“Should I be using Google Classroom?” I hear this question from time to time and it’s a good question. The answer isn’t the same for all classes or for all faculty. Google Classroom lacks, for instance, built-in integration with the Blackboard Grade Center. It also doesn’t have its own grade book (not yet, anyway). In fact, it isn’t as full-featured as Blackboard at all. So why are we having this conversation, you might ask. Well, Classroom has one very powerful feature — it integrates easily with other Google apps. If you’re already invested in Google’s app ecosystem, Classroom may be a space you find useful. Consider the following to inform your decision.
As one of Google’s Apps for Education, Classroom is tied into university authentication, meaning you use the same username and password that you use to log into Blackboard, email and UAOnline. Once you’re logged into Classroom, you’re also logged into Google Drive and have access to all of your Drive files.
Document Management in Drive
In Classroom, files that students submit with their assignments are all managed and stored on Google Drive. When a student submits files to you, ownership is transferred to you. You then return the files after you have graded them, which reverts ownership back to each respective student. All Classroom files are managed in Drive in an automatically created folder that is named after the title of your Google Classroom course.
Classroom + New Google Sites
Organizing course content in Classroom is customizable by using topics, somewhat. If your course materials require a customized menu, setting those materials up in Classroom may be a challenge. There is no customizable menu. In contrast, Google Sites is highly customizable in this way, so if you have a particular structure in mind for your course material, consider using Sites in conjunction with Classroom.
Mobile App Options
Classroom has a mobile app that makes checking on classwork convenient. Using the app, it is possible to receive mobile notifications when a due date is approaching and when assignments are graded (in addition to email notifications).
Discussion: Could be Better
One glaring oversight in Classroom is robust discussion. There really isn’t a good place for it. Yes, there is a class stream where discussion can theoretically take place, and it is possible to make comments and replies on assignments but Classroom makes it quite difficult to see where the latest conversations are happening. In some ways it is good to be able to compartmentalize conversations by assignment, but of course, not all conversations fit in that box.
Prepare for the Next Semester
If you use Google Classroom, preparing for your next semester is straightforward. You can make a copy of your current course for use next semester, then archive the old course. After that, revise next semester’s course so that due dates align with your updated syllabus. Any edits you want to make to assignments or other course content is just as easy.