While in Botswana last week, I was introduced to a class of history students as the person who first introduced student email accounts to Maru-a-Pula School. To my surprise, the students applauded! At University High School, several students have taken the time to thank me for their accounts. Yes, it requires more work (though not as much as you might think) to manage 400 (or more) additional email accounts. Students do tend to come to school with a personal account at another service. However, school email accounts provide added value in several ways.
- A user-friendly email system for those who have an unfriendly one
A standardized naming convention so that students are easy to find
A searchable email directory, such as Exchange Global Address Book
An easy way to create class mailing lists
The foundation for a culture of open, rapid communication among teachers, staff, students, and parents.
A “professional” address for students to use with the outside world, such as colleges and prospective employers
An easy way to transfer files between school and home
A straightforward link into email-enabled community web software such as Moodle and bulletin boards
… and perhaps most importantly,
A sense of pride that the school trusts them with a branded email address
The last item has convinced me the most of the value of a student email system. The enthusiasm and pride is evident when the school helps students communicate more esaily and effectively. The gratitude is palpable.
To make administration easier, choose an email system that integrates with your authentication system. Set up mailbox size limits to avoid filling up your server or overloading your backup system. Allow a variety of protocols for reading mail, such as webmail, POP, IMAP, and/or RPC over HTTP (if your sysadmin feels they are secure enough). Document procedures for students to solve common problems, such as how to fix a full mailbox or set up an IMAP client.