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Google Classroom as an LMS: The company is increasing the potential for education

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In June 2014, I wrote a post on e-Literate, claiming that Classroom wasn’t designed as an LMS. In particular:

For years, the education engineering community has been in the LMS market with Google, including Wave (obsolete, but some important features built into other tools), Apps for Education, and even Pearson OpenClass by mistake. I’ve been guessing about entering the market. There are several possibilities each time, but Google has shown no interest in completely replacing the LMS functionality.

Announced in May, Google Classroom is the closest to Google’s full LMS offering with new details released this week. The focus is much more on the K-12 than in higher education.

In a follow-up post titled “Why Google Classroom Doesn’t Impact the Institution’s LMS Market Yet,” he claimed that it lacked the ability to prevent Google Classroom from becoming a legitimate LMS at the institutional level.

However, these features are intended for innovators and early adopter instructors who are willing to fill the gap.

* Creating a course that includes rostering is easy for the instructor to do manually, but it is manual. There was no argument that the system could automatically create a course with a roster and update it during the add / remove period.

* There is no provision for multiple roles (students in one class, teachers in another class) or multiple teachers per class.

* Integration with Google Drive, especially Google Docs and spreadsheets, is very intuitive. However, it does not provide PDF or MS Word documentation, nor courseware provided by the publisher.

* There doesn’t seem to be a report card that just scores individual assignments. You’ll have a button to export your grades, and you’ll be able to combine all your grades into a custom Google Sheets or choose the GAE Gradebook app. However, there is no consistent gradebook that all instructors in the institution use and that students can see consistently.

Google Classroom Roadmap

Almost seven years later, with a history of extensive recruitment and feature additions at the kindergarten to high school level, Google is sure that Classroom is an LMS and will roll out some of the key features that institutions need. We have officially announced that we are planning to do so. From a company post explaining the Classroom roadmap:

We first built Classroom to simplify and improve education and learning. We wanted teachers to build stronger connections with their students and give them time to focus on what they wanted to teach in the first place. As more teachers use Classroom as a learning hub during pandemics, many schools treat Classroom as a learning management system (LMS).

We didn’t start creating an LMS, but Classroom is working to meet the evolving needs of the school. We will continue to put the people who use our products first, listen to our feedback, and respond to our top priorities. Also, always make sure Classroom maintains simplicity and ease of use. This is very useful for teachers, students and school leaders around the world.

Google Classroom already has the ability to add different document types, such as PDF and MS Word files (see this 2019 video). The much bigger change announced in the new roadmap is the difficult but necessary need for Google to ultimately automate class rosters through the integration of student information systems (SIS) and streamline report cards to report to SIS. I’m focused on taking it seriously.

Pre-set classes using SIS roster synchronization (scheduled later this year)

Provisioning classes for the entire school system can take some time. Later this year, administrators using Education Plus will be able to create classes and sync by entering rosters directly into Classroom from the Student Information System (SIS).

Rationalization of grade entry (scheduled for later this year)

Grade Export is now available on AspenSIS for Skyward and Infinite Campus customers. This allows teachers to track grades and push them from the Classrooms Gradebook to SIS, eliminating the need to place grades in two places.

Classroom is increasing the religion of third-party apps and content, even if it’s a private religion (more on this later).

Use your favorite EdTech tools and content in Classroom (coming later this year)

School leaders, teachers and students often use multiple educational tools every day and need to work together. Soon, for teachers using Google Workspace for Education Plus or Teaching and Learning Upgrade, use the Classroom add-on to select your favorite EdTech tools and content from the Marketplace and direct them to students in Classroom without additional login. Can be assigned. Administrators can also install teacher add-ons on their domain.

The roadmap has an important list of new features coming soon or later this year. What is different from the last few years is that it focuses not only on doing the minimum necessary to stay focused on teachers, but also on servicing managers, schools and school districts.

Learn with Google 2021

Meanwhile, the Google Classroom roadmap is linked to this week’s Google Learning With Google 2021 virtual event, and CEO Sundar Pichai has begun discussions. There are many cues that the pandemic is urging Google to focus more on education.

I don’t think this focus on education from Google will change everything. Also, I don’t think Google Classroom as a true LMS will completely change the LMS market from kindergarten to high school. However, it’s important to understand that this time it’s very different from the early years of Google Wave and Google Classroom.

We have already explained how much the K-12 LMS market has expanded due to the pandemic. In this view from North America, Google Classroom is one of the top four solutions alongside Canvas, Schoology and Moodle. However, the situation outside of North America is different, with much more relative adoption of Classroom.

Classroom is important in this market, but not dominant. A Melanie Lazare session explains that Classroom users have grown from 40 million a year ago to 150 million today. This is huge from the user’s point of view, but now seems to be focused on institutional recruitment.

Looking at Melanie’s talk, it seems that Google has no intention of entering the LMS market and will not follow industry standards such as LTI. Google’s plan aims to redefine product categories using its own ecosystem. We need to see how this actually works, but it feels like a “we standard” approach. Think of partner integration rather than open standards.

What is still unclear is whether Google plans to maintain different approaches to different markets. Previously, in the K-12 market, we were happy to have Classroom compete as an LMS in the absence of many important features, but in higher education we deliberately avoided competing with established LMS players. I did. The K-12 still seems to be the focus of Classroom, but I’m not going to immediately rule out another strategy in higher education. It will be interesting to see how the market will change in the next year or two.

Disclosure: Some LMS and other EdTech companies are subscribers to the EdTech Market Analysis service.

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