How does Google Classroom’s course building functionality compare to other learning management systems?

Recently, Schoology was reviewed in three different blog posts. Now, we will take an in depth look at Google Classroom, arguably the most popular LMS in schools today.

google classroom

Initially released in August 2014, surprisingly Google Classroom does not appear on PC Magazine’s Best of LMS for 2017. However, it still appears that Google is taking over K-12 classrooms everywhere. The integration of device, LMS, and add-on functionality through Chrome apps and extensions, gives Google a one-up on other companies that are still in the development stages of these same capabilities.

In this post, we are looking specifically at the course building functions in Google Classroom.

Course quality control

Google Classroom uses both a course code sign-up system and contact invitation through the school’s domain. While historically, Classroom was only available to verified educators, Google opened Classroom to anyone with a Gmail account this past summer. Google Classroom and accompanying products are free, both educator and personal accounts.

If a school is going to be using Google Classroom as a school, it is recommended to signup for the educators account, which allows the school to create a unique domain name. Google asserts to comply with FERPA, but parental permissions are required for COPPA.

The Google Help Center  includes pages and pages of resources of technical and how-to assistance on getting started with Google products. Teachers and/or administrators should develop their own methods for determining course quality. Google is a technology company; they do not offer assistance in pedagogy best practices. A quick Google search will provide you enough resources for best practices in creating and evaluating the courses created in Google Classroom.

Interactive tools

Classroom has general built in options, mainly used for communication and collaboration. Teachers can add posts to the Classroom stream in the form of questions, assignments, and announcements.

teacher20stream20add20items

Using Google’s built in suite of cloud based apps allows teacher to enhance the capability of Google Classroom. If you are not familiar with Google Drive, Hangouts, YouTube, etc. look here for a full list of the tools that you can use to enhance the capability of your classroom.

google apps

Also, don’t forget about all the apps and extensions that can be found in the Chrome Web Store. Using Chrome in conjunction with your Google Classroom can provide productivity tools for teachers and students. My current favorite extension is bit.ly! I share bit.ly links to my Twitter almost daily.

Template courses

Upon creating a course, instructors are guided through a tour of their homepage from on-screen pop-up commands.  These pop-ups help the instructor gain familiarity with the homepage and the options offered.

Again, Google is not overly generous in the pedagogy area, so finding template courses from Google themselves is not likely. However, due to the popularity of Google Classroom, you can find tons of resources online from teachers that help others set up their courses. My favorite resource when it comes to Google Classroom is Alice Keeler. It also is not a bad idea to have an instructional designer help you with your course. If you do not have access to one, you may contact me here.

Gradebook interfaces

The Google Classroom gradebook interface is accessible from each assignment. The gradebook is fairly simple, and I love that it populates students who have completed work and separates them from students who have not completed work. You can also see the work from each student right next to the area where you enter grades. The maximum grade point can be changed directly from the gradebook. Teachers can grade and send private comments to students on their assignments.

Google has extended their API which increases the likelihood that SIS systems, like PowerSchool, RenWeb, Blackboard, etc. will be able to sync grades directly from Google Classroom to the SIS. In the meantime, teachers can download a CSV of the grades, and most SIS systems will allow for the upload of CSV files for grading. This separation of gradebooks could potentially be confusing or double the work for parents, students, and teachers. Grades are not required in Google Classroom if it becomes too much of an issue.

gradebook

Social network subscription

Unlike many of the LMS out there today, there is no sharing of the platform to other social media sites. Google’s own, Google+ allows for PLN and collaboration outside of school. YouTube can be integrated to the Classroom by adding a video.

Calendar builder

There are two ways to view the integrated Google calendar within Google Classroom. In the stream, the work block acts as a calendar, with includes upcoming due dates. The calendar can also be viewed in the “About” tab – this is the traditional Google Calendar that is associated with Google products. It can be viewed either in the classroom or in the Google Calendar interface.  The calendar makes the inclusion of due dates on the posts more important.

calendar

Course assessment function

The beauty of Google Classroom is that if you want to include assessments, it forces teachers to think outside of the box. Traditional assessments can be created in many manners, most commonly through Google Forms and linked to Google Classroom. But, WHY? The elimination of any traditional assessment feature within Google Classroom creates an open door for authentic, non-traditional assessments that meet the same objectives as pencil/paper test, and are a lot more exciting.

Resources sharing function

Resource sharing is something that Google is best at. With the popular cloud based storage functionality, teachers can share documents, photos, nearly anything with their colleagues or students. Having access to these files anywhere, anytime makes it convenient for students to complete assignments off-line, when they have may have limited access to internet connection at home or elsewhere.

 

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