This fall, Kent State University is replacing its internally-managed e-mail system with Google E-mail. The change affects all of the university’s students, part-time and emeriti faculty and alumni, a total of more than 120,000 e-mail accounts.Kent State chose the Google Apps Education Edition for several reasons. Most significant to the decision were the benefits that Google offers to its users in terms of mailbox size; built-in chat and calendaring; and the online suite of document, spreadsheet and presentation applications.
The result to date has been extremely successful. So far, more than 19,000 individuals have chosen to activate their accounts early.“We’re now able to provide students with access to applications that would be too costly for Kent State to build internally,” Edward Mahon, vice president for information services and chief information officer at Kent State, says. “As a result, the switch to Google offers a cost savings not only to the university, but also to students.”Because of the scope of the project and the number of individuals across the university who are affected by the change, Kent State’s Google Implementation Team — which includes representatives from Information Services as well as University Communications and Marketing — has been meeting regularly since June to plan for the transition. The team decided early on that it was important to manage effectively the activation of accounts, not only to spread out the impact of the actual account migration, but also to mitigate the volume of calls to the university’s Helpdesk.
“SADA has provided invaluable assistance as an implementation partner” Roberta Sikula-SchwalmKent State Associate Vice President of Information Services
For these reasons, the transition plan includes a nearly two-month early activation period, in which individuals are given the option of creating their Google accounts themselves by logging into a Web site, http://google.kent.edu. They simply sign in to the page with their university I.D. and password, which validates that they are eligible for a Google E-mail account.One of the other important aspects of the plan was allowing users the option to move their old e-mail and contacts list to their new Google account. For this critical component of the project, the university called upon the expertise of SADA Systems to help create a unique opt-in solution that allows users to migrate their e-mail from the same self-service Web site. For the individual user, it’s as simple as checking a box, and their old e-mails and contacts show up automatically in their new Google E-mail accounts.A comprehensive communications plan was executed to ensure everyone was fully aware of the transition. This included face-to-face meetings with various stakeholder groups; weekly targeted e-mails; story placement in student and internal media outlets; advertising; and postcard mailings. During the kickoff week of Nov. 3, a table was staffed in the university’s student center during lunch hours to activate accounts and answer questions. Viral, word-of-mouth marketing was enhanced through the creation of a Facebook page, distribution of T-shirts with the project logo design and chalk messaging on sidewalks in high-traffic areas on campus. Additionally, the university’s Google Web site included links to multiple tutorials and how-to documents, both those created in-house and supplied by links to Google’s help pages.According to Kent State Associate Vice President of Information Services Roberta Sikula-Schwalm the result to date has been extremely successful. “So far, more than 19,000 individuals have chosen to activate their accounts early, just two weeks following the project launch. SADA has provided invaluable assistance as an implementation partner in working through technical questions regarding the migration, and the Kent State community seems pleased with the new features they are accessing through their Google E-mail accounts.”