A Review of Google Classroom, a New LMS

In July, Google jumped in to the online education race to create the perfect learning management system (LMS) with Google Classroom. The early reviews agree – Google Classroom is a nice, convenient addition to the LMS industry.

Classroom is available to anyone with Google Apps for Education, a free suite of productivity tools including Gmail, Drive, and Docs. To see what Classroom looks like from the inside, check out this slideshow prepared by Meg Tufano at McDermott MultiMedia Group.

This new LMS features a clean, user-friendly interface, which is split between announcements and assignments. It’s easy to add students and build a class roster. You can post attachments, YouTube videos, or hyperlinks to other webpages. You can also add assets from Google Drive – in fact, it’s super easy to drag and drop from Drive.

But here’s the catch. You can’t use your personal Drive. In fact, you can’t log in with your personal Google ID. Rather, you have to set up a separate login with Google Apps for Education. As a result, it forces you to keep your assets in a separate Drive dedicated to teaching. But what if a friend or colleague shares a Google Doc or a photo with you through your personal email address? This split seems like an unnecessary hurdle for teachers to leap.

The commenting system is much smarter. Students can comment on specific points within a picture. That must be useful when teaching geography. Or anatomy. When a student makes a great comment, you can create a unique URL to link back to that comment later. This feature is incredibly helpful for keeping the conversation alive.

Teachers will find assignments easy to create and manage. You can see all your assignments at a glance, along with how many students have turned in each one. Classroom’s system for assigning due dates is especially user-friendly. When you want assignments due on the same day each week, you don’t have to enter each date one-by-one. But Classroom hasn’t yet integrated with Google Calendar. That’s a problem.

Some early reviewers have wondered why they can’t create groups for small group projects. Also, it’s not clear whether Google Hangouts have been integrated, or will be soon. It would be nice to have an easy way to set up a Hangout within the LMS to encourage collaboration.

With more and more students earning online degrees, until Google adds more features, it’s hard to see how Classroom will compete with established LMS providers like Moodle. In short, Classroom is clean and efficient, as we’ve come to expect from Google applications. It streamlines much of a teacher’s workload. But ease of use does not make up for Classroom’s limitations.

 

Written by Michael Mussman
Michael is Editor of Forward Thinking, the Ashford University blog.

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