About Google Classroom
Classroom is one of the latest additions to Google Apps for Education, a free productivity suite for schools. Some consider it a learning management system (LMS) akin to Moodle, but it’s so lightweight and friendly that many argue it doesn’t fit that feature-rich bill. Indeed, the simplicity of it is nothing short of marvelous and is exactly what makes it such a threat to other services. It lives up to their slogan, “Less tech-ing, more teaching.” About to start its second year, Google Classroom holds some big implications about what’s to come.
1. Undercut the School Website’s Value Proposition
Especially for private schools that pay significant fees for major companies like WhippleHill (now owned by Blackbaud) and Finalesite to host their websites, the marketplace may be turning upside-down. As Classroom becomes a more established, reliable platform, the need to pay for a LMS bundled with a website may dramatically diminish. Schools will still need beautiful websites, that demand is only increasing. But smaller design teams will be able to compete against these giants as the complex classroom communications is moved to Google.
2. Building Apps for Google Classroom
What makes Google Classroom even more exciting is their announcement at ISTE of an upcoming API. Programmers can start to integrate sites and apps with Classroom. This underscores the first implication, as website designers could tap into Google Classroom for a website backed by Google’s free LMS. But it also sent a ripple through app developers worldwide.
Developers in the edtech field have had to study OAuth and other Google API tools in order to allow students and teachers to login to their apps using Google. The to-do list just exploded with Google’s announcement of a Classroom API. There will be a clamorous demand for integration with Classroom. The first apps to do so will quickly take root as teacher seek out apps that require fewer screen changes, sign-ons and in-class hassles. This is great news for educators and an intimidating challenge for programmers.
3. More Google on the Way
What struck me most about the recent announcements was the commitment Google is showing for Classroom. I’ve fallen for a few Google tools that just didn’t make it and were shut down for one reason or another, (Wave, Notebook, Dodgeball, Buzz and more). I didn’t think Classroom was in threat as it has a built-in user base of over 40 million students and teachers, but it was still exciting to see it expand. Promises of new features, like the ability to re-post old assignments, show that they’re still working to continue the trend.
Google Classroom doesn’t have a gradebook or attendance system. A school needs a separate student information system (SIS) for critical internal functions. It doesn’t seem likely that Google is moving into that space, but woe to that market if they do. What is a likely development, and a further threat to Finalsite’s value proposition, is a parent portal. Allowing parents a line of communication to their child’s classroom (in addition to access to their grades via the SIS) would be huge. I’ll be watching closely for this development, and I don’t think I’ll be alone.