Cheeky Google is stomping all over what has until recently been an exclusive Microsoft stomping ground. Well, nearly exclusive. Google has just announced the release of Google Classroom for anyone that is currently using Google Apps for Education.
Classroom is a collaboration tool that enables students keep track of what assignments are due, enable teachers to track what is happening in the physical classroom and provide direct, real-time feedback to students on their progress.
So who cares? Apart from its use for students who may have difficulty tracking schoolwork, at face value it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal. And indeed it isn’t, until you put into the context of the ongoing battle between Google and Microsoft for dominance in the productivity suite market.
It was originally released on a trial basis in May, but with the new school year starting soon, Google has made it generally available to Apps for Education users.
Classroom is designed to help teachers create and collect assignments and includes features like the ability to automatically make a copy of a Google Document for each student. It also creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student to help keep everyone organized,” Google explained on the Education website.
Students can keep track of what’s due on the Assignments page and begin working with just a click. Teachers can see who has or hasn't completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom.
However, there is more to it that just simple concern for a students’ wellbeing. Firstly it dovetails nicely with its Chromebooks for Education release. According to a statement from Google in July, Google sold more than one million Chromebooks in schools in the second quarter of this year alone.
This sales performance is unlikely to change any time soon as tied into Chromebook for schools is the promise of free replacements for Chromebooks that stop working, cutting out one of the big costs that have been hindering the placement of Chromebooks in schools.
Microsoft, which has also released a range of laptops that are targeted at the lower end of the market, but it doesn’t offer this after-sales promise which gives Google an edge here that will be difficult to match.
Goolge also has a number of other products and apps that promote the use of Android tablets through makes it easy to find the apps, books, and videos that bring learning to life.
Google and Microsoft
However, for a sustainable business perspective the introduction of apps like Classroom, and other Google apps, into schools is one way of securing a customer base for Google Drive for the future, the thinking being that if you get them young you’ll get them for life.
While Google has had Apps for Education, Microsoft has also been pushing its Office 365 into schools with some considerable success. Microsoft released Office 365 for Education a year after the release of the Office 365 for Enterprise to replace its Live@edu product.
To give users a chance to transition - - nothing like discontinuing a product to lose users - - Live@edu was made available for 18 months to ease the transition for its estimated 22 million users across 130 countries.
That was in June 2013, which means that, at least in theory, Live@edu should be available until Christmas after which schools will have to move to Office 365. Both the migration and the basic technology, including email, calendar, Office Web apps, Lync Online and SharePoint Online are free. Third-level institutions will have broader options similar to Office 365 Enterprise.
The bottom line, from all this, is that schools have, in recent years, become another battle ground between Google and Microsoft for productivity dominance. If Microsoft’s Office 365 for Education is pretty cool, Google for Education with the Drive updates and new releases are equally cool, if different.