Google Classroom deepens Google's push into education market

With Google Classroom, Google aims to capitalize on the traction gained by Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks.

Image: Google

In order to take advantage of the growing success of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, Google has launched Google Classroom, a new tool to improve organization and collaboration for teachers and students working with Google Apps.

Chromebooks made a rocky debut into the PC market when the first went on sale in the summer of 2011. While they have achieved moderate success in the consumer space and the enterprise, they really taken off in education. Earlier this year, Chromebooks were 20% of the educational market and they are now in nearly 10,000 new schools.

"Today, many teachers and professors have found ways to use technology to be better educators and avoid busy work. We have more than 30 million students, teachers and administrators using Google Apps for Education to communicate, collaborate and work with students more efficiently and with Classroom our goal is to make these products even better for them," said Zach Yeskel, product manager of Classroom.

According to Google's website, "Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes with ease. And it lets students organize their work, complete and turn it in, and communicate directly with their teachers and peers."

Previously, educators and school administrators relied on third-party tools like the Hapara dashboard. Now that Google has a proprietary tool to assist with communication in the classroom, it is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for educational technology; addressing the major issues that popped up when teachers first began using Google Apps for Education.

Classroom creates Drive folders for classes and assignments and gives teachers real-time feedback on which students have completed the work. Teachers can make announcements and pose questions to the class, and students can post questions to the stream to assist their fellow classmates. The website also mentions, "Classroom contains no ads, never uses your content or student data for advertising purposes, and is free for schools." This follows their blog post last week announcing the Google would discontinue the option for ads and not pull student data for ads.

One issue that could prove detrimental to the adoption of Google Classroom is the risk-averse nature of education institutions. Learning management systems (LMS), which Classroom is roughly equivalent to, are scrutinized in education like an ERP or CRM would be scrutinized in the enterprise. Schools are looking for a system that they can adopt for the long-term, and Google's history throwing tools out into the market and quickly pulling them back could end up causing them problems in education.

Image: Google

"To commit and to move your entire learning environment over to Classroom would be a risk, unless you thought that Google really was intent to keep this application going, enhancing it and improving it," said Marti Harris, who covers educational learning systems for Gartner. Adding, "Google's going to have to prove themselves that they're willing to stay in this game."

Harris also noted that it makes sense that Google would provide a platform for a learning experience if they wish to continue marketing Chromebooks to the enterprise. But, at the same time, Google has to prove that this tool isn't going anywhere if it wants to grow its adoption rate. Most educational institutions that use an LMS view it as a critical application and they aren't agile enough to constantly shift direction.

There is a trend to move LMS to the cloud, and a trusted name like Google could garner some attention from proponents of a cloud-based system. Getting its products into the hands of students and teachers is a win-win for Google. Not only do they capture more market share for Chromebooks and Google Apps, but they also have the opportunity to make a lasting impression on these users as well.

"If nothing else, the reason that they're doing the non-fee based arrangement with education is to build brand loyalty and application loyalty, so that when [students] leave education and go into the workplace they'll want to stay with what they know as productivity tools," Harris said.

Regardless, the interesting question is whether Google is hoping to compete in the LMS space, or use its foray into education primarily as a way to promote its products?

Educators who are interested in previewing Classroom can sign up here. Developers and partners who are interested in integrating classroom can sign up here. Classroom will be available to the public by September.

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