Monday, March 21, 2011

U of A Goes Google

Starting today, all undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Alberta are invited to "Go Google" and make the switch to uAlberta Gmail. Gmail is part of Google Apps for Education, which also includes calendaring, document preparation tools, chat, video calls, websites and more. The University of Alberta is the first large university in Canada to make the switch to Google Apps.

There are many groups on campus that are eager to make the switch, and there are some that are more cautious, wanting to minimize the impact of the switch on their day-to-day work. To keep the transition manageable, we are taking a staged approach to deployment: today we start moving students on AICT ("central") email, and in the near future we will move on to staff. We will continue to work with the faculties, departments and units to understand their needs and develop a schedule to get the rest of the university community switched over as soon as possible. It will take many months to move the entire university over to Google.

For all students: please go to the switch site, where you will be taken through the process of  "Going Google." It is simple (just point and click), and should only take a few minutes to go through three easy steps:

1. Get Started
This step will give you access to Google Apps and prepare you to use uAlberta Gmail. You will be provided with the benefits of using Google Apps. After verifying your CCID and password you will be asked to agree to the terms and conditions.

2. Activate Email
This step will provide you with the details and benefits of using uAlberta Gmail. After reviewing, you will have the opportunity to redirect your new email; however, we recommend using the web-based Gmail interface.

3. Move Old Mail
This step gives you the option to move your existing email messages to uAlberta Gmail. You will be placed in a queue, and your email messages will be moved within five business days.

It is important to note that your email address will remain unchanged, even after you have switched to Gmail. Once you make the switch over to Gmail, you will also have single sign-on access to Bear Tracks, so you won’t have to log in multiple times.

If you have any questions, concerns or problems when switching to uAlberta Gmail, please contact the AICT Helpdesk.

Jonathan Schaeffer
Vice Provost and Associate VP (IT)

Further Links for Students
Google Sync for Mobile Devices
One Page Overview
Frequently Asked Questions
Enabling Multiple Sign-Ins

**Update** More information on the switchover from Express NewsThe Gateway, and The Google Blog.

**Update** Students can also enter a contest to win an iPad 2, a 42 inch plasma television, an Android phone, and other great prizes.


  1. Here's an excellent post from local blogger Mack Male, providing more information on our switch over to Google Apps for Education.

  2. Hmm, the switch site doesn't seem to want to take me past the Campus Computing ID Login Status page..

  3. Sorry about that, a small glitch on our part. We'e fixing the hyperlink and it should be good to go.

  4. Hmm, the switch site doesn't seem to want to take me past the Campus Computing ID Login Status page..

    Seems to be a problem with the link. We are looking into it. Thanks for letting us know!

  5. I made the Google Apps switch a month ago and I am amazed at how simple my professional and personal lives are becoming. I can now share calendars and schedule meetings without countless emails and scheduling mistakes. I can easily share documents and collaborate without dropped comments and changes. I can chat with colleagues and students about quick questions rather than filling up my inbox and wasting time opening emails and experiencing emails pass in the ether. I am looking forward to expanding communication and collaboration with Google Apps, especially setting up groups and sharing links.

    That said, no technology shift is seamless. I had to learn about IMAP (as opposed to POP) servers the hard way (namely by accidentally trashing all my email for a week). I had to spend time in the middle of a busy term learning a new email client (the Web interface is fabulous but I still want my own client app). I had to chat several times with the Help desk (they were mostly positive experiences; only made less positive by my minimal knowledge interfering with my new learning). But I lived through it and I understand connectivity and technology to support community better than I did before.

    My advice to those who are concerned about making the change is to be open minded and flexible as you prepare for some technological glitches while you develop greater networking and communication capabilities. Change is never easy and technology is never simple. But Google Apps for Education really does fit our communication and networking needs personally as well as professionally.

    Thanks to the University of Alberta and Jonathan Schaeffer for making our jobs and personal lives easier, enabling more seamless communication and collaboration, and moving us forward as global citizens.

  6. I guess this invitation doesn't extend to visually impaired students, as Google Apps are not accessible.

  7. Jonathan SchaefferMarch 21, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Thank you for raising the issue of visually impaired students. This was something that we looked in to as part of our due diligence before deciding on Google.

    Accessibility of services to all constituents is very important to the University and we take this matter seriously. While doing our research on Google Apps our team found that Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, and other tools in the Google suite are WIA-ARIA compliant and should work with any screen reader that supports this draft standard. If for some reason this is insufficient for your needs, you can still use your current email reader (all that changes is the location of where your email is stored).

    Here is some background reading if you are interested

    WAI-ARIA - The accessibility standard that Google Supports -

    Google Accessibility Support -

  8. Google receives first fine over privacy concerns
    The Associated Press Posted: Mar 21, 2011 11:49 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 21, 2011 3:53 PM ET

  9. Jonathan SchaefferMarch 21, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    Regarding the fine for privacy concerns:

    The fine was for use of Google Street View. This is a different division within Google and has nothing to do with Gmail and Google Apps.

  10. Great reading posts like this and how GoogleDocs are becoming so widely used. In my opinion, they are a no-brainer for companies, businesses, and schools to save money and become more portable.

    I also know the issue of security comes up commonly. What are some of you doing to secure your Docs?

  11. A friend accidentally accepted Google Apps terms and now wants to decline and use a forwarding address. Is it possible and, if so, how?

    Helpdesk has been contacted but I'm curious. Could not see it in the FAQ (just the opposite). Thanks

  12. Why didn't you release the contract with Google intact to the AASUA? Shouldn't we be aware and have input into what was agreed to, since this affects the committment we make when we use it? Please offer an answer more specific than "proprietary information." Thanks in advance.

  13. Why do academics insist on having their fingers in everything? This process was undertaken by technical experts and addressed at all levels to endure it met all privacy concerns!
    As employees of the university, in it's purest form, we use the tools that are provided to do our jobs. They have the right to change as needed. If you don't like it, take the forwarding option out and go away. You're bother people who want to be innovative.
    Let the flaming begin!

  14. @Anonymous May 29, 2011 2:57 PM

    Thanks for the question. It's absolutely possible to change your mind about the terms, and your friend was right to contact AICT Helpdesk. They are the one's to help, as they will configure his/her account to allow him or her back to the decision page where s/he can choose to answer yes or no again.

    Clearly, we don't recommend the "no" option, but we are leaving that option open. You need to know that as soon as "no" is selected and an alternate email account is registered to forward email to, one also loses access to the uAlberta Google Apps and all the benefits that come with it. That means you're not only saying 'no' to the Gmail-powered email--one that is free of ads and data-mining--but you're also saying no to campus-wide calendaring and collaborative document-sharing through Google Docs.

  15. Its called "collegial governance." It is what makes a university a university. A number of us have noticed a recent and disturbing trend in the cancellation or bypassing of commities through which we are mandated to have a share in governance decisions. On the other hand, why isn't that information available? This relates not to technology per se, but academics rights over our information. Even now there is a case before the Alberta Supreme Court over U of A e-mails so this is not just a technical issue. (not flaming you - just explaining)

  16. Why didn't you release the contract with Google intact to the AASUA? Shouldn't we be aware and have input into what was agreed to, since this affects the committment we make when we use it? Please offer an answer more specific than "proprietary information." Thanks in advance.

    Thanks for the question. Contract arrangements with third parties such as Google typically contain sensitive business information and we cannot disclose the contents of the arrangements without appropriate due process. This includes compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP). Under FOIPP, third parties have the right to object to the disclosure of information in whole or in part. That's what happened in this case; Google, for reasons of their own, did not agree to sharing the contract publicly without severing certain parts of the contract. This decision was reviewed and upheld by the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner.

  17. But why would the university agree to a contract that had to have that level of secrecy? I can't see what kind of "sensitive business information" google would need protected that would be worth sacrificing our knowledge of what our university bought in to. Especially since a basic principle of collegial governance is that faculty and/or the organization that represents them, should have a say in what this university does, and the AASUA could have been bound to confidentiality. Unless you explain otherwise, I have to assume that it was the Central Admin that had something to hide.

  18. @Anonymous May 31, 2011 12:31 PM: Could we know more about the UofA emails case before the the Alberta Supreme Court? Email me if you like.

    @Anonymous May 31, 2011 9:35 AM: I wholeheartedly agree, this place without academics would be much more pleasant; without all the students it would become truly ideal.

  19. Hi Piotr, yes, life would be so much easier here! Re. the news: funny how Express News and this blog tend to overlook anything potentially controversial (although it was announced at AASUA, albeit with less detail than below! Here is a link for you

  20. Sorry, there was an h missing at the front of the url that I pasted in. You'll need to put that in to make the link.

  21. Anon May 31 @ 5:30 - I would pose that same question to AASUA regarding the current collective bargaining agreement. Why did they allow themselves to be persuaded to work in secrecy at the start of the negotiations? In my opinion, it probably because the idea of collegial governance is a myth on this campus. It's smoke and mirrors and putting on faces to appease academics who feel they need to have their fingers in everything. The fact of the matter is that the academy isn't working in this fashion and doesn't need AASUA's permission to change their operations or provide their rationale for doing so. Fortunately, most of the information on Google Apps can be found at the VPIT website.

  22. Tha'ts my point. It is a myth on this campus. That's why the U of A is doomed to marginal status on the international stage. Its already starting that we're getting a reputation for acting like a local community college while pretending to aspire to world class status. Regarding secrecy, its interesting that you try to blame the organization that "allowed" itself "to be persuaded," perhaps they were too busy with the heavy caseload of members requiring help with disputes with the university, including those that had to be investigated by CAUT. Either way, its interesting that you draw attention to AASUA for "allowing" itself "to be persuaded" and now you question those of us who are trying to help it stand its ground?

  23. I guess we essentially agree on the same thing. There is no collegial governance here at the UofA. It's funny that a session on Governance 101 was hosted this past week. Who knew, eh?
    My other point is that the entire orgnization from central admin to AASUA (the people you pay to reprepsent you), down to departments/faculties are equally set in the ideal of being seen and not heard. Therefore, unless specifically mandated in a committee's terms of reference, there is little benefit asking/demanding inclusion in the decision making process. We all need to be good little lemmings. Bottom line is somedays you're dog and somedays you're the hydrant.

  24. I'm sitting in my office with no access to university e-mail. My Faculty hasn't switched to google yet, so I can't use University Google mail. The Faculty provided e-mail is down again today, as it has been on several occasions in the past few weeks. University Webmail, which provided a much needed backup during previous Faculty e-mail glitches, is read only now.

    I'm trying hard to consider myself a valued member of the University community whose basic communication needs are thought to be important here.

  25. I’m sorry to hear about your situation; while it's of little comfort to you right now, it's exactly why we're moving to Google Apps.

    Your experience is important to us, which is why we're moving as fast as we can to move faculty-run email services over to Google Apps. Where and when we can, we're working with Faculty and Dept IT staff to try to ensure people like you don't have to deal with this situation by finding interim fixes or by adjusting our deployment schedule to accommodate servers with critical problems. (Of which there are several.)

    As our old central mail service was starting to show increasingly severe signs of age (you may have been affected by outages recently), and because department email services are typically self-contained, it was time to turn off mail delivery to it. Turning off central mail unfortunately also turned off access to AICT Webmail.

    I should note that where a department email server exists, generally there is a department webmail service paired with it. In these situations, AICT Webmail would only show a subset of email sent to you.

    A word of caution: moving over to Google in an uncoordinated fashion from a department email service is complicated and potentially risky. Performing a step in the wrong order could result in lost email for the user or even bringing down an entire department email server. This is why we need to work closely with department IT when switching anyone from a department email service.

    You might be interested to see the current deployment schedule (up to the new year), which is available on the VPIT project site: I don’t know what department you are with so I can’t comment on your placement in the schedule. However, I encourage you to talk to your department IT support to find out when your department will be migrating. If they have not already been in contact with the Google Apps Project Team, encourage them to do so.


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