The Google Classroom Tease

Why do we keep fantasizing?

May 6, 2014

The announcement of Google Classroom will, as far as I can tell, have no relevance to anything that we are doing in higher ed.

This is a non-higher ed story.

Google Classroom is not aimed at higher education.

Google Classroom is not an LMS.  It does not have a grade center, a discussion tool, an assessment engine, or a way to integrate with a Student Information System. (I think).

Nobody is going to replace an existing campus LMS with Google Classroom.

And yet - we still find ourselves getting just a little bit excited.

There is so so much potential for Google in higher education.

We wonder why Google can’t do for the LMS what it did for online mapping and satellite imagery - take something that was once expensive and scarce and make it free and abundant?   (Yes, I once paid for the Keyhole mapping / satellite service before Google bought it made it free.  Maybe you used to pay for e-mail or online storage).

Google has all the pieces to in place to create a killer learning platform.  

Google could start with the edX codebase and create a robust and flexible open and free SaaS platform.

Google could fold in YouTube as an integrated media management system. (And we are twisting ourselves in knots on our campuses trying to figure out how to manage, publish, and track our media).

Google could bake mobile learning into the Android OS - once and for all skipping the browser.

Google could offer a hardware / software mobile learning package with Chromebook and the Nexus Tablets and Android phones - finally  getting digital learning platforms right by thinking about the hardware and software together.

Google could buy the pieces it needs to facilitate easy rapid authoring, presentation capture, and content creation - such as TechSmith or Panopto or Echo360. (Echo360’s LectureTools would beautifully integrate with the Google Drive Presentation tool).

The economic / business argument for Google prioritizing open and free learning platforms seems clear.  Learning platforms would complement and drive institutions towards Google Apps for Education. Learning platforms would get people into the Google ecosystem. Learning platforms would provide a front-end for the creation and sharing of user generated content, content that could be monetized by search and advertising given the proper user permissions and privacy protections.

Investing in learning platforms today would position Google for the wholesale shift to digital learning that we will start to see in emerging economies. There is little doubt that most the world’s population will leapfrog traditional place-based postsecondary learning to online and mobile learning. This is a business opportunity.

Is higher ed on Google’s mind?  

We really don’t hear too much from Google about how the leadership in the company thinks about higher education.   

We don’t hear too much about how Google thinks they can participate in tackling the iron triangle of higher education challenges: quality, costs, and access.

Whenever something like Google Classroom comes out we are again reminded of the the lost opportunities for Google to participate in the work of improving higher education.


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