In final installment of this series we recently had a chance to sit down with Frances Atkinson, the Director of Institutional & Academic Technologies, IT Services at Simon Fraser University, one of the over 500 educational organizations that have deployed the Zimbra Collaboration Suite Network Edition worldwide. Not too long ago, SFU decided to upgrade their collaboration system and investigated several options. No surprise, Zimbra won out! Now, two and a half years later, SFU is seeing how Zimbra is benefiting all of their campus systems.
Highlights from our discussion with Frances are below:
How are SFU’s staff, faculty, and students using Zimbra Collaboration Suite?
Zimbra has become more than just an email and calendaring solution at Simon Fraser – it has evolved into the campus communications “hub” used by all faculty, staff and students. With Zimbra, calendaring and document sharing are available to everyone for the first time, and fewer users are forwarding to external sites like Gmail. Additionally, SFU connected Zimbra to other campus systems increasing campus-wide organization and efficiency. Students and faculty also have the ability to access Zimbra via mobile devices, including BlackBerrys. This mobile access is even more important since we now have the ability to send out notifications to all users for emergencies, weather, downtime, etc.
How are you customizing Zimbra to meet the needs of the SFU student body?
SFU is taking advantage of Zimbra’s open source functionality by using several Zimlets – including Calendar Scheduler, Arcade, Google Translator and Yahoo Local – we are able to extend the product and bring features to people who may not have otherwise found these resources.
We have even generated Zimlets of our own. These SFU Zimlets offer students and faculty a simple way to access course information, alerts/tips & tricks and their mySFU profiles. The course resource Zimlet is definitely the most important Zimlet for the students. It allows them to pull up all their course information for the current, past and next term, including the course description, syllabus, video content and digitized lectures. It helps to keep students organized and on track to graduate. Faculty and staff also utilize Zimlets to reserve rooms and equipment.
Additionally, we have branded Zimbra as SFU Connect, and we got the community involved by holding a naming and logo contest. We’ve personalized SFU Connect by providing users with a tip/trick or message of the day upon startup to help them use the portal to its full capacity.
What are your students and/or faculty saying about Zimbra?
Zimbra satisfied the desire of the students and faculty to have access to a modern, feature-rich, communications environment. Not only is the email and calendaring solution functional and well-suited to serve the entire campus, but its open source nature is lauded by faculty and students alike. By choosing an open source product, SFU has the potential to integrate with other products as the University’s needs continue to evolve.