The Open University is in negotiations with Microsoft and Google about cloud computing services for students and staff. Niall Sclater, the OU's director of learning innovation, told GC News that the university will shortly be taking a decision about whether to deploy Google Apps or Microsoft Live@edu. He said that not only will …
New MS strategy?
Seems the South African equivalent of the OU, Unisa, did a deal with Microsoft such that students were forced to sign up with Microsoft if they wanted to study - http://www.tectonic.co.za/?p=3736
In that case, it seems students had to sign up or they couldn't use email to communicate with the Uni. Might as well add a requirement for an ID card before you can study and go the whole hog.
OU is going down the slippery slope
That is going to be a big failure! We already saw how Google's gmail collapsed completely. With outsourcing they have no control over what happens. If they go with Microsoft, then they will be forced to use Microsoft software to access stuff and everyone will have to use Microsoft stuff.
I wonder if they've been prompted to do this by the realisation that "open source components with low code volatility, high platform heterogeneity, and high configuration and optimization space are the best choices"
Better than the current Student System
As a current OU Student I have to contend with only having 365 days worth of email ever being available, a 90's style 5.1Mb mailbox quota, no POP/IMAP access and slow access to the mailbox with frequent "pauses" for no apparent reason.
In my opinion outsourcing the Student mail system to either Microsoft or Google can only be a good thing.
OU software direction
The OU seem to be heading towards FOSS solutions at the present. For example the main forum software is currently First Class ( http://www.firstclass.com/ ), which is being moved to Moodle ( http://moodle.org/ ) during the next year. Also a friend has recently completed 'S194 Introducing Astronomy' in which the FOSS application Stellarium ( http://www.stellarium.org/ ) was used as part of the course software.
Another point worth noting is that the OU's new Vice Chancellor is Martin Bean, who was General Manager within the Education Products Group at Microsoft, as well as having worked at Novell amongst others. ( http://www.open.ac.uk/about/organise/ ) So it seems that it could go either way at this stage.
Disclosure: I am a current OU student.
Perfect for the OU.
The OU is the perfect candidate for Cloud computing.
Historically, the OU computer requirements have been Windows-only, for compatibility purposes... but even then, not all Windows systems are equal and message boards are always awash with technical concerns for the first couple of months of any course. As distance students we don't have the option of just popping into the uni library to use the computers there.
Clouds, SAAS, whatever you want to call it, it gives an interface that theoretically should work the same on everything from a Linux eeePC 2G, through a current MacBook Pro to a Sun supercomputer.
whatever happened to teaching
now it seems you have to supplement your income with sales too...