, email—that’s so six years ago.

Indeed, the question technologists always face is, “What have you done for us lately?” The first half of 2012 brings us the answer: DenisonApps powered by Google.

In 2010, the campus community was invited to join a conversation about the college’s technical communications infrastructure. The old systems for email and calendaring were becoming outmoded; users also had increased expectations for on-the-go synchronization of personal services, given the onset of smartphones and tablets and the like. Some kind of change had to happen.

Lisa Bazley, chief information technology officer and director of computing services.

After several campus meetings, surveys, and input from the college’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC), the discussion focused on the Google Apps for Higher Education program. ITAC scrutinized Google’s services and history, as well as its policies on privacy and access to personal data before deciding, in late-2011, to make the move. According to Bazley, students, faculty, and staff “voted with their (virtual) feet,” since most already were using their own personal Gmail accounts.

Beginning in 2012, @denison.edu email addresses have remained constant, but those who have migrated to the new platform now utilize the Gmail interface.

According to Bazley, the migration has gone smoothly thus far. ”ITS opened up the new DenisonApps suite of products in early January and had successfully migrated all student email by the start of the spring term. So, when students came back from the holiday break, they could access their @denison.edu email account with Gmail. During January and February 80 percent of the Denison community (faculty, staff, students) transitioned to DenisonApps.”

If case you aren’t already up to speed with what’s available, DenisonApps includes:

  • Gmail (on campus under the @denison.edu addresses)
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Talk
  • Google Docs
  • Google Video
  • Google Sites
  • Google Groups

“It’s a lot of new services to absorb,” laughs Bazley. “So, we’ve concentrated our efforts on educating the community on the new email and calendaring services. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before all the services are a staple of the everyday work, teaching, and learning environments of Denison.”

She notes that shared documents have been one of the most eagerly embraced apps for students and professors working together on projects, as well as staff members within departments. “Not only is it extremely functional, it’s fun! I can have five of my managers all reviewing and adding comments/proposed changes to a document, simultaneously.” Bazley has received positive feedback on the Google Chat feature as well.

(In the spirit of the new platform, this story was, of course, composed on Google Docs.)

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