Inside Highered talks about a new trend in campus e-mail. The site reports more and more colleges are outsourcing this task to Google or Microsoft:
Dartmouth students still rely on BlitzMail today, downloading their messages with a traditional Windows- or Mac-based client. But nearly 10 years later, even David L. Bucciero, the director of technical services, calls the service “archaic.” It lacks some of the “bells and whistles,” he said, that most students take for granted with the personal Web-based e-mail accounts they take with them to college. Such features might include the ability to view and compose messages in HTML, which allows the customization of fonts and colors, or virtually unlimited storage space.
Those inadequacies — combined with occasional downtime — explain why Dartmouth might go back to the drawing board. And in rethinking its e-mail strategy, officials there will confront similar issues as many other colleges and universities in a time of rapid shifts in messaging habits and in the economics of Internet applications. Bucciero and a planned study group will soon consider whether it’s worthwhile to continue maintaining BlitzMail, or whether Dartmouth should consider for e-mail what colleges routinely do for many other basic operational functions: outsource it.
In the world of e-mail, outsourcing means two things: Google or Microsoft. Both have been marketing Web-based messaging services to small businesses, nonprofits and other groups, and they’ve focused more intensely on the higher education market over the past year. Besides services that are completely free and interfaces that are familiar to students, they offer a wide array of features, tools that let people collaborate in real time — and of course, the cool factor.