For students in the University of Missouri System, experiences of inbox-full messages and the resulting inability to send and receive e-mail messages as a result may soon be little more than unpleasant memories.
The university is considering adopting a system that would nearly eliminate e-mail administration costs, provide students 40 times their current e-mail capacity and allow students to keep their e-mail addresses after graduation, said Terry Robb of the UM Division of Information Technology. The Division of Information Technology, formerly called Information & Access Technology Services, has 65 student users and some staffers testing Microsoft Live Mail. But the division hasn’t set an end date for the test.
Live Mail would behave like the current Microsoft Outlook Web Access system, but it would be maintained by Microsoft free of charge instead of by university employees.
“There may be some staff time involved in managing accounts while the students are here, but it would be much less than today,” Robb said. “What they want to do is catch you as a customer for life. So they handle your e-mail much like Hotmail, Google Mail and so on ... and when you graduate, you’ll be able to continue to use that account.”
Once student users graduate, the Live Mail interface will have advertising similar to what’s displayed on Microsoft’s Hotmail service.
The most attractive feature for student users, however, is likely to be the increased e-mail capacity offered by the proposed system. Students would receive two gigabytes of storage space with the proposed system compared to the current 50-megabyte maximum.
The Division of Information Technology began pilot testing Live Mail in October. Reactions from Live Mail test users have been mostly positive, but they consistently say that one problem is the lack of a global address catalog to find e-mail addresses of other UM users.
“The university directory isn’t loaded onto the system,” MU senior Dionne Joffray said. “I actually go back to my Web mail account to find other students’ and professors’ e-mail addresses.”
Robb said the Division of Information Technology is developing a standalone address catalog — essentially a Web page — to allow users to search for e-mail addresses of others in the UM System. Although it isn’t integrated within the e-mail program, as the Outlook address catalog is, this solution would allow users to find necessary e-mail addresses, solving the most mentioned nuisance of the Live Mail and potentially making the program into a viable solution.
“... I think that the benefits outweigh the costs, and the university should adopt it campuswide,” MU senior Melissa Crawley said.
The Division of Information Technology is continuing to gather feedback surveys from test users.
“I’ll speculate that we’ll run the pilot the rest of the semester and make a decision in the summer,” Robb says. “But it is really too early to tell.”