For several years now, UC Davis’ student portal, MyUCDavis, has been using Geckomail for its e-mail communication purposes.
Though the portal itself has gone through many changes and updates, Geckomail has not, and several issues have arisen that make saving and sorting e-mails challenging for students.
To address this situation, the Information and Educational Technology department at UC Davis has been considering different e-mail providers to replace Geckomail sometime next fall. The frontrunner is Gmail, Google’s service which provides a myriad of features for students, faculty and staff, which Geckomail does not.
The IET department has been looking at different e-mail providers for some time now and settled on Gmail.
“Over a year ago, IET researched several e-mail providers,” said Gaston de Ferrari, a project manager for IET. “In was concluded that Gmail offered the best set of features.”
After choosing Gmail, IET set up a pilot program which included the participation of 306 students. Starting in Jan. 2008 and ending in February, participants used Gmail and answered two surveys over the duration of the pilot, de Ferrari said.
“The response rate for the surveys surpassed all expectations,” he said. “A total of 93 percent of respondents found the UC Davis Gmail account registration process easy to follow. Over 93 percent of participants would recommend UC Davis Gmail to their friends.”
One of the issues that users are having with Geckomail is the amount of storage space users have. With Geckomail, storage space is limited, but with Gmail, users will enjoy 6 or more gigabytes of storage, which is over 100 times what Geckomail offers.
“With Geckomail, I constantly had to delete old e-mails to make space for new ones,” said Johnny Chau, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major. “Now that I’ve become a part of the Gmail Pilot, I’m at 59 megabytes of e-mails and am still at less than 1 percent of storage space used.”
Other features that Gmail offers include access to Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Talk and Google Sites, and the option to choose from over 40 different languages. There are also search functions to facilitate the retrieval of old e-mails without searching through pages of saved messages.
All of these features could be very useful to students, said Kat Leung, a junior managerial economics major in an e-mail interview.
“For example, I use Google Talk more than any other type of messaging service now because I find it extremely convenient to be chatting in the same browser as my e-mail,” she said. “Google Calendars are useful because you can share calendars with friends and family. This is useful for organizations as it allows everyone to be aware of what is going on. You can add event invitations in e-mails and that pops up in your calendar.”
Gmail also offers many applications that can add simplicity to group projects.
“Google Documents is awesome because when you are doing group projects, you can share your documents and update them for everyone to see,” Leung said. “Gmail also provides email labeling so that you can easily view which e-mails are from who/what group.”
While some users may be overwhelmed by the number of applications or think some of them unnecessary, all of them are optional.
“Gmail offers students a lot more flexibility,” said Sona Lim, a junior political science major. “Gmail is very simple. Students don’t have any choices about what they can do. There’s basically just inbox, outbox, and delete.… I like simplicity, but just having the option to use calendars, Google chat, or Google Calendar is just a really good option and freedom for me.”
The switch over to Gmail from Geckomail will be a relatively simple one, de Ferrari said. Continuing students will not need to change their e-mail addresses and can still have messages forwarded to any desired e-mail, just as before.
“[Users] will also use their campus Kerberos username and password to log on,” de Ferrari said. “So there is no need to learn a new e-mail address, a username, or password.”
The only thing that continuing users will be required to do is register for Gmail. However, de Ferrari said that the process is very straightforward.
“Students will access the computing accounts page to register for the service,” de Ferrari said. “The process takes about five minutes. Ninety-three percent of Gmail pilot users that responded to the survey found the process to be easy to follow.”
If IET makes the final decision to implement Gmail as the campus e-mail system, it will go into effect fall quarter 2008.
JACQUELYN FLATT can be reached at email@example.com.