Since the days of the ever-helpful Clippy, Drexel students have been provided with the latest version of Microsoft Office software, on the house. However, Drexel’s Department of Information Resources and Technology recently announced that they would be pulling the plug on the program, know as the “Microsoft Campus Agreement for Students”, with students being legally required to uninstall the programs by Oct. 31.
Although students will be able to purchase discounted copies of Office or other software applications from virtual software stores such as eAcademy and JourneyEd, and copies will still be installed on all University-owned computers, this is still a major setback for students. Professors have high standards for the documents and presentations we create and they aren’t going to lower them if we have to use alternatives like OpenOffice or Google Docs, products that are missing many of the features of a full-fledged office suite.
PowerPoint has become not only the academic but the professional standard for presentations. Word has powerful tools for formatting and editing that are unmatched by alternatives and its place as the industry standard means we don’t have to worry about file format conflicts. Excel has function and database tools that competitors can only dream of that engineering, math, and business students find indispensable.
In what is a seemingly business-driven decision Drexel has decided to remove what was a powerful tool and leave students foraging in the cold for alternatives. Google Docs, which we use here at The Triangle, is superior in sharing and is great for group projects but lacks many of the advanced features and formatting that professors require. OpenOffice, while passable, leaves students and professors with a mess of file formats that lead to confusion that would be inexcusable in the professional world. At a university where interdisciplinary work and team projects are required, students’ abilities to collaborate on documents will be severely hindered if we’re all working with different programs.
As appreciative as we are of the University’s cost cutting measures, we believe that denying students the use of a integral piece of the most popular business software will leave them woefully unprepared for the realities of the professional world. Drexel markets itself as a technologically savvy educational institution, always reminding us that this campus was the “first major university to operate a fully wireless campus.” But that was back in the year 2000. Toting technological advances from a decade ago is meaningless if our present technological needs are being compromised.