The mighty Tony Hurst blogged about Open Uni UK adopting Google Apps recently. I could be mistaken, but reading between the lines, I'd say Tony is pretty underwhelmed by the move, right before he launched into Tony mashing awesomeness though.
But me too. I would be pretty underwhelmed as well. Don't get me wrong, I reckon Google is the better call over Live or even SharePoint, but re: them all I can't really see the point. Its a bit like providing email addresses to people who already have email addresses. No! its exactly the same. Why do we bother?
I can see a point if the hosting is inherently educational, like student's managing their own radio station, or news paper and the like - where learning the full woes of managing extensions, spam, servers and moderating terms and conditions should be understood by the budding media tycoons, but for all else, I don't reckon its worth the hassle. Leave it to the clubbies.
D'Arcy blogged his annual self doubt with a similar question relating to universities hosting blogs for students. Jimbo continues to stand tall in his own crop of dental floss, although we do detect growing paranoia in his voice. I still have not come around to seeing the use of hosting any of it. Same goes for an LMS of course. (Interesting to note the murmurs by Graham Attwell about clouds replacing the grotty little LMS).
But even with Google Apps you don't get much!.. an individual standard Google account has more features and functionality than if they were to use the Apps "provided" to them by their desperately-seeking-relevance institution. I'd be a little confused if my Inst was to thrust an App account at me. I'd wager that just about every student these days has a Google, Yahoo, or Live account anyway, and like FB if they see the use for such a thing, its pretty easy and highly likely they'll go get.
And if anyone's freaky about keeping personal data on a cloud, they probably should be just as freaky about a struggling university trying to do it too. Best they get a few pointers on cheap and easy self hosting if they've got worries about clouds and institutionalised love.
So all this, once again begs the perennial question, why does an institution bother "providing" all this when all we really need is cheap if not free Internet, and some sophisticated role modeling of the Internet as the platform. I guess its all just a matter of time.