Group projects are an element of college that will never go away. When dealing with group assignments, scheduling conflicts are almost always a common issue for most college students. The University of New Hampshire Academic Technology Department’s solution to the problem, Box @ UNH, is free to all students and faculty members and allows for the sharing of documents, spreadsheets and presentations among other functions.
“They basically have an unlimited storage pool that is available from wherever they can get network connectivity on basically whatever device they can get network connectivity,” said Stan Waddell, chief information officer at UNH.
By going to unh.box.com and logging in with UNH credentials, users can upload or create files on an unlimited amount of cloud storage space.
Instead of emailing versions of a lab report back and forth or needing to copy and paste sections of a presentation together, Box facilitates the sharing of files for the purpose of commenting or editing.
There are several ways to collaborate using Box @ UNH, including sharing folders, commenting on files, and editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations using the online version of Microsoft Office.
In addition to all this, apps are also available through the Box website that allow for the editing of documents as you normally would while saving the changes to the cloud.
Installing Box Edit, for example, allows users to open a file stored on the cloud in its normal computer program without having to download it first. The app is convenient for formats that can’t be edited online, such as Photoshop or video files, and pressing save simply syncs the changes back to the cloud storage.
Another app, Box Sync, places a folder on an user’s computer that includes a copy of their files from Box thus allowing them to edit when offline.
Box has apps for Apple and Android devices, although editing files on such devices requires installing additional software.
Since its launch in September 2014, Box @ UNH has accumulated almost 13,000 users according to Waddell.
“We’ve had great adoption replacing old, legacy, on-premises storage with a cloud solution that is cost-effective and meets the university’s needs,” Waddell noted.
Users of services such as Google Drive and Dropbox will find Box to be similar in many respects.
“We looked at all those services, and the lion’s share fell apart with regard to security,” said Pete Larimer, enterprise technology manager at Information Technology.
In regards to the reliability of the system, Waddell recalled only one service interruption, which he described as “very modest.”
Despite an average of 3,342 webpage logins per weekday according to the 2016 Information Technology annual report, a number of students have not yet tried the service.
“I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t used it,” sophomore Kai Forcey-Rodriguez said. He added that he has turned to Google Drive for group projects.
The cost of Box to the university is approximately $65,000 per year through an agreement with Internet2, a computer-networking consortium consisting of higher education institutions.