We at the Record commend the College on its decision to switch over to the cloud-based Google system, known as Google Applications for Education (GAE). However, we would like to voice several cautionary concerns relating to privacy and the transfer process to the new system.
The current mail and calendar system, Mirapoint, is not fully compatible with all browsers. Students often struggle to attach documents, and the lack of a usable mobile platform has driven many to enable forwarding to their personal Gmail accounts. We believe the benefits of the GAE system will liberate the entire communication process: automatic filtering and sorting of emails will be made possible, as will the direct access of the campus directory in a user’s contacts. Moving to GAE will help to centralize information and promote collaboration in classes by facilitating the sharing of calendars and documents within the College community. The Google Drive application in particular will allow multiple people to simultaneously read and edit documents from remote locations. We hope this will serve as a more environmentally friendly way of transmitting course readings, possibly reducing the need for physical copies of course packets in the future.
In the current timeline, the institution of the GAE system will begin with the class of 2018 in the fall, gradually integrating the rest of students and faculty in the following months. Many people are already familiar with Gmail and the other applications in the GAE system, so we believe the transition will run smoothly for students, faculty and staff. We recognize that a transitional period is necessary in any operational change as fundamental to the function of an institution such as ours, in order to minimize potential technical bugs in a new, unfamiliar system. However, we also express concern over the amount of time the transition has been slated to take. As an institution with a relatively small student body, we feel that completing a seamless switchover should be possible in a shorter period than the proposed timeline calls for.
The shift to the GAE system will most likely introduce some level of integration between personal and academic life, raising concerns regarding privacy within the Google network. The breadth of Google’s services, some of which can be reasonably classified as social media, means that a larger volume of personal information may be assimilated than is currently stored in the Mirapoint system. We believe that if not already separate, this data should not be collected by the school network. We want to make sure the privacy of the students at the College remains intact.
A major advantage of moving to a cloud-based system is that storage is no longer an issue. The College can purchase and enable more storage easily, and software and hardware updates will no longer be as much of an issue. Looking forward, we hope that this shift might inspire the future integration of other College operational websites such as PeopleSoft, Glow and WSO.