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Google Classroom: A Complete Review for Educators
April 11, 2021
Whether you’re already familiar with the platform or not, expect to hear more about Google Classroom in the coming months as schools in many parts of the world stay partially or fully remote, and teachers look for a way to stay connected to their students. The growth of Google Classroom hit a major milestone in April 2020 when the pandemic caused user numbers to double to 100 million people. That number has likely ballooned even more as additional educators make the switch to Google Classroom online.
Are you missing out by not joining the crowd? Here’s what you should know about the platform in our Google Classroom review.
What is Google Classroom?
Google Classroom is a free platform for educators. It uses a scaled-down approach to give teachers the things they need to communicate with students, organize class events and materials, and keep records. Just a few years ago, experts wouldn’t have considered Google Classroom as a stand-alone learning management system (LMS) but through updates and new features for educators, many consider it to be just that.
Google Classroom review
How does this platform compare to other options? When looking at every classroom management system (CMS) or LMS out there, our Google Classroom rating looks at several things, including:
Simple set up
Ease of use
Acceptance among school districts and the educational community, at large
We also consider things like how it is used on a typical school day. What can it do? What does it leave to be desired? Overall, Classroom holds its own as a very robust teaching and learning platform that easily rivals some of the more expensive tools. While it doesn’t host content directly, its relationship within the broader Google sphere means that you can easily link to the lectures, worksheets, and videos your classroom needs to succeed.
Note: Some of the features not directly supported by Google Classroom (such as integration with Canvas or Blackboard) are available with the more comprehensive Google Workspace for Education.
How much is Google Classroom?
Google has made its dashboard and basic learning management tools free for educators. Teachers also receive some of the Google paid services for free as well, and many of these shared resources make the Google Classroom learning platform work to its fullest potential. Some G Suite components, like extra storage, would normally cost teachers a monthly fee, too. The company also offers premium Google Hangouts options for teachers who want to use the video platform to interact with students.
Benefits of Google Classroom
Through our research of the Google platforms and tools, we found that these benefits stand out the most.
1. It’s free!
Yes, Google Classroom doesn’t cost a dime for educators. The larger Google Workspace for Education environment is directed at larger schools and school systems and is also free for a limited time. As of this writing (March 2021), Google hasn’t announced when it will start to charge for the Classroom features.
2. Easy to set up in a few steps
You can set up a very basic Google Classroom class in minutes, but anticipate taking some time to create online learning that is useful for both students and teachers. Google offers training videos to walk you step-by-step through every detail, including best practices for an excellent classroom experience.
3. Recognized by many schools and organizations
Given the prevalence of Google Chromebooks in educational settings, it only makes sense that educators have warmed up to the idea of using Google-based systems and tools as well. Even those who use competing LMS systems can see the benefits of integrating elements of Google Classroom into their class setup. And because Google Classroom is so widely used, communities like Google Educator Groups (GEGs) have taken shape around its use and helped to spread its appeal.
4. Already integrated with Google Drive and other tools
If you already use Google Drive apps like Google Docs, Forms, Slides, and Gmail, you’ll love what Google Classroom integrations can do for you. Log in to your Google account (or create one) and connect your favorite Google apps for a fully-compatible experience. There’s no need to set up new logins for everything either, which saves time and makes for a more streamlined workflow.
5. Comes with Google’s security
If you already trust Google for your email or work documents, handing off some classroom tasks won’t be a big deal for you. Google uses the same security and encryption standards across its platform. Kids can’t work outside of their unique login, and strangers can’t access the dashboard, assignment, or records.
6. Free training and learning opportunities
If you need help with the platform, you’ll love that Google created an excellent learning center that also allows you to easily receive certification as a Google Level 1 or 2 Educator. Sign up for video lessons that go right to your inbox, or join a GEG for even more tips and tricks.
7. Integrates with many 3rd party apps
Google Classroom plays well with more than just other Google-owned properties and tools. You’ll enjoy quick imports and integration with teacher faves like Quizlet, Khan Academy, and BrainPOP, too. Plus, the platform adds new compatibility lists all the time.
8. Includes "guardian" features for parents
While there’s no way to send a direct email to parents about a student, Google Classroom offers “guardian” permissions to parents. These guardians can elect to receive updates about their student’s work, including missed assignments or upcoming tests. This feature also helps parents and caregivers to know when they should follow up with students who aren’t meeting goals or completing work.
Disadvantages of Google Classroom
Nothing is perfect, and the Classroom tool has a way to go before becoming the all-in-one dashboard and classroom content hub teachers are asking for. These downsides aren’t a deal-breaker for most, but they’re worth considering before you make the switch.
1. Each user needs their own Google account
The nature of Google Classroom is that students need their own Google account in order to participate. But they’ll already have one if they use a Google Chromebook or any Google software service. Teachers will also need to set up a new account that’s solely for educational purposes, because using their personal account isn’t recommended.
2. Parents can opt children out of account creation
Because of the need for an individual Google account, it’s possible (although not likely) that parents may opt-out of their child creating a student account. Unfortunately, refusal of the Google Terms of Service will keep a student out of Classroom. Teachers may need to work with families so that they understand the value of their child joining the platform.
3. Not a video solution
You can use Google Hangouts to do live video and YouTube to house all your video content. However, Classroom itself is not a replacement for the stand-alone video conference tools some teachers have already learned to love. But teachers can adapt their session to embrace Google tools or simply redirect students to an external video service.
4. Doesn’t communicate well with outsiders
If you need to get in touch with a guardian to ask them a question, Google Classroom’s Dashboard won’t really be able to help. However, you can send group bulletins to all guardians and share reporting (like a missed assignment). You’ll have to handle one-on-one messaging another way.
Google Classroom updates
The Google Classroom we’re writing about now in March 2021 simply won’t be the same as the one you see by the time you read it. With the increase in demand from educators working remotely, the company is quickly responding to feature requests. Third-party tools are adapting, too. And as the platform grows and includes more requested features, third-party integration will help Classroom develop into one of the most robust learning management systems available.
If you’re looking for a way to keep your digital lesson plans, schedules, syllabuses, grades, and materials in one place, Google Classroom may be your answer. It’s certainly the least expensive. And if you’re tired of relying on a mish-mash of free trials and low-cost apps, consolidating with this dashboard may be the right move.
Students are quick to learn the interface, too, since it already resembles the Google world they’re no doubt familiar with today. As teachers return to partial and full in-person learning, Google Classroom can go with them, too. It’s ideal for face-to-face experiences, which is actually where it got its start.
Your only limit is whether the tool or feature you want most is included yet. And if it’s in demand by most teachers, you’re likely to see it soon. Those wanting to know more about Google Classroom and the newest features should sign up for the Google Educator newsletter.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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