“Community” is a word that comes up frequently when I talk to higher education technology leaders: the importance of collaboration across universities to share ideas, enhance research solutions, and optimize their time and budgets. The Internet2 community is where much of the sharing happens—including the organization’s NET+ program, where participants evaluate cloud services that can elevate teaching, learning, and research. Workspace for Education Plus is now aservice offering through NET+, which includes exclusive pricing and custom storage accommodations.
Addressing security concerns for higher education
Jack Suess, Vice President of IT and CIO at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), was an early champion of the NET+ team’s evaluation of Workspace for Education Plus—with a particular focus on security.
“As we looked at collaboration platforms, we realized we needed higher levels of security,” Suess explains. “We’re seeing more requirements for security from the federal government and other third parties. If we want to leverage Workspace for Education in a secure and robust way, we need the Internet2 community to be thinking through our collective requirements.”
Google’s willingness to work closely with the Internet2 NET+ team on customizing Google Workspace for Education’s features, including enhanced security capabilities, was also a critical part of the review process, says Klara Jelinkova, former Vice President for International Operations and IT for Rice University. “Institutions are increasingly under scrutiny and attacks from a security perspective, so being able to include security features in a collaboration platform within a baseline price is extremely important,” she explains.
Listening and responding to institutions’ needs
The same collaboration that allows Internet2 members to share best practices for supporting students, staff, and researchers also allowed higher education tech leaders to collectively engage with Google and the product teams about adapting Workspace to the higher education environment. For example, Internet2 members worked with Google to increase the amount of storage in Workspace, a much-needed feature for addressing universities’ research requirements.
This active dialog with the Google product team and the Internet2 members allowed for conversations about the future direction of products to better fit the needs of universities.
“If you think about the digital transformation that we’ve just gone through, students are going to be coming through K12 with an expectation of certain types of services—and Google has a strong presence in K12,” says Jelinkova. “Knowing how to engage with Google as students move from learning environments in K12 to higher education, and understanding how the tools can evolve with this transition, is a significant benefit.”
The benefit of Internet2 NET+ service evaluations like the one for Google Workspace for Education Plus is about much more than locking down a contract price, explains Nathan Corwin, Executive Director of IT Service Operations at Arizona State University. Corwin recently took part in an Internet2 discussion about setting priorities for product development. “We ended up getting a lot of expert input—had we gone at it alone, it would have taken much longer to pull together,” Corwin says. “With Internet2 we were done in a week or two.”
Working together on a better solution
The conversations between Google and the Internet2 higher education members became much more than the standard product evaluation.
“One of the great stories here is not only the way that the higher ed institutions came together for the NET+ conversation and negotiation, but also how the Google folks banded together to bring a good product direction to us that we’re confident we can rely on going forward,” says Garret Yoshimi, VP for Information Technology and CIO at the University of Hawaii. “Having a robust offering with a roadmap that aligns with us is very critical going forward.”
Learn more by watching the Internet2 Net+ Google Workspace for Education webinar series.
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