A recent agreement between USC and Google Inc. will make Google e-mail and other applications available to all students at USC by the spring semester.
Finalized in August, the arrangement gives USC students access to an online suite of communication and collaboration tools, called Google Apps for Education. These tools include Gmail (e-mail with 2 GB of storage per account), integrated chat and applications for calendaring and document and spreadsheet production.
Led by Suh-Pyng Ku, chief technology officer for enhanced learning, and Ilee Rhimes, chief information officer and vice provost for information technology services, the initiative to bring Google Apps for Education to USC stemmed from the recognition that students’ expectations about technology have changed dramatically in the past few years.
“Today’s students study and network online; they expect Web-based communication and social-networking tools to be integrated into the educational environment,” Rhimes said.
According to Ku, “Our partnership with Google will support an infrastructure for both on-campus and distance learning by giving students additional tools for online communication, collaboration and networking.”
Google Apps for Education includes the Web-based Google Docs & Spreadsheet program, which allows documents to be uploaded or created online. The word-processing and spreadsheet program makes it possible for users to collaborate online in real time, keeping a record of individual edits and document versions.
Google Apps does not require users to install separate software. The application suite supports Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Netscape Web browsers.
The first students to benefit from the USC-Google partnership are those enrolled in USC Gould School of Law and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Distance Education Network.
The USC Viterbi School recently made the Google application suite available to students taking online courses in its distance education program. More than 1,300 students currently enrolled in the network will be able to access the Google Apps for Education tools from the network’s online course management system, along with approximately 2,500 USC students taking distance education courses.
“Integrating Google Apps into DEN’s online course management system enhances support for student collaboration,” said Binh Tran, the network’s executive director.
At USC Law, the first school at USC to implement Google Apps for Education, students readily adopted the Gmail option for their university e-mail. USC Law began to offer students new USC-Google e-mail accounts at the beginning of the semester. Within a few weeks, the adoption rate climbed to almost 90 percent.
The USC-Google partnership will allow students to keep USC in the domain name of their e-mail address. The new domain name for law school students is @lawmail.usc.edu.
The USC-branded Gmail accounts offer students considerable advantages that explain the rapid rate of adoption. USC Gmail accounts will not be subject to the university’s one-year e-mail retention policy, saving students the inconvenience of moving e-mail that they wish to save beyond a year to a personal e-mail account or to their hard drive. The additional storage space also means that students will spend less time deleting e-mail to stay within quota.
“Law student response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Albert Brecht, associate dean, John Stauffer Professor of Law and chief technology officer at the USC Gould School of Law. “Many law students were quite familiar with Gmail and are happy to use it at the law school. Students appreciate the system’s flexibility and built-in integration of applications such as calendars, shared documents and instant messaging.”
Google Apps for Education has been adopted by many universities across the country.