CWU switches to Outlook for email; Office 365 now available for students

Colt Sweetland, News Editor

Beginning in early September, Central’s Information Services department began migrating from Novell GroupWise to Microsoft Outlook as its primary mail client for students.

In addition to the switch to Outlook, there are other features included in the Microsoft Office 365 suite that students will be able to use such as PowerPoint, Excel, Word, OneNote and OneDrive (cloud storage). All of these services are available online on students’ accounts.

Rick Miller, manager of enterprise systems services with Information Services, said the switch offers many more options for students to stay connected with their schoolwork.

“I think [students] will be a lot happier once they settle into [the Office 365 suite], because from a features standpoint it does give you the ability to do a lot more,” Miller said. “You can have all of your notes right on your phone from PowerPoint, Word, Excel and all the other services,” Miller said.

There were planned outages of the service and maintenance that needed to be performed throughout the migration. Additionally, there were no major hiccups besides minor technical glitches, according to Miller.

“The most interesting challenge we have had from the migration are people who have had Office 365 accounts at other universities, and that presents some log-in challenges,” Miller said.

In the future students may have the ability to stay on track with online classes much easier through mobile devices using the Office 365 suite.

“It will be interesting to see how students actually start to use it,” Miller said. “In around five years, if you’re doing an online class with a video conferencing section, you could sit in a park and stay caught up with schoolwork, if you had an unlimited data plan,” Miller said. “It will really enable that learn-from-anywhere ability.”

Once the migration process is completed, most future work on the platform will include backing up data, and reconfiguring back-up strategies, Miller said.

Tina Short, project manager with Information Services, said the switch from GroupWise to Outlook was primarily to improve usability for faculty and students.

“Many of our faculty, staff and students have used Outlook at other institutions, it would make more sense to use an industry leader for your email,” Short said.

Microsoft’s Outlook is one of many tools available to students through the Office 365 suite.

We will be rolling out more benefits to our faculty, staff and students; it is just a small piece.

— Tina Short, project manager with Information Services

Improving usability was one of the main goals of the migration from GroupWise to Outlook, especially improving student’s ability to collaborate on schoolwork through the Office 365 suite, Short said.

“You can take the experience with Outlook, (and Office 365) and go on to other industries and already have the experience and that helps you get your foot in the door,” Short said.

Spam as a whole is not as prevalent as it was on the GroupWise platform.

“Students should look in their junk folder to make sure there is no valid mail in there,” Short said. “If so, unmark it as junk and it should be directed to students’ inboxes.”