The Open University is in negotiations with Microsoft and Google about cloud computing services for students and staff.
Niall Sclater, the OU's director of learning innovation, told GC News that the university will shortly be taking a decision about whether to deploy Google Apps or Microsoft Live@edu.
He said that not only will the OU be able to outsource email services for its 229,000 students, as well as its staff, taking away the maintenance burden from the university, but it will also be able to use the large document storage facilities offered by cloud computing systems.
"In the longer term I can see more and more functionality accruing to cloud-based services," said Sclater. "We are watching very closely and having conversations with Microsoft and Google as we make our decision about which of those systems to go for."
In August Portsmouth University opened a Google Apps service to nearly 30,000 students and reported that within a month it had about 4,300 active users, including people from China, Nepal and Nigeria.
Sclater also said that, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in December, the OU is using web 2.0 techniques to engage with students and others about the issue.
Andrew Law, director of multi-platform broadcasting at the OU, said: "We are using Web 2 technology to invited people to put up questions, rate and comment on them. The top five that people most want asked will get a response from our best academics at Copenhagen.
"We are also inviting people to send us films that they have around climate change and we are using a Twitter feed to keep people up to date."
The university is also running a biodiversity project, iSpot, aimed at helping people identify natural species around them using a Web 2.0 environment.
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