New E-mail System Approved by Dean of Technology

El Vaquero Staff Writer

As a quick, efficient way to communicate better with students, College Services agreed on the importance of enhancing GCC’s technology by acquiring a new e-mail system.

GCC’s College Services is a staff that contributes to the overall educational development of the school.

The College Services staff collaboratively reached a plan to develop a student e-mail system and presented this plan to the Dean of Information and Technology Services (ITS), Robert Owens.

Jewel Price, dean of student services said, “the possibility of producing e-mail accounts with students will enable the college to communicate more efficiently and more effectively with students.”
ITS is responsible for the purchasing, testing, installation, and maintenance of all GCC’s computers, hardware, and software. After the plan was presented, Owens and the ITS staff constructed the plan in detail and presented it to the Campus-wide Computer Coordinating Committee for approval.

The Campus-wide Computer Coordinating Committee is a governance committee that decides on any major technological initiative introduced at GCC.

The plan to acquire a new e-mail system at GCC was authorized and purchased from Ipswitch Inc., an independent company hired by GCC. The new e-mail system incorporates Web messaging and comprehensive anti-spamming capabilities with a messaging solution called IMail.
IMail has already been ordered and involvement is on track. “Student representatives and Administrators are in favor of IMail,” said Owens. “We are trying it on administrators and staff first through the end of this semester and were hoping by spring semester to open it up to all students.”

The IMail server contains increased capabilities and features and is more cost effective than other e-mail servers offered by competing groupware vendors.

IMail can be used on any off-site location from a PC with a Web browser and allows an unlimited amount of e-mail accounts to be established.
The new e-mail system at GCC will be funded through a Title V grant. Title V is a grant from the United States Department of Education for colleges which focuses on improving student outcomes. Title V is useful in supporting and implementing a great deal of the instructional technology at GCC.

The cost of implementing IMail has not been specified. “The Title V grant gives the school an overall fund and we decide on how much we need for specific projects,” said Title V Program Director, Sue Brinkmeyer. Because the IMail system is not yet completly installed, the total cost of operation is still unknown.

Support by Title V was obtained by indicating to the federal government what key problems affect all students at the college. One problem identified by the grant is the dropout rate during the first semester of college.

To make the transition to college easier, students need to get information and stay in contact with someone who connects them to the college. A counselor is provided and assigned to each student.
When GCC counselors recognized the difficulty in reaching students by their listed e-mail address, the need for a student e-mail system provided by GCC was suggested by Student Services, thus the idea was introduced.

“GCC e-mail can provide a way for people in College Services who want to help students do well by providing the students with information,” said Brinkmeyer. “A large percentage of the time a student moves, their e-mail no longer works or some students don’t even have e-mail address.”

The use of student e-mail could perhaps strengthen student development by allowing joint communication and usage by both students and faculty. At this time GCC faculty is having difficulty communicating with students because of the constant change of phone numbers, and home and e-mail addresses that students sometimes fail to update. GCC’s new e-mail system could be a way to allow the school to communicate better with students about financial aid, administration, counseling, orientation, academic probation, and even school events.

Implementation of the system is under way. “The first step to take is to develop policies and procedures about proper use of e-mail. We need a written policy and the Campus-wide Committee is working on that,” said Price.

School polices may have to be revised. “If e-mail is going to be the official means of communicating with students we will need to use e-mail formally which means we have to have policies and procedures to do that,” said Owens.

Most colleges already have a student e-mail system. The Los Angeles Community College District consists of nine colleges, all of which use Universal Internet Access System (UIA).

UIA provides electronic mail services to faculty and students and enables instructors to communicate with one student, an entire class, or others over the internet. East Los Angeles College Student Janette Pantoja said, “it enhances communication by eliminating barriers. Student e-mail is helpful for the students to get in contact with their teachers.”

IMail may possibly contribute to student awareness of campus activities and help students obtain vital information by providing reminders for students about important dates, deadlines, and answers to simple questions without having to make appointments or wait in long lines.
The steady flow of information to and from students, faculty, staff and administrators by the creation of an e-mail system could be a solution in strengthening the connection between students and the college.