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With the new year comes a new way for School of Engineering and Applied Science students to check their email.

Last September, SEAS completed the technical implementation of a “soft rollout” of the Google Apps for Education service for Engineering students with a pilot scheme for a selected group. Later in January, the service will be expanded to include all SEAS students except staff who are also students.

Some Engineering students are already enjoying the new service with their own Google@SEAS accounts, picked as part of the pilot group. Of the 251 people offered Google@SEAS accounts, 53 have opted to access their SEAS mail through their Google account.

Currently, SEAS students access and manage their emails and documents through a central mail server operated by SEAS, which consists of about a dozen machines. The mail server is integrated with the SEAS home directories and the SEAS Windows and Linux lab machines, and students can save their work in the home directories in lab classes. Out of class, students can access the mail server through their computers or have their email forwarded to other commonly used email applications such as Gmail from the SEAS mail server.

Starting this year, SEAS students can have the option of accessing their mail directly through their Google@SEAS Gmail account. The new service does not only include the familiar Gmail application, but also other useful applications such as Google Docs, Google Calendars and more.

“We are especially excited about having integrated mail and calendar applications,” Helen Anderson, information technology senior director of SEAS, said in an email.

The switch from SEAS web server to Google Apps entails a variety of added benefits for student users. Easier collaboration between students and teachers, better security and efficiency are among some of the advantages of the service.

However, faculty and staff members may have to wait to enjoy the use of Google Apps. Currently, the school’s agreement with Google only covers students, but negotiations are in place to figure out how to include faculty and staff.

SEAS is not the first school at Penn that has introduced this technological advancement to their webmail. The School of Arts and Sciences, after gathering student feedback, officially offered the optional Google@SAS service to incoming students in the fall of 2012. As of last October, around 80 percent of the freshman class opted to use this service.

“Feedback from students has been very positive,” Chris Mustazza, director of social sciences computing and student technology, said in an email.

Potential SEAS student users of this new service welcome the change as offering a more streamlined way of managing different applications and email accounts.

“I think using Gmail will be more convenient, as I can switch to my own Gmail account in a quicker way,” Engineering freshman Kacie Nie said.

“I’ve been waiting for this so long.… It is a simplified interface, it’s a lot easier to navigate and it’s a lot more stable,” Engineering freshman Ian Clayman said.

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