Recent survey zeros in on students’ problems with Zimbra suite

It seems as though the average student does not usually use the MyGaTech service except as a email alias, which redirects any mail that goes to the Zimbra account to an alternate Yahoo! or GMail account.

The majority of Tech students have not even seen the face of MyGaTech since getting here. What else can they do with MyGaTech besides email?

Personal investigation revealed that the email service on MyGaTech (the advanced version) is comparable to many others with a calendar, tasks and some other types of applications called Zimlets, which have a wide variety of functions including scheduling events in your calendar and looking up information on Wikipedia.

MyGaTech launched in Jan. 2008, so after two years in use, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) “felt it was time to learn more about how the campus uses the service, how satisfied they are with those features and to identify which new features are needed” said Kim White, an OIT project director in an email interview.

At the end of the previous semester, OIT created a survey to figure out just what students were doing with their MyGaTech accounts. The survey assessed the utilization and user satisfaction with the MyGaTech service. The questions for the survey were simple and quick to answer, aimed at gathering information such as who was using Zimbra, how often he or she used it and how satisfied he or she was with what was offered.

According to a Tech news release, MyGaTech boasts a 90 percent utilization rate among students and a 70 percent rate with faculty; however, of the approximately 18,000 student users and about 600 faculty users at Tech, currently only about 2,550 have responded to the survey. The response from those who have filled out the survey has been mostly positive, though, with 80 percent saying they are somewhat to very satisfied with the service.

These results have also revealed that many users are unaware of all that MyGaTech can offer. While most users are aware of MyGaTech email capabilities, the service provides other useful applications.

“We learned many of the respondents requested features that are currently offered by the existing service,” White said.

Additionally, students note an inherent difficulty in many components of MyGaTech, but experience helps.

Students like Kelley Zinger, a third-year BC major, said that while it takes some work to get used to, MyGatech is really useful.

For former Erato editor and fourth-year STAC major Amaris Guiterrez-Ray, monitoring the Erato mailing list would have been much more trouble without prior experience monitoring the STAC mailing list.

Some students note a difficulty in separating personal, academic and work-related e-mails, especially for co-op student and third-year MGT major Rachel Wernert, who said that MyGaTech is very hard to use because the work and class e-mail gets mixed up since they are sent to the same account.

Those who responded to the survey are interested in learning more about MyGaTech.

“Students would like to have more information published on using Zimlets, using Activesync with your Windows Mobile device or iPhone to access your email, calendar and contacts and Search functionality & capabilities,” White said in commenting on the results of the survey.

As shown by personal student responses solely about e-mail, one of the most important pieces of information the survey has indicated is that OIT needs to get more information out to students about what MyGaTech has.

“OIT needs to modify our training and communications plans to improve campus awareness about these features,” White said.

In fact, they are making such plans to alter their service and approach to advertising that service based on the responses they received. The new release date for the updated service is projected for next Fall.

“Our upgrade plan will incorporate many of the features prioritized by the student respondents. Those features include (1) Zimbra briefcase [and] (2) running filters over existing email, along with Zimbra documents, improved Calendar views and managed shared items,” White said.

The survey results thusfar indicate that the most desired components to be established on MyGaTech include Zimbra Documents, Zimbra Briefcase, colored e-mails, mailing filters, integration with T-Square and return read receipts.

They are also developing specific plans for communicating current features as well as the new additions to students and faculty.

In a recent upgrade of Zimbra, Tech has allowed and planned for leverage of multiple e-mail accounts and aliases, a single sign-on service for applications such as T-Square and Buzzport, an RSS feed subscription and a shareable online calendar, according to a townhall meeting held by OIT Service Lead Pam Buffington on May 17.

OIT identified performance issues, especially delays in creating meetings, typing, viewing, sending and logging into MyGaTech.

“OIT is committed to continuous improvement and delivering a stable, robust and reliable service to meet Georgia Tech’s needs by the continuous improvement and providing a strong platform and base for future innovation and collaboration,” White said as an overall purpose of the survey that closes on May 31.