The fate of one of the most polarizing topics in the University of Maine discourse has been decided: for better or for worse, FirstClass will die.
FirstClass has served as an online meeting place for the University of Maine System (UMS) for over a decade. The email server was introduced to UMaine in the 1990s to connect the school’s employees, staff and students through an easy to navigate network of emails. This year, the University welcomed the first freshman class that will not be given FirstClass accounts.
Google has taken the place of the university’s standard email server. Through the current system, students can still use a @maine.edu address rather than an @gmail.com address.
Lecture professors used FirstClass to connect with their large classes. While some professors got stuck in their ways and fought tooth and nail to keep it alive, Eric Gallandt, professor of weed ecology is ready for the change.
“I used FirstClass, but only liked the class folder option to provide students access to readings and handouts… I didn’t like anything else about FirstClass; it was an old, dated feeling system… I use maine.edu email…I’m glad to see it go; it always seemed ridiculous that we all had two email addresses,” Gallandt said.
Gallandt expressed his preference for Google’s apps, which he has used to connect with key students and members of staff in his field.
“I don’t think it will be more difficult to communicate with students once they realize that they have to check their maine.edu account, which is really easy to add to your phone or other device,” Gallandt said.
Rachel Precopio-White, a UMaine Spanish teacher, said her students preferred Gmail as well. She admitted there was a learning curve when she moved course content from FirstClass to Blackboard, but that the university’s Information Technologies department was very helpful. Precopio-White said she will most miss “Campus Connection,” a feature of FirstClass that allowed faculty, staff and students to post information on events, clubs and other events in the community.
While professors have been slowly easing into the idea of abandoning the email server, some students have been ready to trash FirstClass for a while.
“I never liked using it much. There would be glitches sometimes. I prefer working through Blackboard or Mainestreet,”Emily Carvalho, a fourth-year wildlife ecology student, said.
Gaby Murphy, a third-year chemical engineering student, however, expressed some fond sentiment over the software. She said she might miss FirstClass because she is not yet accustomed to Google’s applications.
“I liked how organized and user-friendly it is. But I encountered a lot of bugs in the past two years using it [FirstClass],” Murphy said.