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Monday, Sept. 22, 9:34 a.m.
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Online community management system OrgSync looks to replace FirstClass

For those sick and tired of the dinosaur that is the FirstClass email system, a new hope has arrived.

OrgSync, an online community management system aimed at higher education, may be coming to the University of Maine to replace the ailing FirstClass system, whose contract with the university expires within the next couple of years.

On Thursday, Sept. 26, a sign-up and information event was held at The Wade Center in the Memorial Union to make students aware of the benefits of OrgSync as well as to create accounts for them. The event was organized by the University of Maine Student Government and featured a raffle with prizes such as gift cards to Buffalo Wild Wings to get students interested. Sixty non-student government participants attended the event and signed up for the program.

Kimberly Dao is the current president of UMSG and is very excited about the possibilities that OrgSync brings to the table. “We’re hoping that students will see the benefits themselves,” Dao said. “It’s a better program than FirstClass [which] has its glitches.”

While many students have had trouble with using FirstClass, the main reason for the switch would be the ease of use for student organizations. Rather than renewing files, many newly elected heads of student organizations simply create new folders instead of contacting IT for permission to re-create their respective organization folders. This makes for a cluttered and inefficient interface which, combined with the constant glitches and unexpected shut-downs, has led to a general dislike among the student population.

OrgSync’s interface takes a social media approach to student communication and organization. “It’s intricate, sort of like Facebook,” Dao said. “And so it’s really easy to navigate. That will draw students in.”

Dallas, Texas-based OrgSync was founded in 2007 and has been implemented at a number of college campuses across the nation as a primary source of communication among students, faculty and campus organizations. Former UMSG Vice President Sarah Porter and former UMSG President Christopher Protzmann initiated discussions with OrgSync after a UMaine alum who was working at Syracuse University contacted them about the program, which was being used there.

The University of Maine has since signed a one-year trial deal with OrgSync to gauge student interest in the program as a possible replacement for FirstClass. This contract was signed in January, with representatives from the company arriving in April to train students on how to use the program. Student Government and Student Life have since teamed up to spread the word about the program and generate interest among students.

“With OrgSync [there is] great customer service. They have training twice a week online [via webinar]. It’s a great support system for students,” Dao said of OrgSync’s customer support programs. “It’s something we’ve been looking for.”

If implemented, all students would be able to sign in using their respective MaineStreet login information and would be logged in as “black bears” under the black bear umbrella. The website would also feature separate umbrellas for Student Government and Student Life with their various respective organizations and subsets.

This, along with Blackboard and the student Gmail program, would be the ideal campus communications setup, according to Dao. All of the feedback from students will be collected in November and a decision will then be made as to whether or not to implement the program fully.

“A lot of students [look at Student Government] as a fiscal body and we give money to clubs, but they don’t see the other services that we provide — for instance, legal services, [which allows students] to get advice from a lawyer. We offer scholarships that students can sign up for. Sometimes people forget the connection between Student Government and Student Entertainment as well. We’re hoping that with OrgSync we can get everybody together,” Dao said. “I think there’s a lot of promise in this program.”