Google announced today a new education category in its Google Apps Marketplace. You can read about the "20 applications from 19 vendors" at this link, watch the video below, and decide for yourself if this is a big deal in our world?
This is definitely progress for Google, but only a first step. The 20 apps seem to have limited utility and reach in higher ed. Whatever the Blackboard Google app turns out to be could be interesting (integration with Google Docs? single sign-on?), but we will have to wait-and-see.
Google's announcement of this new education category provokes, I think, some more fundamental questions about Google and higher ed:
Will Google take any risks in higher ed?
I'm increasingly worried that Google has become too big and too advertising driven to be a positive disruptive force in higher ed.
Who at Google is higher ed focused, and has enough juice within the company to push for new (and risky) investments and services in education?
The engagement of Google's people with higher ed has been almost totally around their Apps for Higher Education offering. These services might be great, but they are not focussed on fundamentally altering how higher ed is produced, delivered, and funded. Google needs a higher ed Vint Cerf. Google needs a bunch of employees who are embedded in the higher ed culture, and are able to communicate, collaborate and experiment with the higher ed teaching and learning community.
Will Google engage in a public critique of U.S. higher ed?
Ed tech companies are way too polite and too deferential to the higher ed community. We like it when you tell us what we are doing wrong. We like it when you tell us where we can do better. Google is in a great position to say loudly and publicly what is wrong with the U.S. higher ed system, what is right with our system, and how Google can improve things. Where is the higher ed passion at Google?
But to really make improvements in higher ed, to drive up quality and access while driving down costs, Google will need to invest serious resources and take some risks.