Tag Archives | higher education

Google Classroom: Aiming to Overtake the LMS?

Google Classroom

Last week Jason Thomas tweeted a link about Google Classroom, an all-in-one solution for teachers and students create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and easily communicate within their classes. Classroom’s marketing materials even include it is designed to enable teachers to do “more teaching and less tech-ing” I kid you not, that’s on their webpage.

Google, the search giant, over the last several years has made strides to diversify its offerings, seemingly taking on every established sect of the technology industry from social networks to web based music players, mobile telephones to small web-based laptops and tablets. There isn’t a part of the technology market, with the exception of IT hardware, where Google isn’t currently attempting to be a competitor.

Google Classroom is the Mountain View, California based tech company’s foray into education; unifying the services offered as part of Google Apps for Business and tailoring it to meet the needs of education institutions. Google Classroom offers familiar services such as Gmail, Docs, Sheets and Slides staples of the Google Apps environment but also combines it with the ability for teachers to collect assignments through Google Classroom, easily distribute ‘handouts’ or allow students access to presentations and documents used and discussed in class.

Google Classroom offers an impressive amount of functionality to Google Apps users in education. Before technology managers get up in arms, Google Classroom isn’t ready, yet, to truly compete with or overtake traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS). There are still several key features traditional LMS powerhouses offer for which Google Classroom doesn’t yet have an answer- gradebook, lecture capture integration, online lecture posting/viewing, managed/monitored web discussions so on and so forth.

As it stands now, Google Classroom is a tremendous benefit for schools/colleges/universities not currently using a full-fledged LMS, but isn’t yet ready to overtake or even compete for the business of institutions using LMS already. It will be very interesting, however, if Google chooses to continue working on Classroom and expand it’s functionality, it could become a huge player and ultimately one of the highest used LMS companies, but that’s still 10 or more years away, if you ask me.

I just want Google Wave to come back.

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The Changing Face of Higher Education Technology

Across the nation, higher education technology departments are working at a feverish pace to ready themselves for the onslaught of returning students and the deluge of connected devices they wield. Five years ago most of the previous sentence wouldn’t have made sense. I remember sitting in college classes as a senior, in 2009 looking around the room and seeing a large percentage of students were using laptops to take notes and research facts in the classroom, with a tiny percentage also owning some other connected device (smartphone, PDA, etc.). I also remember sitting in the same classroom four years earlier and the percentage of students using computers in class was significantly lower. Now, four years removed from my senior year of college, the number of connected devices on campuses nationwide is staggeringly high. A white paper, written in 2012 by CDW-G, estimates the ratio of connected devices to students is as high as 3.5:1. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine the ratio is drastically higher today.  I have at least 6 connected devices in my office at any given time and students living on campus are likely to have more devices than that given the proliferation of smart TVs, gaming consoles and media players over the last two years.

University IT departments are preparing for this blitzkrieg of bandwidth-sucking devices by increasing internet connections and placing stricter security measures on campus networks. Millions of words have been written on the subject of BYOD in the classroom and in the enterprise; but it’s important to also remember the effects of BYOD on network utilization. Network Admins everywhere are placing enhanced security devices in the network to compensate for the vulnerability brought by a surge of connected devices with suspect, if not sub-par, security measures.

Any device connected to the network represents a potential vulnerability to malware and viruses; we all know this. Connected devices such as gaming consoles, apple TV’s, smartphones, tablets, iPods and other media players represent increased vulnerability to networks. More and more equipment, configurations processes and procedures are necessary to protect networks, keep users connected and manage bandwidth. The higher education technology landscape, much like any enterprise technology landscape, has drastically shifted in the past five years. It will be interesting to come back to this post in five years, and see how archaic this really is. The good and the bad of working in technology is things never stay the same. I look forward to watching the landscape grow even further, and the new challenges it presents.


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