Students: Checking email is about to get a lot better

A login page for Office365.

A login page for Office 365.

Little about the routine, daily checking of email sounds like fun.

Come May 2, though, that task is about to become less onerous for Brock students.

Starting next month, students will be able to keep in touch using Office 365, an online email service that boasts more than an inbox.

The Microsoft product also gives students free access to a suite of tools, including a calendar, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and OneDrive with 50 terabytes of space, to stay organized and help with schoolwork.

The service won’t be available to staff, however.

The new web-based program comes with one other perk for Kyle Rose: fewer emails from students complaining about the current system, which has limited functionality and is 10 years old.

Some even told the vice-president of finance and administration for Brock University’s Students’ Union that they had given up using their university email account because it was so antiquated and cumbersome.

“Seeing it, seeing the user interface and how attractive it is, how accessible it is, brings a smile to my face,” Rose said during a recent preview of Office 365. “It sounds cheesy saying 10 (out of 10 as an issue for students) but it’s a 9.5.”

Rose is already busy creating converts to the Office 365 way of doing things. He’s a big proponent of using OneNote to organize his lecture notes and class readings. His web-based to-do list and calendar are his life, he says, and should he or anyone else using the services forget their laptop at home one day, they can access Office 365 from their mobile device.

It also means no student at Brock will have to spend money on the Microsoft Office suite or updates to existing programs they may already have.

“Several barriers to education are knocked down with this,” Rose said. “It’s going to help students academically and socially. And when they leave school, they’ll be going to corporations that use these tools and they will need to know how to use them.”

Office 365 offers more than any lone university IT department ever could when it comes to functionality and cost, noted David Cullum, Brock’ Associate Vice President-Information Technology Services. Students entering Brock will have already used this or another similar service and will expect such technology to be available for them here, he added.

According to Microsoft, OneDrive will also be upgraded in the future to have unlimited storage space.

“How can we compete as an IT department against this?” Cullum asked. “We want to bring new innovation, new technology to Brock. We’re sort of playing catch-up and this is a great step in bringing innovation to the University.”

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