College to roll out Google's G Suite

by Savannah Eller | 1/4/19 3:05am

Dartmouth community members will be able to use Google applications through their official College accounts following a recent decision to offer Google’s G Suite campus-wide.

According to College vice president and chief information officer Mitch Davis, the decision to offer Google applications was informed by the expressed interest of faculty members. Davis said that after the College chose Office 365 — Microsoft’s suite of online tools — as its official platform in 2011, some faculty continued using Google applications.

“Many faculty members wanted to stay on Google platforms and it was kind of a riff in the faculty between the academic side and the administrative side,” he said.

After coming to the College 18 months ago, Davis started collecting feedback from faculty and students about the possibility of expanding G Suite for use across campus. According to him, many faculty members were already using personal accounts on Google Docs and some collaborative Google applications.

Rolling out in early January, the G Suite for Education line of tools includes Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Sheets and dozens of other applications available through the G Suite Marketplace. Each student and faculty member will have the choice of maintaining their current Office 365 applications or transitioning to G Suite.

The suite will include Google’s core educational applications with stronger privacy terms and conditions and no consumer-targeted ads. Users will be able to contact the information technology and consulting help desk in Baker-Berry Library for technical support.

The Thayer School of Engineering — which chose to keep Google as its applications platform in 2011 — is helping with the G Suite roll-out.

“[Thayer] did a lot of the work already, so we’re just listening to them as to how it should be done,” Davis said.

Gmail will also be coming to the College in limited form this term. According to Susan Kelley, infrastructure services director at Dartmouth’s ITC department, a small pilot program will open for faculty and a few students who have expressed interest in using Gmail.

Gmail’s limited debut will help ITC solve any issues with the email application ahead of a wider campus release, Kelley said, adding that the ITC team will be monitoring mail routing and helping new Gmail users forward Outlook mail to their new accounts.

“You have to do it carefully, but it is definitely doable,” she said.

The ITC department will also have to guide users with conflicting accounts — personal accounts created with a Dartmouth email address — through the process of reconciling their addresses. Over 700 accounts could be affected by conflicting addresses, according to Kelley’s estimation.

The roll-out of G Suite has also run into some issues, according to Davis. He said he planned to debut the platform for fall term, but found some G Suite programs might not be compatible with Geisel School of Medicine and Tuck Business School faculty and student needs.

At Geisel, certain G Suite applications do not meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations for patient privacy. Those applications, including YouTube, had to be removed from the Geisel suite. At Tuck, the popular Office 365 collaboration platform SharePoint is not compatible with Google.

Departments across campus will now need to choose which platform to use, according to Kelley. She said that the decision will be on a case-by-case basis, depending on which applications would be most useful.

“We expect that at the departmental level they’ll start to make decisions about whether things are working well on the Office 365 side or whether there’s a lot of interest in that department to move to Google,” Kelley said.

Adam Nemeroff, a learning designer at ITC responsible for helping faculty integrate technology in the classroom, said that the G Suite might allow professors to collaborate with their students more effectively than using Office 365 programs or the Canvas learning management system.

“The G Suite collection of tools is really helpful at ... filling the gap where Canvas might start to do certain things as far as being a tool in the classroom, but doesn’t operate so well,” Nemeroff said.

Kelley said she was optimistic that G Suite will take hold on campus, possibly supplanting Office 365 as the dominant provider over time.

“There will definitely be some confusion over the fact that we have both platforms, but I think it will be far more a win for the community than a negative,” she said.