Google Classroom Addresses Major Barrier To Deeper Higher Ed Adoption

A year ago I wrote about Google Classroom, speculating whether it would affect the institutional LMS market in higher education. My initial conclusion:

I am not one to look at Google’s moves as the end of the LMS or a complete shift in the market (at least in the short term), but I do think Classroom is significant and worth watching. I suspect this will have a bigger impact on individual faculty adoption in higher ed or as a secondary LMS than it will on official institutional adoption, at least for the next 2 – 3 years.

And my explanation [emphasis added]:

But these features are targeted at innovators and early adopter instructors who are willing to fill in the gaps themselves.

  1. The course creation, including setting up of rosters, is easy for an instructor to do manually, but it is manual. There has been no discussion that I can find showing that the system can automatically create a course, including roster, and update over the add / drop period.

  1. There is no provision for multiple roles (student in one class, teacher in another) or for multiple teachers per class.
  2. The integration with Google Drive, especially with Google Docs and Sheets, is quite intuitive. But there is no provision for PDF or MS Word docs or even publisher-provided courseware.
  3. There does not appear to be a gradebook – just grading of individual assignments. There is a button to export grades, and I assume that you can combine all the grades into a custom Google Sheets spreadsheet or even pick a GAFE gradebook app. But there is no consistent gradebook available for all instructors within an institution to use and for students to see consistently.

Well today Google announced a new Google Classroom API that directly addresses the limitation in bullet #1 above and indirectly addresses #4.

The Classroom API allows admins to provision and manage classes at scale, and lets developers integrate their applications with Classroom. Until the end of July, we’ll be running a developer preview, during which interested admins and developers can sign up for early access. When the preview ends, all Apps for Education domains will be able to use the API, unless the admin has restricted access.

By using the API, admins will be able to provision and populate classes on behalf of their teachers, set up tools to sync their Student Information Systems with Classroom, and get basic visibility into which classes are being taught in their domain. The Classroom API also allows other apps to integrate with Classroom.

Google directly addresses the course roster management in their announcement; in fact, this appears to be the primary use case they had in mind. I suspect this by itself will have a big impact in the K-12 market (would love to hear John Watson’s take on this if he addresses in his blog), making it far more manageable for district-wide and school-wide Google Classroom adoptions.

The potential is also there for a third party to develop and integrate a viable grade book application available to an entire institution. While this could partially be done by the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) ecosystem, that is a light integration that doesn’t allow deep connection between learning activities and grades. The new API should allow for deeper integrations, although I am not sure how much of the current Google Classroom data will be exposed.

I still do not see Google Classroom as a current threat to the higher ed institutional LMS market, but it is getting closer. Current ed tech vendors should watch these developments.

Update: Changed Google Apps for Education acronym from GAE to GAFE.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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