The Chromebook requires a Google LMS (learning management system) if Google hopes to significantly displace Microsoft or Apple in higher ed.
I say "Google LMS", because I don't believe that existing LMS's, in conjunction with the current Chromebook applications, offers students enough capabilities to ditch their MacBooks or Windows laptops. The Chromebook will ship with offline versions of GMail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar - but the lack of an offline and fully integrated LMS will limit higher ed adoption.
This is what I'd do if I ran the Education Group at Google (do they have such a group? Who runs it?):
- Figure out the best way to create a Google LMS. Maybe this is a build from scratch project. Perhaps buying an existing platform makes sense. Instructure's Canvas LMS might be very appealing. The Google LMS will need full offline capabilities, synching when connected.
- Fully integrate this new Google LMS into the Google Apps suite (including YouTube).
- Beef up some of the Google Apps for education. I'd start with Google Presentation, building in voice-over recording and presentation capabilities for rapid authoring.
- Partner with the Open Education providers, like M.I.T. and Carnegie Mellon, to develop a suite of world-class courses available for free educational use in the new Google LMS.
- Build the Google LMS from the ground-up to work with mobile (Android) as well as through the browser.
These ideas, to leverage the Chromebook and the new Google LMS to create a new higher ed learning platform, don't really have much to do with the U.S. education market. They have everything to do with China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, etc. etc. - countries that will need to create vast new higher ed infrastructures over the next 20 years.
The emerging economies will give us a new, non-campus, non-aggregated, low-cost, model of post-secondary development and delivery. Google, or whoever figures this out, has the opportunity to contribute, catalyze, and ultimately profit from this future.
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