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Educational Software Thread, FirstClass email in Technical; Our Head of E-school is planning to move all staff to FirstClass email in September, and put the students on ...
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    Unhappy FirstClass email

    Our Head of E-school is planning to move all staff to FirstClass email in September, and put the students on GoogleMail. Our Network Manager and his staff have severe reservations, but are being ignored.
    Does anyone have any experience/comments etc please which might help us to resolve this - especially with regard to the FirstClass bit since we have dropped various other bits of FirstClass due to poor performance.

    Thank you.

    I should add we currently use Exchange, with most of the staff using the Web client though some of use use traditional Outlook.
    Last edited by kkxhills; 25th June 2008 at 09:34 AM. Reason: To add more info

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    I'm glad I make the decisions at my college as Network Manager rather than have some Head of E-School trounce the decisions because 'he wants to'.

    I know Grumbledook's place has good experience with FirstClass but its not something I've really used so can't comment.

    Googlemail on the other hand, works well and is easy to get used to, be aware though if you want to configure an email client to use it, your ISP may be blocking the ports.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    My only experience of FirstClass was when I was at school myself. It is the system used by all staff and pupils on the Isle of Man and they had some serious problems (mainly due to people being able to send an email with a large attachment to everyone in every school and therefore filling the hard disks on the mail server). However, after that, once they got the servers right, it seemed to work fine.

    I would question the use of Google Mail though, as it is based in the USA and therefore the data is no longer protected by the UK Data Protection Act. I'd pass this one by the legal bods at your LEA if I were you.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Drop me an PM with your details and I will try and give a ring.

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    We use FirstClass here as our staff intranet and mail server.

    The staff love it in the 3 or 4 years we have had it installed and it has really helped reduce the amount of paperwork that was passed from staff member to staff member in the past.

    Personally, if you currently use Exchange I don't see a reason for changing it - the exchange system is good and does the job.

    We have setup a ZIMBRA server here for use by all students from September - have a search on this forum for it, this may do the job you want to achieve for the cost of a server.

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    We don't use FirstClass at our school, but it is used by the University of East Anglia for their online course at Ultraversity. In the 18 months of the course there have been few problems, one of which was as a direct result of a sub station explosion/fire. You can set up conferences and either chat or talk in real time, have one to one private conversations with individuals. you can create groups who are hidden from each other, though you can see "who's online" even if they are in different groups and chat with individuals as noted above. There's an email facility of course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by beeswax View Post
    We don't use FirstClass at our school, but it is used by the University of East Anglia for their online course at Ultraversity. In the 18 months of the course there have been few problems, one of which was as a direct result of a sub station explosion/fire. You can set up conferences and either chat or talk in real time, have one to one private conversations with individuals. you can create groups who are hidden from each other, though you can see "who's online" even if they are in different groups and chat with individuals as noted above. There's an email facility of course.
    I think I might have inadvertently created a little confusion here - it's not the VLE FirstClass which is being discussed, just the email system.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    They are one and the same.

    FirstClass is a conference environment. In it you have the ability to use email, calendars, address books, document storage, web publishing (including blogs and podcast hosting) ... and then you have the conferences, allowing for discussion, file exchange ... and then you have the FC Application Development, allowing you to have interacted applications, grade sheets and so on.

    It is very powerful and as with all powerful machines it can be support hungry. The software itself is very robust. It is coded well and does what it says on the tin, but making full use of it depends on having staff will to play and tinker with it. If you are purely using it for email then there is little to do, if you get into the conference / forums side of things it is ok too ... it is when you start building custom bits (special forums with drop boxes etc) it gets more interesting.

    There is a good scripting language for it, allowing you to automate a large amount of things ... but it can be confusing at times ... but that might just be me as I am not a coder!

    Open Text have developed a School friendly version call FirstClass ED. A demonstration of this is available from Open Text (I can pass on the details of the UK sales manager if you want). It is pretty good and has been designed to compete with Blackboard in the States.

    If you are not going to use the full functionality then it is not for you. If you have a working exchange solution then you will have a job of retraining staff and students ... a cost for the change in hardware (as you will need to run it on separate hardware to start with to migrate existing mail) and either an annual cost for the licences or a one of cost for licences with an annual cost for maintenance and support.

    Do you already have a VLE? If so then it is another reason why you don't need FirstClass.

    If staff want to see FC in action then let me know.

    It is worth noting that we are moving away from it this year, to Exchange, Moodle and Sharepoint.

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    I take it your only going to be using the googlemail client so to speak and still using the school domain or are you going down the Username@gmail.com?

    Just curious

    James.

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    We used to use Firstclass, it is alright if setup properly but it is not as good as exchange. FWIW I think the client is pretty bad personally. We were going to move over to exchange, certainly for the staff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Do you already have a VLE? If so then it is another reason why you don't need FirstClass.


    It is worth noting that we are moving away from it this year, to Exchange, Moodle and Sharepoint.
    We do have a working Exchange solution which all staff are happy with, and we use Moodle as our VLE.

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    apearce's Avatar
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    I would be interested in hear whay differences there are between FirstClass mail and exchange?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kkxhills View Post
    We do have a working Exchange solution which all staff are happy with, and we use Moodle as our VLE.
    In that case you have as good as you are likely to need for some time. The next stage is parental engagement and real time reporting ... but unless he mentions them he is not going to be improving things, in fact he could take a backwards step.

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    Quote Originally Posted by apearce View Post
    I would be interested in hear whay differences there are between FirstClass mail and exchange?
    It all depends on whether you are using the FirstClass client or a third party mail client.

    If you use the FirstClass client you get access to pretty much everything you would expect from outlook connected to exchange.

    Mailbox with folders (with rules that can be applied to individual folders and can be age dependent too) which can be fully IMAP available for IMAP compatible clients.

    Calendars holders your personal calendar plus access to other calendars, with the usual invite facilities, attachments, etc.

    Contacts is a personal contacts database. there is a global directory that you can also access. Typing in an address allows for multimatching of names with FirstClass.

    Conferences gives you access to any conferences and subconferences you have permissions on. I won't go into to these too much but if these are aliased to your desktop then they can become IMAP available as well as if they were an extra folder.

    Instant Message (for those you want it available to)

    Workspaces are collaborative spaces designed for project work. Workspaces can contain document stores, discussions, developed applications, lists, and so on. Very handy for group work.

    And finally ... the desktop. All of the above (and the conferences) can be neatly laid out as a desktop.

    The backend is a Directory Server and is available for LDAP requests, finger and so on. It host an Internet Server, and Applications Server and a few other things too.

    FirstClass is far more than just a mail/calendar/contacts server and to think of it as such is a bit short sighted ... I would worry that he is trying to get the other aspects of FirstClass in through the door which might replace Moodle. If this is the case then the basic FirstClass server is too much hard work ... go for FirstClass Ed and get a FirstClass partner to help build it all up ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    It is worth noting that we are moving away from it this year, to Exchange, Moodle and Sharepoint.
    How are you working this? I believe Northants are going with LP+ which is Sharepoint, so how are you intending to integrate all the rest, if you don't mind me asking?

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