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How Google Has Not Taken Over the Higher Ed Classroom

Everywhere, but strangely absent.

May 14, 2017
 
 

This past weekend, the NYTimes ran a big story about How Google Took Over the Classroom

That “classroom” will not be found in higher ed.  

The combination of the Chromebook and the G Suite for Education (Classroom, Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Hangouts, etc.) has indeed take the K-12 world by storm.  Half of all primary and secondary students - some 30 million future postsecondary customers - use Google software and/or hardware in their schools.  

Why hasn’t Google achieved this sort of traction in higher ed?

To be sure, Google on campus is ubiquitous.  

Can anyone point us to data on the numbers and percentages of colleges and universities that have switched to Gmail? I’ve been looking for recent data on the Google vs. Microsoft enterprise e-mail battle - but I can’t find anything recent. Can you help?

Beyond Google for e-mail - everyone in higher ed that I know depends on Google Docs for collaboration. Even those of us on Microsoft campuses still rely on Google Drive to manage shared spreadsheets (Sheets) and documents (Docs). If you worked on a joint presentation with colleagues within or across institutions, my bet is that you did so using Google Slides.  

In higher ed we use Google for surveys (Forms) and for online open office hours (Hangouts). An increasingly proportion of all of our educational media is hosted on YouTube.  And any conversations about mobile learning include discussions of Android.

Google is everywhere in higher ed - but also strangely absent.

Google’s K-12 strategy is clear. Google’s higher ed strategy - not so much.

Or perhaps a better way to understand Google’s higher ed strategy is through the lens of Gmail. My sense is that to the extent that Google thinks about higher education, they think about productivity tools.

The challenge I have is that this productivity strategy is at odds with what  Jaime Casap, Google’s global education evangelist, has to say about Google’s educational aspirations:

“I didn’t want us to be vendors in the space…..I wanted us to be thought leaders, to have a point of view.”

My theory is that the reason that Google feels less present in higher ed is the LMS (learning management system).  The LMS may be, as Phil Hill has so memorably opined, the minivan of education.   A lack of glamour, however, does not mean that the LMS has lost its place as the central edtech platform. 

Every online course - and many residential courses - depends on the LMS.  Google does not have an enterprise level LMS.  Google platforms do not integrate with the SIS (student information system).   Google - for all its centrality to the lives of students, faculty and staff - has done little to advance the learning in higher ed.

What could a postsecondary Google “point of view” look like?  

I’d love to see Google buy both Coursera ($146 million raised over 6 rounds) and Instructure (stock tick INST - market cap of $756 million).  For a cool billion (or maybe $1.5 billion) Google could become, overnight, the dominant player in the learning side of educational technology.  

Google has over $92 billion in cash - buying Coursera and a controlling interest in Instructure seems to me like a bargain when you consider that this would place Google in a position to remake postsecondary education in the 21st century.  

Imagine if open online education could grow without short-term revenue worries, and if the price of an enterprise class LMS could be significantly driven down?  

What if the divide between open and closed online learning environments could be eradicated?

What if mobile learning could finally be given the long-term investment that it needs to bring quality online education (and credentialing) to the entire world?

Google could do all of this.

Now that would be a point of view.

 

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