November 13, 2009

NSIT to implement e-mail forwarding, new Web portal

cMail will be discontinued in 2012, part of an NSIT initiative to conserve resources and better serve student demands, NSIT officials announced yesterday at a student forum in the Reynolds Club. A new Web site meant to aggregate University-related tools, myUChicago, was also shown.

Greg Anderson, NSIT director, said the recent trend of students forwarding their e-mails to other accounts spurred the decision. He said around 51 percent of students forward their e-mail.

Students will keep their addresses, but will pick an outside provider, such as Google, to host the account. Current students who do not forward will have one to two years to change their settings. This period represents the amount of time that NSIT has contracted for maintenance service.

Students are leaving cMail behind because it does not have the variety of features of other commercial providers, Anderson said. “We don’t have the resources to compete with the Googles of the world,” he said. For example, cMail has one gigabyte of memory, compared to Google’s seven gigabytes.

Anderson said the change will save the University money, but he did not know how much. “We are in an effort to gain as much efficiency within a finite set of resources so that we can gain the capacity to do new things,” Anderson said.

When incoming first-years choose their CNet IDs in the spring, they will choose where they want their mail forwarded. “Students arrive with an e-mail identity when they apply. Rather than disturb that, we will let the students keep their same e-mail provider,” Anderson said.

While College students may not have developed an attachment to the service, Anderson said graduate students, who have used the service the longest, might not transition as smoothly. Anderson said NSIT will help current students transition to the new system.

The forwarding service will also allow the University to reach students after they graduate.

The other part of NSIT’s initiative, myUChicago, will come out of beta next week. It will resemble iGoogle or myYahoo, portals that consolidate online resources.

“This makes it easier for all our constituencies to navigate the University’s resources. Right now it takes students a great deal of time to find their information,” Project Manager Tamra Valadez said.

The page features a series of “portlets,” or rearrangeable boxes, dedicated to different tasks, such as an academic calendar, housing links, and transportation updates.

Students will be able to minimize, eliminate, and move most of the portlets. The portal will have customized bookmarks, weather, and RSS feed options.

myUChicago will allow single sign-on service for certain sites, but not for others, such as cMore. Because it contains sensitive information, myUChicago will log out after 30 minutes of inactivity.

The full version of the site will be accessible to first-years November 18, upperclassmen November 24, and graduate students by division by December 10. Faculty and staff will gain access in the winter and spring, respectively. The staggered introduction gives NSIT an opportunity to watch the site in action, but not worry about traffic bringing it down, Anderson said.