Microsoft muscles in on Unisa students

By   |  November 28, 2008

Students at the correspondence-based University of South Africa (Unisa) will be required to sign up for a Microsoft-provided email address before they are able to receive correspondence from the university.

The required email address is part of the first phase to build the MyLife portal to foster a “sense of belonging” among students, the university says.

Phase two of the project will see the university encouraging students to use other “Microsoft live services such as social networking facilities … online file storage, and Office Live workspace”.

A Tectonic reader forwarded us a copy of the welcome email that students received explaining the new system (their emphasis):

We’d like to make it easier for you to communicate with us, so from 2009, Unisa will be offering all registered students a unique email address, free of charge, with 10 gigabytes worth of space. Here’s how it works.

When you register as a student at Unisa for 2009, we will create your myLife email account for you, which you MUST activate when you re-join myUnisa. From this point onwards, Unisa will disregard all other email addresses it has for you on record and will use only your myLife email address to communicate with you. If you decide, therefore, not to activate this email account, you will not receive emails from Unisa. If you would like to use another email account, you must redirect or forward your myLife email to your preferred email account. For more information and to find out how to activate your email account for life, visit myUnisa.

Our concerned reader says: “This is not only about an email address, once you start using the Microsoft sponsored email then you will most likely also start using the Microsoft portal or whatever equivalent of gmail/gapps they have, the next step is to only accept assignments prepared from the Microsoft Portal / Apps pages.”

Right now, in phase one, the only requirement is that students activate their MyLife email address in order to ensure that they can receive correspondence from the university.

In phase two, however, the university says that it plans “to include other Microsoft live services such as social networking facilities (similar to Facebook), online file storage, and Office Live workspace. The vision for this project is to provide a social environment for students to foster a sense of belonging that is separate from the myUnisa academic platform. This platform can be used to enhance communication with and among students, and will create many marketing opportunities for Unisa.”

Comments

41 Responses to “Microsoft muscles in on Unisa students”

  1. MousePad
    November 28th, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

    Pity – their Linux-hosted, Unix-based, learning management portal (MyUnisa) has been quite good so far. Trust M$ to muscle in on the action.

  2. Karel
    November 28th, 2008 @ 8:54 pm

    Let’s write a letter to Unisa expressing our concern. What’s their adress?

  3. Bates Elm Rev
    November 28th, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

    We’re not evil, honest, just sign up!

    Ok! My name is an anagram, but we are honest. Ask SCO

  4. Mark
    November 28th, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

    Frankly, I will not be doing any courses here as I am using all Open Source software on either Windows or Linux platforms. I want to have a choice as to what I want to use.

  5. tracyanne
    November 29th, 2008 @ 12:20 am

    And, of course, if they don’t want to be locked in to Microsoft products, they are out in the cold.

  6. Martin
    November 29th, 2008 @ 3:21 am

    This is the kind of bull that makes students protest. I recommend that students not engage in this outrageous sell-out of their freedoms.

  7. GNUguy
    November 29th, 2008 @ 6:19 am

    If at all possible, get your degree from someone else. Redmond obviously owns this school.

    On another subject, didn’t m$ say they want to work on developing interoperability? If they were serious about doing this, then they would not have taken full control of this email system. They would have allowed the two systems to exist side by side.

    I take this to mean that they are REALLY worried about the GNU/Linux and OSS activities in SA.

    But someone should talk to the University. After reading through their vision statement, philosophy, mission, values, etc, I see the frequent use of the term ‘diverse’ and yet they will force a software mono-culture on everyone.

    This is a university that has sold out to big money from a convicted monopolist. A very great pity, indeed.

  8. scrarfussi
    November 29th, 2008 @ 6:33 am

    This is really disappointing but i don’t think they can force us too put window’s on our pc’s esp those of us who use Linux

  9. coda
    November 29th, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

    MyLife *cringe*

    Microsoft’s Live services are HORRIBLE. I only use Windows Messenger Live to stay in touch with a number of contacts not using other IM services, and I hate it with a passion.

  10. Boycott Novell » Microsoft Imprisons the Ukraine and a South African University
    November 30th, 2008 @ 11:26 am

    [...] Live @ edu scam is coming to a South African university, so there is backlash. Students at the correspondence-based University of South Africa (Unisa) [...]

  11. Abhishek
    November 30th, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    This is ridiculous. An educational institution at such a large scale should not force its students in such a way. Either the institution should provide its own email service, or provide freedom to the students to use any email service of their choice. At most they can suggest the students to use Microsoft Live Services (but in my opinion, Microsoft Live Service is horrible).

  12. Tom
    December 1st, 2008 @ 10:22 am

    This is attempt to lock-in users into Windows platform, obviously Microsoft portals did not achieve monopoly status so they trying old tactics. It’s shame that educational institution does not offer *CHOICE* but only promotes one vendor. Refusal to send emails to other accounts is ridicules. Students should start email campaign and target UNISA staff to read those emails. Students opinion *DOES MATTER*

  13. stefanlsd
    December 1st, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

    This is really unfortunate and anti-competitive. Does anyone know if there is any action planned that we could support. I will get in touch with the DST and see if anything is planned.

  14. ps
    December 1st, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

    A sense of belonging to microsoft….

  15. Dante
    December 1st, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

    Coda, look up pidgin, it can acesss IM networks, MSN included. :)

  16. Kiran
    December 2nd, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

    I really don’t believe this is such a major issue as to cause me to not register at UNISA. In fact I just have.

    If one has to read the full welcome email, it says from feedback they’re getting, they know that not all student are receiving all email communication. UNISA says this is because these students are using a plethora of free webmail services. Reading between the lines I think they mean to say “unreliable services.” They’re basically just creating a centralised email service that they have control over and can ensure that every student has an account that WILL receive their (UNISA’s) emails.

    However I do agree though that it should be opt-in and not compulsory. That said its pretty easy to get Gmail (or whatever other service you use) to fetch the emails automagically for you, so you’re not really forced to interact (directly) with the service.

    UNISA has been around for a while and will be around for a long time to come. They seem to know what they’re doing and if this turns out to be a major mistake I trust that time will teach them that and they’ll learn from it. UNISA is still a great and VERY accessable place from which to learn and grow so lets not be sensationalist and start boycotting UNISA for a relatively small faux pas.

  17. Chyna
    December 3rd, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

    It shows from the comments above that some people still need to be educated on the Proprietry (Microsoft, SAP, Novell, Oracle etc) vs OSS perceived discussion. If OSS/Linux was so free then howcome Unisa couldn’t afford to deploy it???? Fact is Microsoft gave the solution to them for free and it works (can’t say the same for 90% of OSS solutions)!

    The question is, why don’t the OSS communities inteoperate with Microsoft/SAP/Novell/Oracle cos they know that’s what the majority uses? It sickens me that in our country people are taking advantage of our interllect and money by feeding us lies about OSS, IT IS NOT FREE. THAT DAMN OSS IS MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE THAN PROPRIETRY SOFTWARE (from experience)!!

    Get your facts straight before you go mumbling crap!!!

    From a concerned citizen and taxpayer!!!

  18. Mary
    December 3rd, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

    I think you guys are all taking this the wrong way. As soon as Microsoft does anything in our country, everyone jumps up and looks for ‘negativity’ in it. I am from Durban, and Microsoft have done so much to enhance people’s lifes with Innovation centers, free software to schools, social upliftment projects, sponsorships to local communitis, etc… This mail system is a free service they are offering Unisa, the same as GMail. Unisa needs to manage us (currently a student) and using one vendor’s solution is a choice they made. If they selected Google, then another crowd will jump up and start complaining about that decision.
    I am not a huge fan of MS nor OS nor IBM, but I will give them (whoever) credit where they have assisted me and the community at large.

    Regards MaryB

  19. Tom
    December 3rd, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

    OSS is much cheaper, try to compare deployment of web application on Linux/Apache and Windows Server/IIS

    Linux option is free and no licensing fess payable, could deploy any number of servers
    Windows Server requires licensing fees for each server

    When you say OSS is more expensive then Windows solution then perhaps you’re referring to application development costs which you have to pay irrespective of platform used

  20. Alastair
    December 3rd, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

    @Chyna:
    It seems as if you’re under a number of misunderstandings here.

    - Unisa never said it couldn’t afford OSS. And I didn’t say that either.
    - I assume you know for certain that Microsoft “gave the solution to them for free”? Neither Unisa nor I said that was the case. Please enlighten us.
    - People are not “taking advantage of our interllect (sic) and money by feeding us lies about OSS”. This is not about OSS. It is about (to use your preferred uppercase) CHOICE. Why can’t people use whatever email address they want? Why do they have to have a Microsoft-provided email address before they can receive their coursework?
    - You’ll have to explain exactly why you think that OSS is more expensive than proprietary. And while you’re at it you can explain how it relates to this story. Again, I repeat, it is about “choice”. Not about OSS vs Proprietary.
    - How does being a concerned citizen and taxpayer have any thing to do with this? Maybe you’re worried about where Microsoft’s profit goes? You ought to … as a concerned taxpayer and citizen.

  21. Alastair
    December 3rd, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    @Mary:
    It is about choice, not just about Microsoft. I would be equally unhappy if every Unisa student was told they had to sign up for a GMail account in order to communicate with the university and receive coursework.

  22. Christopher Brunsdon
    December 3rd, 2008 @ 10:59 pm

    As a UNISA student I am not looking forward to this new system next year. The free email address is not new, many years ago they did offer it.

  23. Lilz
    December 4th, 2008 @ 10:46 am

    how about you start the action if you believe so strongly that it is anti-competitive, instead of wanting to jump on someone else’s wagon? I have to wonder if it would have been considered anti-competitive if any other commercial vendor such as Novell, Google or IBM had won the tender?

  24. Alastair
    December 4th, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

    @Lilz:
    It would have been just the same if someone else had won the tender and imposed the same conditions. In a previous comment I’ve explained that this is about “choice”, not about open source versus proprietary or even Microsoft versus [name competitor]. If Google had some along and said every student has to have a GMail account before they can get their coursework then we would be equally outraged. Same would be true of IBM, Microsoft, you name them.

  25. GNUguy
    December 4th, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

    @Alastair:

    That’s specifically the issue. Some people prefer OSS and Linux. It is not difficult to set up an email server to support this choice. And some prefer using winD’ohs.

    The fact of the matter is this is one of the strategies that m$ used to gain monopoly power in the US. This policy is also ONE of the reasons why they were convicted of being a monopolist. They removed the opportunity of choice and so destroyed any possibility of competition.

    You should be aware that m$ will try all the tricks that got them convicted as a monopolist in the US in other countries. This is not good for anyone because it will cause higher prices and set up a homogeneous software environment which is more prone to disruption.

    Choice is a good thing. To remove choice is something like totalitarianism.

  26. bill
    December 4th, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

    **QUOTE**
    “Microsoft has an Open Standards mentality with this product and will continue to have the philosophy of offering flexibility to users.”
    **UNQUOTE**

    Anyone with any even limited research abilities will know this is an outright lie. Embrace, Extend, Extinguish!

    It makes me wonder how much they have bribed the UNISA management. As dumb as they may act, I am certain they know exactly how these actions will effectively lock in anybody who studies at UNISA, and the long term effects it will have on the country.
    If they did not know, why are they so absolutely adamant that you must use the service, or not study at all.
    Has anyone close to UNISA management noticed any unusual vehicle upgrades recently?

    PS, I love the way the Microsoft guys have _almost_ mastered the art of pretending to be “concerned citizens” (Hitler would be proud!). If you are so concerned, why not disclose exactly how much money is being redirected out the country to Redmond?

    The truth shall set you free ,unless you are Microsoft or SCO that is.

    PPS. has anyone started a petition yet. Yes, I know that the will of the people means nothing in South Africa, but it is something.

  27. Scurra
    December 5th, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    @Chyna

    You are obviously ignorant. There is no way in hell that M$ software is cheaper to purchase, implement and operate than OSS. And, I too, speak from experience.

    As a concerned taxpaying South African you should be questioning why UNISA isn’t supporting local skills/business development by using locally implemented and supported OSS solutions.

    Ask yourself this: how many ex-UNISA students work for Microsoft. And now: how many ex-UNISA students work in Gauteng and could benefit from supporting OSS used by companies (like UNISA.)

    But I guess you didn’t put too much thought into your comment.

  28. Marco valente
    December 5th, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

    Wow what happened to freedom choice, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being forced to use microsoft products with no choice! If I ever decided to study again this would make me think more than twice about turning to unisa. I’m not trying to be fickle but for starters I should have some sort of freedom to choose what email address and email provider i use, an email address is in essence part of your identity, something that I could never trust within the hands of an organization that will withhold your data from you by locking it in proprietary formats that cost thousands.

  29. Lilz
    December 6th, 2008 @ 8:30 am

    Allistair, you make very good points in terms of choice, and i agree with you there completely. I just have a issue when we get into emotional debates without even getting the facts.
    Yes, it is about choice, and we are entitled to that. But also looking at it from the University’s side, it must be an admin nightmare communicating to a black hole when tryng to get messages to all students, i believe it is a “business decision” to centralise everything and acheive a sense of control over communication between students and the school. As you know, us students can be crafty and come up with all sorts of excuses for missing assignments and exams:-)

    Fact is, you can get the communication to go to your prefered inbox from the UNISA offered mailbox, with a little once-off tweaking. Big Deal.

  30. Andrew
    December 7th, 2008 @ 11:16 am

    Deal with the devil and you will get burnt.

    If you cannot understand how the past 15 years of Microsoft lock-in and extortion had been A Bad Thing(tm), then I suggest you donate your computer to charity, give up your voting rights and report to your nearest mental asylum.

  31. G Geldenhuis
    January 4th, 2009 @ 4:02 am

    It’s a shame that UNISA is taking away peoples choice with regards to something as simple as an email. My university uses there own internal email system and only use that email address as correspondence. You do however have the option of setting up forwarding. I suppose if UNISA offered such functionality one could be less worried about there intentions. It does seem that they are favouring Microsoft and are moving to a “standardized” platform where all students will be submitting work in nice MS format.

    It’s really high time other institutions in SA start offering correspondence to improve the choice available to students.

  32. Quimby
    January 6th, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

    I think everybody is taking this a little far, try looking at it in a very simple way.

    UNISA is a university, this is their core function and business.

    In regards to IT Unisa is a customer entitled, like all of you, to choice.

    Wanting to be in the education game and not the IT game they have wisely chosen to outsource their email headache to a vendor of THEIR choice.

    The result, which has you all aflutter is:
    A student who previously had no reliable email address or sufficient storage – Now has what they need.
    A student who did have an email address and storage now has two. Setting up forwarding on either of these accounts to the other will allow them to log on to whatever system they please to collect their email. Should they log onto their preferred email and not receive their assignment, UNISA can confidently direct them to the Microsoft Email system that they as the customer in this instance has chosen.

    Should the student then still not receive their correspondence UNISA has an 0800 number to call for support and one throat to choke should things not go as planned.

    They are too a customer who has made a choice, this choice introduces value and does not impact on your choice in any way.

  33. Riaan
    January 28th, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    @Quimby:

    Problem is that the instructions on UNISA’s website to setup forwarding on this new email account does not work. (see: http://mylife.unisa.ac.za/faq.html#23)

    So far UNISA has not responded to my queries regarding this.

  34. Edward Wood
    February 4th, 2009 @ 11:11 am

    I study with unisa currently. I need to correspond with my campus, the call center is largely incompetent and myLife does not work – for the following reason. If you neglected to write down the password – which i did assuming it would send a confirmation email to my gmail account. Except UNISA in their infinite wisdom changed your default email address to the mylife one at the beginning of December so the confirmation email went to the mylife address to which I have no password for. Microsoft strangely has the same approach it will send your shiny new “regenerated” account details the the mylife address ONLY. MS UNISA clearly equals 22 as in catch 22.

  35. Alastair
    February 4th, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

    @Edward
    That sounds crazy. So clearly its not working all that well, hey?

  36. Kiran Jagmohan
    February 11th, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

    @Alastair:

    Strange, it works for me! Just today I came online after a long hiatus and decided to do the Gmail mail fetcher thingie. Yes I did forget my MyLife password but I followed correct procedure at the MyLife site and it did forward me a solution to my Gmail address. There was also an option (in case you didn’t set an alternate email address) to answer a security question and they would have provided the password.

    After that I went to gmail > settings > accounts > add another account: Use: pop-eu.exchangelabs.com port 995 and fill relevent details, confirm with security email and Bob’s your Uncle!

    I’ll say it again, I’m no MS fan and I do use OSS primarily but I really feel that people are blowing this out of proportion.

  37. Alastair Otter
    February 11th, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

    Hi Kiran,

    Glad it worked for you. The issue however is that Unisa, as an educational organisation, is being used to force students into using proprietary software. Clearly not everyone agrees that this is bad but we do have to ask if this is the right thing to be doing.

    Keep well

  38. Selena
    February 11th, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

    @Edward Wood: I have the same problem I didnt write the password down now how do I find out what the password is for my unisa email?

  39. Themba
    February 26th, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

    Mylife email sucks big time. I activated my account then they gave me their own funny passwords. I forgot the ish now i dnt hav access to my email account. Sies Unisa and your MS

  40. E
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 10:06 am

    @Alastair: I understand your point, but I’m going to respond to something beyond the point. Unisa doesn’t send coursework via the myLife e-mails, only communication (which is MUCH quicker than postage, you can imagine). The coursework is available to them on myUnisa (other platform) and is also posted to them.

  41. JJ
    March 6th, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

    Imagine every business you deal with (Banks, Municipality etc) demanding to correspond with you only via their own e-mail system. Try keeping up with all those accounts?

    In the end, it is an electronic postbox. Would anybody force you to have a specific physical postbox in a specific town? Why should e-mail be treated in any other way? You supply the postbox, they supply the mail, not the other way around.

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