Could Google Wave Replace Course-Management Systems?

Google argues that its new Google Wave system could replace e-mail by blending instant messaging, wikis, and image and document sharing into one seamless communication interface. But some college professors and administrators are more excited about Wave’s potential to be a course-management-system killer.

“Just from the initial look I think it will have all the features (and then some) for an all-in-one software platform for the classroom and beyond,” wrote Steve Bragaw, a professor of American politics at Sweet Briar College, on his blog last week. 

Mr. Bragaw admits he hasn’t used Google Wave himself — so far the company has only granted about 100,000 beta testers access to the system. Each of those users is allowed to invite about eight friends (who can each invite eight more), so the party is slowly growing louder while many are left outside waiting behind a virtual velvet rope. But Google has posted an hour-long video demonstration of the system that drew quite a buzz when it was unveiled in May. That has sparked speculation of how Wave might be used.

Greg Smith, chief technology officer at George Fox University, did manage to snag an invitation to try Wave, and he too says it could become a kind of online classroom.

That probably won’t happen anytime soon, though. “Wave is truly a pilot right now, and it’s probably a year away from being ready for prime time,” he said, noting that Wave eats up bandwidth while it is running. Google will probably take its time letting everyone in, he said, so that it can work out the kinks.

And even if some professors eventually use Wave to collaborate with students, colleges will likely continue to install course-management systems so they know they have core systems they can count on, said Mr. Smith.

Then again, hundreds of colleges already rely on Google for campus e-mail and collaborative tools, through a free service the company offers called Google Apps Education Edition. Could a move to Google as course-management system provider be next?



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