Today, Google took the wraps off a brand new free app for Google Apps for Education users called Classroom. It is designed to meet the needs of teachers and students in the same way that an LMS like Canvas, Haiku or Edmodo might do. Here’s what we know so far.
UPDATE: Google Classroom is now live for all Google Apps for Education domains. Read my hands-on review and step-by-step guide here.
In a press release on their blog, Google listed the following features as part of the new Classroom app for Google Apps for Education users:
- Create and collect assignments: Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help teachers create and collect assignments paperlessly. They can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback to individual students.
- Improve class communications: Teachers can make announcements, ask questions and comment with students in real time—improving communication inside and outside of class.
- Stay organized: Classroom automatically creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student. Students can easily see what’s due on their Assignments page.
Teachers can add students to a class they create, or issue an enrollment code to students. When teachers create an assignment, they can choose to share it as a single document or create a copy for every student in their class. Teachers can see at a glance who has turned in the assignment, and who hasn’t, as well as send announcements to the whole class. Students can also post questions to a classroom stream for everyone to see or comment on.
Google are also looking to take away the headache of organization. Students will be able to see all their assignments on an assignments page, and will have all their class documents and assignments filed in folders inside Drive automatically! This is huge, because although there are a number of tools out there to assist teachers with this, an integrated, all-in-one solution that does this automatically would be a huge time saver.
Students using Classroom do so in a private environment. Access to a specific class is restricted to students that are part of that class so there is no way for them to access other classes they are not a member of, and they cannot join any classes that are outside of the school’s Google domain. The app sounds like it will be enabled by default in August, but Google Apps for Education Administrators have the option to disable the app for certain user groups, or the entire domain if they want to, just like you can with other apps like Gmail, Calendar, etc.
It’s a smart move by Google, and one that may put it in direct competition with a number of already established services like Hapara, gScholar, a host of LMS providers, and even some of the recent Google add-ons like Doctopus. It probably won’t have the power to compete directly with all of these services, but by taking some of the best features, and offering them to educators for free, it will be hard to underestimate the power that a tool like this might have.
Classroom has already gone through a beta testing period with over a dozen K-12 schools and universities to help hone its functionality and effectiveness. It is not officially available until August, but a few lucky educators will have the chance to test it out ahead of the official roll-out in about a month or so if they request an invite on the official Classroom website.
Overall, it sounds like a great opportunity for Google Apps for Education schools, and a ideal way for teachers and students to use the service more productively and more efficiently. Will you be signing up? You can get a taste of what to expect in the video below.