Google Classroom: First Impressions

13083732955_007e5ce4de_z The new learning management system (LMS) offered to Google Apps for Education users has recently become fully available: Google Classroom. In its current early incarnation, the option may be attractive for instructors who are not currently using an LMS and want to give one a try, but only if they are already using the Google Apps for Education or have a registered domain that they can configure for its use.

Once Google Classroom app has been added to your account and a class has been setup, the interface is a familiar clean Google environment allowing the posting of updates and files into a class stream, the invitation of students directly or via a class code, and the creation of class assignments with deadlines, attachments, and an interface for monitoring student progress and posting grades. Stream updates, assignments, and student submissions can all have comments added to them. Feedback on “returned” and graded assignments can be provided in an added note, but I did not see any option to return an attached document (an annotated PDF of the submitted file, for example). Instructors have a nice overview of student work, but currently it appears as though students do not get the same useful overview of their own course performance across multiple assignments (running progress, for example).

Grading is done on a customizable point scale, but must be a whole number (which would not work well at my own Scottish university, for example, where assignments are all on a 20 point scale and 0.5 of a difference can make the difference between a “lower second class” and the gold standard “upper second class” mark. A host of other grade management features, timed release of assignments or take-home exams, online exercises, etc. that can be found in Moodle most LMS are also absent, but this is not surprising to find in an early release.

The current feed updates approach in Google Classroom keeps the classroom page uncluttered but reproduces the problem found in social media where students may have to hunt through a long feed for the update and attached files they wanted. The one exception to this appears to be the “about” page for the class where a syllabus can be uploaded. However, there does not appear to be an easy way to organize files by different categories, etc. There is excellent integration between Google Classroom and Google Drive, however, and this may offer an alternative approach.

Overall, beyond a clean interface, Google Classroom in its current form does not offer anything that Moodle, or a host of other LMS offerings do not already provide. The classroom stream can provide a central location for comments and quick updates, but if you already have a running Moodle class or another LMS through your institution, or even a WordPress blog with some educational or social plugins such as BuddyPress, it is hard, at this point, to see any justification to make the switch.

For those contemplating running Google Classroom on their own domain, should their institution not already provide Google Apps for Education to all its students and faculty, keep in mind that all students who join your course will also have to have user accounts configured in your system. As with all Google Apps services, this means that everyone will have to manage the switching between any personal Google account they primarily use, and the one specifically attached to the class. If you are considering Google Classroom, there is a nice in-depth review by Phil Hill on e-Literate, including some slides from a presentation by Meg Tufano.

Have you given Google Classroom a try? If so, has it worked well for you?

[Untitled image Creative Commons licensed by “torne”]

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