Higher ed still prefers Gmail over competitors

Sixty percent of colleges and universities outsource campus eMail services.
Sixty percent of campus technology officials use eMail hosting services for their college or university.

Although Microsoft Outlook is the preferred eMail option for many community colleges, campus technology officials are still signing up for Google Gmail accounts for their students and staff services more than any other eMail hosting services, according to a national survey released earlier this month.

The Campus Computing Project’s 2010 survey, unveiled at the EDUCAUSE educational technology conference in Anaheim, Calif., on Oct. 13, shows that campus technology officials at private and public four-year universities and public four-year colleges use eMail hosting services from Google for their campus eMail accounts doled out to students, faculty, and staff every year.

Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents from public universities who use eMail hosting services said their campus uses Gmail accounts, with 35 percent using Microsoft Outlook and 5 percent using Zimbra.

The disparity is even greater at private universities, where more than seven in 10 respondents said their school uses Gmail accounts, according to the research. Twenty-five percent said they use Microsoft.

Public four-year colleges show the most parity with their eMail hosting services. About half of public four-year campuses use Gmail for student accounts, and 45 percent use Microsoft, with 5 percent choosing Zimbra.

Gmail has not seen similar gains at community colleges, according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of community college IT decision makers said their two-year schools use Microsoft, and about four in 10 use Gmail accounts.

Overall, six in 10 survey respondents said their colleges or universities use eMail hosting services for students, and 15 percent for faculty members.

Kenneth C. Green, founder and director of the Campus Computing Project, said outsourcing eMail for students is easier than doing so for faculty for two reasons: Many students already have Gmail accounts, and “faculty resistance” to using a web-based service controlled by a company rather than the university still exists.

Outsourced eMail also has gained acceptance among students, he said, because today’s students enter college with as many as three personal eMail accounts that they regularly check. Adding another account provided and run by the college or university could be perceived by students as burdensome.

“eMail is no longer considered a rite of passage” for college students, Green said. “It’s much like having a cell phone and a phone number when you go to college. You don’t want to change [phones and numbers] when you get there.”

The Campus Computing Survey—which will be released in full Dec. 10—shows overall trust in Google’s eMail application despite negative headlines from periodic outages as recently as the spring.