Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Monday, July 14, 2008

Test Accounts for Google Apps

I'm not sure how many of you are aware of this at this point, but soon--possibly as soon as later this month, but it's looking like September instead--the VCCS will be transitioning from our current student email provider to Google Apps for Education. This will be an email change, but more importantly, it will give students (and faculty!) access to a range of collaborative tools we can use in teaching or other aspects of our work.

Faculty and staff all have test accounts so you can check it out now if you'd like to start exploring and thinking about what you might want to use for yourself, for student group work, or whatever. Visit http://mail.gtest.vccs.edu/ and use your normal My VCCS username and password to log in (that's the same one you use to log into PeopleSoft or BB).

The basic email account will look like a gmail account, so if you are familiar with that, you will be familiar already with the overall environment. But you'll also see chat on the left (like in a regular gmail account, as well), and the major new features linked on the very top left (a calendar feature; document working/collaborating tools including word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation tools; and a tool for creating individual or shared websites).

Check it out and let me know what you think!

14 comments:

Cindy Miller said...

Any one else having any problems? I couldn't get the link to work--either by clicking on it from my Google reader, from the blog itself or by copying and pasting---

I am very, very interested in putting a blog and an RSS feed in one of my courses, and as far as I can tell we don't have the ability in the Bb environment (although the ID folks are helping me with this), and this looks like a great alternative.

Jennifer Lerner said...

Cindy, are you getting a certificate error message? The first time I followed the link, IE told me there was a certificate error and I had the choice whether to continue or not (which I did, and then had no problems).

And FYI, Google Apps will ultimately be linked with BB in some way (e.g., enrolling your students into Google Chat), although it is not entirely clear yet to me how automated that process will be. So these tools will be able to interact with your roster in BB, etc. while still adding all these useful features.

Don Gregory said...

Same here, Cindy. I tried clicking on the link, and also copying it and trying it in a new window-- both IE and Firefox. I'm getting just the usual "page cannot be displayed" screen for a website not available.

Jennifer Lerner said...

My certificate error message did look like a "page cannot be displayed" message, but when I read the text underneath, it said it was because of a certificate problem and gave me links I could click.

Other than that, I do not know what to tell you!

Cindy Miller said...

My error message just tells me that the vccs server has timed out--it doesn't load anything. Alas.....
I am excited by the prospect of having these capabilities within our course environment.

I use a Mac and Firefox. Same thing happened in Safari. My IE is so old that I didn't try it.

Jennifer Lerner said...

I'm not sure what to tell you both. My IT Help Desk-type skills are pretty minimal!

Was anyone else able to get in and view things?

I do know that Steve Sachs will be sending out some details later this summer about what tools will be available, and I'm sure that at that time, we'll be able to get you in to view things, even if it's not working for you right now.

Bob said...

I can get to it from my office computer, but not from home (at least not today). Perhaps while it's in test mode you have to use a computer on the network. I tried using the VPN from home, and that also didn't work.)

Jennifer Lerner said...

Bob confirmed with the VCCS that this can only be used from a campus computer. So, check it out next time you are in the office!

Jennifer Lerner said...

One more update; apparently, there is a problem with how the VCCS imported our login and password info (or something like that... the IT Help Desk folks are still working with VCCS to try to pin things down), so some people can log in fine, while others can't.

Steve Sachs suggests that you can always just go to your regular gmail account, or open one if you don't have one, to see the features. We will have all that stuff available in the student accounts--the only difference is there will be a VCCS logo and the VCCS will make decisions about what shows up on the main page and what students have click further in to find.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, what is the security of a gmail account? I send grades through email and I thought we could only do that through the official college system. Further, if it can only be accessed from a campus computer, where does it leave those of us who work from other places? Diane Thompson

Jennifer Lerner said...

Diane,

Don't fret.

First, these accounts are provided by gmail but they are not gmail accounts. The email addresses are still official college addresses with the @email.vccs.edu domain and still have the same security features/assumptions as the current system, so they are still what we are supposed to use to communicate with students regarding grades, etc. The change is just that we do not have to be the email provider, and the students gain more features and usability when gmail provides the email account (lifelong access, more storage space, and tools like chat and collaborative documents).

And you will be able to use Google Apps from home--you just can't use the TEST SITE I've linked to here from home. When the real one is launched, it will be just a web-based site you log into, just like you do when you log into your email or into Blackboard from home.

Anonymous said...

I hope this new system supports POP3/IMAP/SMTP download...and if it does I hope the colleges make sure the appropriate ports are allowed outbound on student-wireless...

Jennifer Lerner said...

To anonymous: I asked Steve Sachs, who says that yes, they are supported. You can see information about this in the email Steve sent to students (faculty/staff were copied). Look especially at the link for the Google G-mail Help Center.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that will be great! I've always wanted to use one email client (MS Outlook POP3) for all of my accounts!

I got the email but didn't fully understand if that feature would be included since the info said the POP/IMAP/SMTP login was @gmail.com while the email said our addresses will still be the same.

Now if Virginia Western would only open the right outbound ports on student wireless for that to work...but they say there are no plans to do so :(

~Matt