“A significant amount of my day is taken up by students not knowing how to log into their Outlook email,” says Ariel Contreras, current Mercer library employee.
On Nov. 1 Mercer disconnected student and faculty Gmail accounts from their myMercer portals in order to convert to the new Microsoft Office Outlook programs. The big switch, as Contreras states, “wasn’t well advertised.”
The major switch in accounts and programs completely blindsided a majority of Mercer students and faculty. Contreras explains: “There was absolutely no communication in terms of the switch and students are still confused.”
Turns out, the college actually did send out an email, more than once, apparently, but students get tons of email from the college and it wasn’t like the words YOUR CURRENT EMAIL IS ABOUT TO BE TURNED OFF AND ALL YOUR GOOGLE DOCS ARE GOING TO VANISH INTO THIN AIR were written in the subject line, or even near the top.
The first section of the email is full of cheerful information about the MyMercer Portal, including phrases like “In an effort to improve your MCCC experience…” and “more user-friendly look and feel.”
The email bombshell doesn’t hit until the middle, but even then it’s described in a way that makes it sound more like a commercial for a topical ointment: “We have finished implementing Office365…This allows for better communication and consistent applications…”
Better communication would have been not burying the lead.
Eventually the letter comes around to a section that starts “If you still use your old email, this is what you need to know.” It’s here that we are informed that our Google accounts will still exist until the day after Christmas, but if we want to know more about how to get back into them, there’s another document we can go read.
Most of us had all our class documents saved into our Google Drive accounts, because that’s what our professors told us to do.
For those of us who didn’t read the notification carefully enough, or didn’t go read that other document they gave a link to, we woke up to find we couldn’t access documents we needed for class.
“At least once every couple of days I have a student struggling with recovering their documents.” Contreras says.
Rosemary Gurak, current Mercer student expresses, “Outlook is a pain in the ass!” She continues, “It’s not intuitive the way Google is.”
Possibly the most frustrating thing about the switch is that they changed our email addresses by one letter. Instead of firstname.lastname@example.org they just added an S to make the word “student” plural. Didn’t anyone think about the kind of confusion this would cause?
Here’s an example: you’re waiting to hear back from a college where you applied for transfer and you listed email as the best way to contact you. Well, now you need to contact them (and of course it isn’t just one school, it’s more like seven) and tell them that we have a new email address, and then try to explain over the phone that they need to add an S?
Of course, in the end, we’ll all just learn to adapt, because that’s what we always do at Mercer. We adapt when the whiteboards are smeared with black marker. We adapt when there are buckets in the halls collecting the rain water dripping through the ceiling. We just adapt.
But the reality is, this shift was abrupt, it distracted from our learning, and sending out a poorly crafted email didn’t help.
Mercer prides itself on being a technologically accessible college. There are phone apps to access schedules, grades, and updates. There is a home-base website where course catalogs are accessed. Classes have Blackboard portals with course content. This “simple” email switch was touted as the “latest and greatest,” promising better communication between faculty, staff, and students. Instead it has just left everyone feeling disconnected.