During the recent Campus Suite Academy Google Apps for Education webinar, (see webinar video here), we had some questions we didn’t have time to answer. Following are the questions and answers from Campus Suite’s Google practitioners Eric Fulkert, Michael Hiles and Steve Williams. We're finding that many school administrators have some pretty compelling reasons to consider using Google Apps. It's a very integrated, free, ever-expanding platform for collaboration that offers some built-in security with very little technical burden.
Check out some of the questions and answers swirling around Google Apps for schools.
Q: When a student graduates or leaves, how do they access the data they have saved to their Google drive while in school? – Joe
CAMPUS SUITE: When a student graduates or leaves a school, they have two options. First, they can transfer all of their Google Drive files to another account, such as a free Gmail account. The student can do a “Transfer of Ownership” and move the files to the new account. The second option is for the student to download a file from each service they use.
Q: Can you speak to the need for a school district to have an email retention policy and archiving email? – Kelly
CAMPUS SUITE: Districts are subject to Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) requests. The FoIA, one of the many regulations your school should be well aware of, requires that districts make available any communication requested for review by a FoIA request. A district must set a policy of terms for retention. The accepted standard is that electronic files are subject to the same standard as paper files. If your district doesn’t have a retention policy, there could be legal issues on access to files. Your policy should set the standard for retention when a request is made. If the retention policy is unclear, third parties may look at selective FoIA access and retention as deceptive. All schools need to review the FoIA with legal counsel, and generate an acceptable policy.
Q: You mentioned you ‘practice what you preach’ and that your company uses Google apps. Do you use Gmail exclusively, or do you still run your own mail server such as Exchange and run Microsoft Office applications in addition to Google Apps? – Kelly
CAMPUS SUITE: We’ve run 100 percent Google apps for five years. We migrated from an on-site email server running Exchange 2003, and Microsoft Office. We have had excellent results from Gmail and Apps. We operate a 100 percent virtual office, and we live and die by Google Hangouts.
Q: You mention there are migration tools for moving from Exchange to Gmail. Are there tools for moving from Novell GroupWise to Gmail? – Kelly
CAMPUS SUITE: There is a tool that allows you to move GroupWise to Gmail. The tool is built into the Google Admin console, and migrates mailboxes via IMAP. IMAP is a common mail server protocol, allowing migrations from almost any email server. The migration tool also supports moving from Office 365.
Q: Do you think Google will ever charge for this service in the future? – Trevor
CAMPUS SUITE: Unlikely, as their costs keep dropping on the platform. The goal for Google is “train” younger users to use their platform. The users then “follow” Google Apps when they enter the workforce. Apple uses a similar model in its ongoing educational programs with schools. (e.g., students who learn how to use Macs want more Macs.) Google wants more people to come to Google.com and search. Google makes money on ads around search results. Students and school staff learning how to use Google make Google money when they search. The value of the search is more than Google would make from charging schools. This is the same model that has Google giving away Gmail for free.
Q: What is the best tool to migrate email, calendars, etc. from Office 365 to Google? – Christopher
CAMPUS SUITE: The Google data migration service, which is included in every Google Apps admin. The tool is free, and allows for a full migration via cloud.
Q: I'm hearing all or nothing here. At our schools, Google Apps would work well for teachers but not for some office personnel. Is it possible to have a Google domain that is used for classroom teachers, then enterprise environment tools for the office end? I know there might be a problem keeping two email systems. – Kelly
CAMPUS SUITE: The good news is that it’s not all or nothing for Gmail. The answer is called split delivery. Split delivery routes all email to Gmail first, then to a secondary server for delivery. In your model, you would route the office personnel emails to your on-premise email servers. Teachers would be using Gmail, and the office team keeps their platform. The challenges for this would be
- Archiving – You are maintaining two levels of archiving compliance with two different servers.
- Directory – Listing the directory becomes trickier. Office personnel and teacher users might have challenges with address books.
- Management – Two of anything is twice the trouble.
Having said that, if your team wants to keep Outlook, no problem. Gmail has a connector that allows you to use Outlook with Gmail, just like Exchange. Novell Groupwise is limited in what is available outside of migration tools. (Check out this article for more on the Google Apps vs. Microsoft 365 for schools debate.)
Q: If chatting among students becomes an issue, is there a way to block it or turn that option off?
CAMPUS SUITE: Blocking chatting is easy to do, but you may want to think that through first. Google is all about collaboration, and you may be defeating the purpose if you block the chat function. Turning any feature on or off in Google Apps is simple via the console. Refer to this support article using the console to control your Google Apps features.
Q: What about school websites and teacher websites? Does Google have an answer for this? – Sharon
CAMPUS SUITE: Yes. there is Google Sites. however, you may want to see what your website provider offers to ensure continuity with the rest of the website. Having your district, school, and teacher sites coordinated through Google would be very challenging. It would be hard to govern for consistency. A good website provider can provide design themes and templates that maintain professionalism and uniformity, while giving your teachers the freedom to make their sites “their own.”
Q: I’m thinking of using GAE in a small private K-8 school – just the basics, How do we get started? – Patti
CAMPUS SUITE: I would start with using a Gmail account, and testing the interface. If you have no major legacy apps that require Outlook, or another client, I would then start with training. Google has a free training and certification program. I would have my admin train on the administrator course, and then have some teachers get the teacher certificate. I would then set up a pilot, and migrate over a weekend. If your team lacks the resources, I would suggest hiring someone to do the setup and migration for you. There is a large range of groups out there that do migrations at a relatively low cost.
Q: Any developments by Google on the horizon to add a parent portal as our state requires this. – John
CAMPUS SUITE: Unlikely. Parent portals require a SIS to pull data from. Most SIS systems offer a parent portal, so Google is unlikely to offer this.
Q: On a scale from 1- 10 how difficult is it to migrate our current GAE environment to a new one? (new domain) – Alan
CAMPUS SUITE: One at the most. Adding a new domain is simple. I advise running both domains for a while to prevent lost emails.
Have a question about Google Apps for Education?
Thanks to everyone for their questions. Between those asked and answered live during the webinar and the list above, this pretty well covers it. If you didn’t get a chance to be part of the webinar, you can view it here: Is Google Apps for Education a Good Fit for My School. Also, if you have a question or comment about using Google in your school or district, share it with us below.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.