Students at Raritan Valley Community College have mixed opinions about the switch from Gmail to Microsoft Office, which took place at the start of the academic year.
Imran Vahora, Student Government Association (SGA) Senator and Chair of the Technology Committee, has surveyed students on campus about Office 365 and found out much of this mixed reaction stems from familiarity and preference for Gmail.
Additionally, most students are unsure why the college made the switch. Chuck Chulvick, Vice President for Technology, Assessment and Planning, said there are two main reasons.
First, Office 365 offers unique services. Students can download Microsoft Office apps on up to five devices, run web versions of Office apps on phones and share documents through Microsoft OneDrive, a cloud storage service.
OneDrive functions much like Google Drive, allowing documents to be edited live among multiple people. “It’s nice to be able to make OneDrive available to students because now they no longer have to worry about carrying around a flash drive to access their files,” Chulvick said.
Vahora said the only major complaint about the services is that downloads for Office apps sometimes do not work.
The second reason is faculty was already using Office 365, and communication will be better between faculty and students if they are on the same mailing system.
Chulvick said the faculty had college-provided Gmail accounts, but most did not use them, and many did not have their emails forwarded to their Office 365 account. As a result, many professors were not receiving students’ emails.
Office 365 will expire after a student is no longer enrolled at RVCC. Chulvick suggests students move their mailbox content to their own account before leaving RVCC.
Vahora said he prefers Office 365 because it allows him to sync up his calendar with Russell Barefoot’s, the advisor of SGA and Director of Student Life. He also finds it easier to manage group contacts than on Gmail.
Ryan Villanueva, Executive Vice President of Student Life Activities & Planning (SLAP) Board, said he does not like the interface for Office 365 because it looks unfamiliar and dated.
“Outlook 365 is like Myspace and Gmail is like Facebook,” Villanueva said. He also criticized how “narrow” the email messages are. However, he does like the reminder calendar.
Students Christian Plaras, Terianne Englis and Steven Rudden said they prefer Gmail because they’re much more familiar with it, and they had problems opening their college email using the mobile Office 365 app—a complaint made by every student who has tried the app. They have no problem accessing Gmail through a phone.
The three students also said there are too many steps involved with opening their email on a desktop because it has to be accessed through RVCC’s website (unless they have the URL saved into their cookies). Gmail, however, can be accessed through a URL. All of them said they still use their college Gmail instead of Office 365.
Justin Fanders, Vice President of Outreach of SLAP Board, said he prefers Office 365 because he has used Outlook for most of his life. He finds OneDrive useful when sharing budget information with SLAP Board. This allows them to review documents and make comments. (This can also be done on Google Docs but does not use the Microsoft Word app.)
DeAnna Nicholson, President of SGA, said students should get accustomed to Office 365 because this is used in the corporate world. “We know the initial switch is challenging. If a students has a problem they can better get it solved if they discuss it with us (SGA).”
Marie A. Wicklund, Department Assistant at Student Life, said Office 365 is the only system she has ever used. “I like it, but I’m not sure if I’m using it to its full potential. I would like if there were some information sessions so I can learn more about it.” (The college ran a few information sessions at the beginning of the academic year, but has not run any since.)
The author of this article was the first to tell Wicklund, Villanueva, Englis, Plaras and Rudden that Microsoft Office apps could be downloaded through their subscription to Office 365 and that OneDrive works like Google Drive. They responded that this sounds interesting, but they already had the Office apps on their computers and are uncomfortable switching from Google Drive to OneDrive.
Contributing writer: Jessica Hennelly.