Updates for Google products are not an uncommon experience. In fact, people like myself are often having to update presentations and handouts to reflect the changes that Google have made to their various apps. However, the pandemic that we are all living in right now has adjusted everyone’s priorities, and edtech providers are no different. In this post, I have rounded up the best new features that Google has in the pipelines for Classroom and Meet.
What’s New in Google Classroom?
For Classroom, Google has added a much requested feature for students and teachers – a To Do menu. It can be found on the same page as all your classes and once clicked, it will show assigned, missing, and completed assignments across all your enrolled classes. You can even sort the list by “this week”, “next week”, or “later”.
To help enroll students quicker, Google is adding the option to join via a link. Teachers can share a link with students by clicking on the People tab and then clicking on the icon to add a student. This reveals a link that you can copy and paste into an email or app of your choice.
Originality reports are also getting an upgrade. Google is raising the number of free reports you can use in a class from three to five, (you can still upgrade to G Suite Enterprise for Education for unlimited reports). Reports can now be printed, saved, downloaded and shared, and will soon be available for use in Google Slides.
Also on the Classroom roadmap are student engagement metrics. I was talking to a school about this recently. A learning management system (LMS) like Canvas and Schoology will give you information about how often students are interacting with content. That data can be interpreted in many different ways, but it will be a nice addition to Classroom so teachers can get a better idea of who is using their content and who is not.
The Classroom mobile app is going to get better offline support. With home internet connections being increasingly important for distance learning, Google recognizes that it is important for students to be able to access their learning whenever possible. These updates for the mobile apps will help ensure that is more possible more of the time.
Lastly, Google is building administrator tools to help make it easier to create and manage courses at scale. Again, this is a common feature of an LMS, and although Classroom has often shied away from that moniker, it is definitely getting closer to meeting that definition. Tools like these promise to make it easier to enroll students in classes and roll out a seamless Classroom experience on a much broader scale.
If you are familiar with Zoom, you will be familiar with a lot of the features that Google is adding to Meet, because Zoom already the vast majority of all of the features that are coming to Meet. However, if you want to keep everything within your G Suite environment, there is little doubt that these changes will still be welcome additions.
First up, there will be a larger tiled view with a 7×7 grid so you can see up to 49 students at once. Google are also including the ability to launch a Jamboard from a Meet call so that everyone can collaborate on a digital whiteboard space. Both of these updates are slated for release in September.
Also in September are a number of new moderator updates. Teachers can prevent students from joining meetings after they’ve been ejected or after they’ve been denied entry twice. They can end a meeting for all participants, and manage join requests more easily by accepting or rejecting them all en masse. Teachers will soon be able to disable in-meeting chat and set restrictions on who can present during a meeting. There will also be a setting that requires the teacher to join a meeting first.
In October, virtual backgrounds, and blurred backgrounds, will be added as an option. I have seen a lot of talk on Twitter recently about whether or not you should expect students to have their camera on during a whole class video call. One argument against that notion is that some students may feel ashamed of sharing their home environment with their more affluent peers. Virtual or blurred backgrounds could help alleviate that problem.
Breakout rooms are also coming in October. This gives teachers the ability to divide students into smaller groups for more focused discussions, and then bring everyone back together for whole class learning. Attendance tracking is also coming in October. This will let you can look back and see who attended your Meet video calls, and who did not.
Later in the year, Google is adding the ability for students to raise their virtual hand during a call to get your attention. Polls will also be coming to Meet and so will a simple Q&A feature to help check for understanding. Lastly, temporary video recordings are going to be available to schools for free. This means you can record any Meet call and store that video in your Google Drive for 30 days. The free recordings cannot be downloaded or shared outside your domain. Premium recordings, (currently available for free to schools as a result of the pandemic), will remain available until the free version is made more widely available.