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Google has been pretty busy in the last few weeks, and not just with the unveiling of their new logo. Substantial updates to the Google Apps for Education have been rolling out, and that makes us very happy here at Ashton College.
One such app is Google Classroom, which Ashton introduced to a few of our online courses back in July. Two months later, every online course we have running is utilizing this platform in some way.
What intrigued us about Classroom originally has remained one of its best qualities: its assignment functionality. Powered by Google Docs, students can complete and submit work without leaving the comforts of their internet browsers. They no longer need to worry about saving work regularly, exporting documents to friendly file formats, or sending emails back and forth with the instructor.
Work is automatically saved and submitted to the instructor with the press of a button, who can then attach a grade, edit student work, and provide private feedback. Group work is also easy, as multiple students can be working on the same document at once; in fact, even the instructor can join in.
It is truly exciting to see meaningful updates arriving regularly to Classroom and Google’s others educational apps, which we use to drive much of the Ashton Online experience. It demonstrates not only their commitment to enriching the educational landscape, but also their receptiveness to feedback from users all over the world.
We’ve examined the most significant upgrades to Classroom and how we are are using them in our online courses.
Aesthetically, Google Classroom received some boosts in colour and clarity.
While we appreciate the minimalist appearance of Google Classroom, its design also means that posts can become cluttered or difficult to locate in busier Classroom streams.
Although dragging and dropping things around would be the ideal solution, Move to Top now allows instructors and administrators to manipulate content order. Before, the only way to move posts around was to delete and remake them, which was quite an inefficient solution.
Continuing with the theme of efficiency, posts can now be copied from previous Classrooms as well as other active ones. This makes repeating courses much easier to set up and will also be wonderful for more generic content, such as our welcoming exercise. We familiarize new students with Classroom by asking that they create and submit a document outlining their three favourite foods. Sometimes, they provide us with recipes too!
In fact, instructors can have their questions answered even more easily now with the introduction of the Question function. Instructors issue a question to students, who can quickly provide answers without needing to create a new document. Instructors can decide whether these responses will be graded, and if students will be able to view and respond to each other’s answers.
Instructor-student interaction continues to become more dynamic than ever. A few days ago, the Share to Classroom extension for Google Chrome was released. Not only can instructors easily share the website they are currently viewing as a post on Classroom, they can now push these sites directly onto student screens.
We haven’t had much time to consider how we will abuse these new powers, but wouldn’t it be nice as a student if you were summoned automatically to your live webinar five minutes before the lesson was set to begin?
Something to mark on our calendars is the upcoming calendar feature that will be available in the next few weeks. Classrooms will now automatically create and populate a Google Calendar with assignment due dates, which is great for us since we currently have to do that manually with the personalized course calendars we create for students.
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It definitely seems like Google is trying to make teaching as easy and flexible for instructors as possible, which mirrors one of our ultimate motivations as Online Support staff. We are striving to make technology an asset and not a burden for instructors, to facilitate and help them focus on doing what they do best: sharing their knowledge, expertise, and passion.