Real Time Communications Featured Article

Google Classroom Brings Collaborative, Productivity Tools to Education

May 08, 2014

The education market is still a very substantial: Between the near-universal quality of education -- most children are at some point and in some way going to school -- and the likely expansion of same (there will always be new children), it's a market that makes some sense for businesses to get in on. Google has already seen some value out of this market with Google Apps for Education, backed up by the increasing use of Chromebook technology, and recently brought out a new tool in Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is designed to bring together three key tools that can be valuable in education: Google Docs, Google Drive and Gmail. With these three together under one umbrella in an educational setting, educators get access to a complete platform for planning assignments, issuing assignments to students, collecting assignments and then returning grades. This actually gives Google a bit of an advantage in the field, as it's set to offer an alternative to the Hapara dashboard and similar tools, giving Google the ability to offer several services under the Google banner. Google has also voluntarily restricted itself from many advantages that it could have had in the field, as Google Classroom's website notes that it uses no ads, collects no data for advertising purposes, and is free for schools to take advantage of.

While it's likely not going to be easy for even Google to break into the education market—schools as a whole are notoriously risk-averse and will closely scrutinize any new potential systems development like a major enterprise might do for a customer relationship management system—there's plenty of foundation already laid for Google to get in on the action. Chromebooks were a very small part of the market even just three years ago, but the education sector has landed on Chromebooks the way a small dog might land on a huge bone. Earlier in 2014, Chromebooks made up 20 percent of the educational market as a whole, and 10,000 new schools now contain the laptops.

Beyond Google's name recognition in the field, there's the point to consider that real time communications are augmenting the educational experience, and Google already has quite a presence in the real time communications field thanks to Chrome and its long-term involvement with Web-based real time communications (WebRTC). Real time communications has been driving the field of online learning for some time; since 2012, reports indicate, over 6.7 million students were taking at least one course online, and that number has only grown since. There is still resistance to the idea of online education, with some perhaps irrationally convinced that there's less value in an online course than there is in an in-person course, but the growth of technology that can put people in the same room at the same time speaking face-to-face over a broadband connection may go a long way in changing that.

Between Google's standing in the field, the well-established foundation presented by Chromebooks and other Google tools, Google may well have just the platform it needs to get more in on the action of education. The market is pretty wide open at this stage of the game, and making education more efficient and wider-reaching is a development that should have plenty of benefit for all. Only time will tell how it all comes out, but there's certainly little downside to consider at this point.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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