Table of Contents
- What is Google Classroom?
- Features of Google Classroom
- Google Classroom integrations
- History of Google Classroom
- How to use Google Classroom
- Google Classroom challenges
- Google Classroom alternatives
What is Google Classroom?
Google Classroom is a free, internet-based collaboration tool developed by Google as part of G Suite for Education for creating, distributing, and grading assignments. With a Google account, educators can use the platform to create a virtual classroom, invite students to attend live instruction, and record students’ grades. The main purpose of Google Classroom is to simplify and streamline the process of sharing files between students and teachers. Documents are stored in Google Drive and can be edited within Drive’s suite of applications, including Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
Google Classroom also encourages parent participation. Teachers can invite parents to the Google Classroom to share summaries of student work and receive automated email summaries of student work and class announcements.
G Suite for Education
Google Classroom is a product in G Suite for Education, a free suite of Google tools and services for schools and homeschools. Google recommends educational institutions sign up for G Suite for Education if they intend to use Classroom, but it’s not required. School IT administrators supervise the suite by supplying school accounts and managing user permissions. Administrators can also place restrictions on how outside applications can access the data of teachers and students within their domain.
When signing up for G Suite for Education, students and teachers receive a school Gmail account when using G Suite for Education. It looks like:
If an educational institution does not support Gmail as their education domain, they can still use Classroom. However, if Gmail is disabled, teachers and students won’t receive email notifications.
Features of Google Classroom
Teachers can create an assignment and turn it into a template, so every student can edit their own copy and turn it back in for grading. Created assignments can be posted immediately, saved as a draft, or scheduled to post later. Students receive an email notification when new assignments are created, complete the assignment, then submit it. After students submit the assignment, they lose edit access. Students can also attach additional documents from the Drive to the assignment.
Teachers can monitor each student’s progress on the assignment by making comments and edits before it’s submitted. Teachers can give a numeric grade, leave comment-only feedback, or both. Teachers can also return assignments without grades. When a teacher grades a page, it syncs between the grading tool, the Grades page, and the Student work page. As assignments are graded, the grade status is color coded:
- Red: Missing work
- Green: Turned in work or draft grade
- Black: Returned work to the student
Announcements are posts with no assignment attached. This can be posted on the class stream, which is the landing page and social hub of the class. If enabled, students can ask questions and share resources here. If students have notifications turned on, they’ll receive an email when an announcement is posted.
The originality report was released in January 2020 and allows educators and students to identify uncited work and unintentional plagiarism. The reports compare a Google Doc file against web pages and books on the internet. If a student runs a report, the teacher cannot see it. Once the assignment is submitted, Classroom automatically runs the report for only the teacher to see.
Classroom has an app for iOS and Android devices. The app allows users to take photos and attach them to their assignments and share files from other apps.
Teachers can conduct live classes virtually through Google Meet. Up to 250 participants can be added, and 1,000,000 viewers can be on a live stream. Live classes can be recorded and watched back later.
Google Classroom integrations
Although Google Classroom is a relatively basic tool on its own, it integrates other apps from G Suite and third-party developers to build a robust collaboration platform. Specifically, it relies on a number of tools to provide teachers with the tools they need to facilitate distance learning, including:
- Gmail: An email platform that organizes Classroom messages alongside other emails.
- Docs, Sheets, and Slides: A set of word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools that support real-time editing and collaboration.
- Forms: A survey tool for creating quizzes and collecting student information.
- Meet: A video conferencing platform for hosting live instruction and 1:1 meetings.
- Calendar: A scheduling tool for keeping track of meetings, classes, and assignment due dates.
- Drive: A cloud-based storage platform for saving and sharing lesson plans, assignments, and presentations.
History of Google Classroom
Google Classroom was originally launched in 2014 as an exclusive tool for school systems. It offered support for teachers and students but required account verification from the broader school administration.
In 2015, Google announced a Classroom API and a share button for websites, which allowed school administrators and developers to further participate in using Google Classroom. In addition, Google Calendar was integrated into the collaboration tool.
In 2017, Google removed the G Suite for Education requirement and expanded the ability to host or join a class to any basic Google account holder. Since the Classroom platform was made available to the public, Google has also released a number of UI updates, customization options, and added widget/integration support.
In 2020, the use of Classroom sharply increased when schools around the world shifted to remote learning due to COVID-19. Google responded by adding several features and updates to Classroom, including:
- 10 additional languages
- Better integration with learning management systems
- Smart correct and auto-compose were added to Google Docs
- Better integration with Google Meet
How to use Google Classroom
As a student
To join a class, sign in on a computer or mobile device. After you join a class on one device, you’re enrolled in that class for all devices. There are three ways to join a class:
With a class link
- Click on the class link your teacher shared. This is normally shared via email.
- Select the account you want to use for Classroom.
- Click join
With a class code
- Your teacher may have verbally given you a 6-7 character code, or otherwise sent it electronically. Once you’ve attained that code, go to classroom.google.com.
- Sign in with the account you want to use for Classroom.
- After signing in, at the top of the screen, click the “+” icon. If you hover over the “+”, it will say Join class.
- Enter the class code.
With an email invite
If your teacher sends you an email invite, you can join the class from the email or from Classroom.
- Open the email account you use for Classroom.
- In the email, click join.
- Go to classroom.google.com.
- Sign in with the account you want to use for Google Classroom.
- On the main Classroom page, each class will be arranged in what looks like cards. On the respective class card, click join.
As a teacher
The basic setup process for Google Classroom doesn’t take long, and the Google Teaching Center offers tutorials and resources for getting started. Below is a step-by-step guide for setting up a Google Classroom:
- If you don’t already have one, create a Google account to access Google Classroom.
- After creating an account, navigate to the main search page (Google.com). In the upper right-hand corner, there is a menu that looks like nine dots arranged in a square. Click on this icon and scroll down and click on the Google Classroom icon, which looks like a chalkboard.
- At the top right of the screen, click the “+” icon. From the drop-down menu, click Create class.
- A message will appear: “Using Classroom with a school/university with students?” This allows teachers to link a class for a school or university network if they’re enrolled in G Suite for Education. Click Agree.
- Next, enter basic details including class name, subject, and section. Only the class name is required. Click Create.
- The class is now created. To personalize the class, you can personalize the banner image that represents the class so students can differentiate between classes on the landing page.
- To create assignments, navigate to the Classwork tab at the top. Select the Create icon and pick what type of work you want to create, such as assignments or quizzes. The difference between quizzes and assignments is that quizzes have multiple choice answers, whereas an assignment requires the student to fill out or create a separate attachment such as a Doc, Slide, or Sheet. Work can also be assigned to specific students once they are enrolled in the class.
- Add students to the class by navigating to the People tab at the top and then entering student email addresses. Once the list is compiled, you can share the class entry code via email.
Google Classroom challenges
One of the biggest Google Classroom concerns among educators, students, and parents is the privacy and security capabilities. Because it’s a free platform to use, many critics of Google Classroom have scrutinized Google’s data collection practices, both the amount of data collected and how it’s put to use. Similarly, a high volume of reports surfaced in 2020 that described anonymous users accessing Google Classroom meetings without authorization from the instructors. Google responded to these reports by announcing that, by default, users must be logged into a Google account to access a Google Classroom meeting. While Google has stricter privacy practices for its educational apps, it can collect student data from tools like YouTube, if they’re enabled.
Student safety is also a concern. Teachers can manage safety concerns with Google Classroom’s security settings, but student behavior problems such as sharing explicit photos, using inappropriate language, and cyberbullying still take place. As Classroom monitoring capabilities can’t stop this activity, it’s largely up to the teacher to identify and stop such behavior.
Many school districts have responded to this behavior by limiting the student’s ability to access features such as creating their own announcements and comments in Classroom, but it also limits collaborative learning and a feeling of community.
While a direct attack on Google’s Cloud Infrastructure is unlikely, or that your district’s data will be exposed, Google uses a shared responsibility mode, meaning that security settings are configured and monitored by a district’s IT administrator. This means security issues normally stem form security misconfigurations, weak passwords, and human error. Potential security issues that users of Google Classroom could face include phishing, malware, account takeover (a form of identity fraud where a malicious third party gains access to a user’s credentials), and data loss.
Google Classroom alternatives
Google Classroom is not the only free classroom management option available for educators. Other options include:
- Edmodo: A communication, collaboration, and coaching platform available for K-12 schools and teachers. Teachers can share content, distribute quizzes and assignments, and manage communication with students, colleagues, and parents. Students and parents can join Edmodo only if invited by a teacher.
- Showbie: A classroom management system that coordinates assignments, feedback, and communication between teachers and students. Students can upload files from their computer or Google Drive.
- Schoology: A virtual learning environment for K-12 and higher education institutions for creating, managing, and sharing academic content. Teachers can manage classes remotely with daily reminders and updates, direct messages to students, and assignments. Assignments include quizzes, forms, links to websites, and discussion forums.