MCTC initiates new email system for students

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Out with the old and in with the new.

Starting Jan. 3, MCTC debuted a new email system for students, one that caused uproar as students adapted to the new system: Windows Live.

“It sucks,” liberal arts student Haley Muellerliele said. She had so far been unable to activate her account, citing
password problems.

According to Muellerliele, she tried going through the online steps, but it still wouldn’t let her log in to the account.

“It’s kind of a bummer that I’m not getting the news from my school that I should be getting,” she said.

Reaction hasn’t been completely negative.

Fernando Nunez, a liberal arts student who plans to transfer to to the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities said that using

Windows Live will be convenient for him.

“It’s great because I have two other accounts on Live.com, so I don’t have to go many different websites to check,” Nunez said.

“I can stay on one website.”

For more than 11 years, MCTC students, along with their counterparts in various area schools used an email system through the Metropolitan Educational Telecommunications Network (MetNet) consortium.

However when the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities moved to the Google Applications framework in spring 2009, MetNet decided to get out of the email business, according to MCTC Chief Information Officer Jim Dillemuth.

In consultation with the student senate technology committee, the college information technology department choose the Windows Live platform over the Google Applications platform. Dillemuth said that college technology staffers were divided among themselves over which platform to use.

Work began on implementing the new system about six months ago and Dillemuth says that that one of the big challenges was working out how to create user identification names.

He said the new system — which uses the first two letters of the user’s first name, the first four letters of the user’s last name and the final four numbers of the user’s tech ID number — produced just two duplicates in four year’s worth of students, the lowest among methods tried.

Because the new system is the official email communications system of the college, Dillemuth says that students should create their new account.

“[Students] are going to miss important information,” Dillemuth said of students without a Live account.

While some students chose not to use their old campus email often and Dillemuth says some students configured their accounts using personal email account, that option will no longer be available.

“If we send something, we know it’s going to get there,” Dillemuth said.

While the old MetNet email system will eventually go away, the change will not be made for some time and students will have plenty of time to change.

Dillemuth says some students use their campus email for job hunting, part of the reason the old MetNet system will continue to operate.

Password Problems

When the new system debuted on Jan. 3 — a week before classes started — requests concerning passwords swamped the information technology department.

Student Michael Jointer had a problem logging in from home, but he was able to get support at the computer lab on the third floor of the T.Building.

“When you try to create your password and all that stuff, it wouldn’t let me read it at home,” Jointer said. “I was only able to create my password upstairs in the computer lab.”

He said that getting his account set up at the computer lab, however, was a quick process.

“It only took maybe 20 seconds to set it up and I was gone,” Jointer said. “It was a really quick process.”

Kari Campbell, director of technical services, oversees student computing support.
She says that as much as 80 percent of student ITS requests were new email password problems.

Chief Information Officer Dillemuth said the problem was the pervasive student use of what he calls “alternative IDs” used to log into both e-services and D2L. Because so many students used these so-called alternative IDs and created their own password to go with it, they didn’t know their official PIN, which is needed to log in to the new system.

While Dillemuth admits the issue was an oversight, he credits the early launch of the new system in easing the transition for students and technical services.

Campbell is one of three supervisors who can change PINs but she says any computer lab worker can help students with setting up the email.

She says her group’s workload will be increased through the end of the term.

Permanent address

The new system will have a long-lasting benefit for all those who enroll at MCTC: a permanent email address.

Upon ending enrollment at MCTC for any reason, students will now retain their email addresses. After two consecutive terms without enrollment, the former MCTC students will be moved into an ad-supported alumni group. The system is ad-free for
current students.

Redirection possible, not recommended

With the MetNet system, many students redirected their mail to a personal account where they could read and responded to messages from faculty and students

Windows Live supports this feature, but Dillemuth doesn’t recommend students use it.

He says that doing so could cause a user’s email account to fill up and messages will begin bouncing back and students will miss critical information.

Microsoft’s official help video on the subject warns of the same problem.

“It’s important to remember that the original messages will still be in my [college] mailbox and if it fills up the redirect rule won’t work,” the video’s narrator said, “So I’ll still have to sign on to my [college] mailbox to clean it out.”

Tanya Gonzalez, a liberal arts student who intends to transfer to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, says she has activated her account’s redirect feature, but an instructor warned her about the potential bounce-back problem.

“It was easy,” Gonzalez said of the setup process. “I also forward to my regular email, but I was told that even if I do that, I need to check it regularly.”

Microsoft Office apps available

Another feature of the Windows Live system is access to the Cloud-based services such as an online version of Microsoft Office.

The feature will give students a free version of Office that they can use online, which, paired with a 25 gigabyte storage system, will allow students to save work remotely and access it for class on demand.

Gonzalez said she wished she had had access to this feature sooner.

“That’s really cool,” she said. “That’s good because I bought Microsoft Word just because I needed it for school because my computer didn’t have it. If I would have had this email before, I wouldn’t have bought the software and I would have saved myself that money.”

Jointer said he also appreciated the feature.

“For my English class, I will be using my Microsoft Office a lot,” he said.

Muellerliele wasn’t sure whether she would use the feature or not.

“I don’t really think it’s necessary,” she said. “Really all you need for an email address is to send and receive email.”