Changes to BlitzMail to occur on schedule
By Ross Brown, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The College has nearly completed its transition from BlitzMail to the Microsoft Office 365 program suite and expects all incoming students to have access to the new system in early May, according to Susan Zaslaw, project manager for the transition from BlitzMail. Current students will “migrate” in waves to the new email system — which will feature email addresses that include students’ class years — throughout the 2011-2012 academic year, Zaslaw, who is also the associate director of administrative computing, said.
The Class of 2015 and all new incoming graduate students will be the first to have access to the Office 365 program, while members of the Class of 2013 who will be on campus during sophomore summer will be the first current students to transition to the new system, she said.
“We are scheduling the sophomores who are here for the summer to migrate to the new system sometime during July,” Zaslaw said.
Although the timeline is “yet to be firmed up,” the switch will occur as early in the term as possible, she said.
The timeline for members of the Class of 2012 and the Class of 2014 is “still up in the air” but will occur sometime between October of this year and either January or February of next year, according to Zaslaw.
On Sunday, the Academic Planning Committee approved the basic structure of the new email accounts to which students will be assigned, according to Ellen Waite-Franzen, vice-president of information technology and chief information officer for the College.
“Students will all have email addresses assigned to them like they do now, but the main difference is that the assigned email addresses will have the students’ class years in them,” she said. “We will also require all aliases to have the class year assigned as well.”
The Blitz-2-Blitz team — which is in charge of the email transition project — is currently gathering input from a variety of student groups, including Student Assembly and the Council on Student Organizations, to determine the best time to complete the transition.
“We are trying to work around the term schedule and avoid making the transition at either the end of the term or during midterms,” Zaslaw said.
The Blitz-2-Blitz student advisory group strongly recommended transitioning while students are on campus instead of between terms, according to Waite-Franzen. On-campus transitions would provide students with better support services than they would have otherwise, Zaslaw said.
Once the transition dates are finalized, the College will split students into groups to switch to the new system at various times, Zaslaw said.
“When it is your night to migrate, you will be asked to be logged off BlitzMail on your computer and deactivate BlitzMail on your mobile device,” Zaslaw said.
The Blitz-2-Blitz team is currently determining the best time of day to ask students to refrain from using BlitzMail.
“One of the things we need to figure out is what is the ideal window of time for this to happen,” Zaslaw said. “We have 17,000-plus accounts to migrate, so we are trying to divide up and schedule the migrations according to times that work best for certain groups of individuals.” Zaslaw emphasized the importance of individuals logging off of BlitzMail during their assigned time slot.
“If a student does log on during this window, their migration would fail, and they would have to be rescheduled,” she said.
If the transition occurs successfully, all messages stored in BlitzMail will transfer to the new email system, Zaslaw said.
The inclusion of the class year in the new email addresses will help students to distinguish who have common names, Waite-Franzen said. There are currently 22 Robert Smiths listed in the College’s alumni directory, she said.
The students surveyed by the Blitz-2-Blitz team are satisfied with the mandated inclusion of the last two digits of a student’s class year and “understand the rationale behind it,” Zaslaw said.
Nicolas Chuaqui ’12 said that if the new email system is not “really user friendly,” students may rely on text messaging more than email for instant communication.
“[BlitzMail] is really important for Dartmouth’s social network,” he said.
The Blitz-2-Blitz team has yet to decide how to configure email addresses for graduate students who do not necessarily have a class year, according to Waite-Franzen.
“They come in and work on their PhDs for varying periods of time,” she said.
The team also must decide how to assign email addresses to students who attend the College as undergraduates and then return as graduate students.
“They could be ’15s but come back to Tuck as ’20s,” she said.
Office 365 is a suite of applications that includes three primary programs — Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Lync.
Microsoft Exchange provides email and calendar programs, while Microsoft SharePoint provides collaboration tools for document sharing, meetings management and easy creation of wikis and blogs. Microsoft Lync enables both instant messaging and video conferencing.
All these services will be available for student use once the transition is completed, The Dartmouth previously reported.