For a few years now, SaaS, or software as a service has been challenging business-as-usual in higher education technology. And happily for students, faculty, and institutions’ budgets, Google Apps for Education is leading the way at no cost. Google Apps is built around a set of cloud-based services that include email, hosting, word processing, and file storage and file collaboration tools. The benefit for institutions is clear; Google Apps allows colleges and universities to ‘plug and play’—leveraging valuable technology without huge investments in planning and development, data centers, and IT staff.
With its accessibility, growing popularity, and flexible uses, we think it’s the perfect time to examine the specific services of Google Apps, while exploring the benefits to students and faculty alike.
Gmail. This ubiquitous email system provides users with up to 30GB of storage and the organizational elements to keep everything straight—all without cumbersome advertising. Gmail also offers tools for students to chat with each other through text, voice, and video. Instructors can use these features to see who’s online and connect with them instantly, or leverage the admin controls to limit certain services.
Calendar. Google Calendar is integrated with Gmail and allows students and faculty to share schedules, arrange meetings and events, and manage RSVPs. Google Calendar works with other calendar services without issue and streamlinesschedule andevent management between systems.Permission and privacy controls let users balance work, school, and social itineraries with security priorities.
Drive. With Google Drive, users create, share, edit, and control versioning of documents in a single location. Students and instructors can share files with an entire group, a single user, or other constituents. Each user receives up to 30GB of space at no charge and more space is available for a nominal fee. Further, Drive’s functionality is enriched by the following document creation tools:
- Docs. Docs allows users to create content-rich documents and collect feedback on them from other users.
- Sheets. Also part of Drive,Sheets is a spreadsheet creation tool that lets users to track projects, review data, and share results. With its flexible features, students can filter information, embed charts, and use pivot tables to manipulate and present data in a number of ways.
- Slides. The third document-creation tool within Google Drive is Slides, a presentation software app. Slides supports video, animation, and various slide transition options to engage with audiences in a more dynamic way. Presentations can be shared with broadly on the web, or distributed to a smaller network of students or faculty.
Sites. Templates on Google Sites let students create project web sites without needing to learn code and administrators can manage site access and permissions across an institution. This app complements Slides as an ideal to way to present more complex information and let users choose how deeply they’d like to explore it.
Vault. Designed for effective and efficient email archiving, Vault lets users store email and chat conversations indefinitely, set retention permissions, and retrieve saved information quickly. As you might guess, Vault is a particularly valuable in supporting legal logistics such as audits and compliance documentation.
Google Apps for Education doesn’t end here. Additional tools include Apps Marketplace, Google Moderator, YouTube for Schools, and nearly a dozen other peripheral services. But all of these can’t be fully appreciated without first appreciating what makes it all work so seamlessly—the cloud. Cloud computing is often touted as the biggest technology advancement since the silicon chip or the Internet, a reputation that it promises to earn over time.
Though its growth has been a bit lower-profile, the promise that cloud computing represents is one of accessibility. By delivering software and storage over the Internet through a modest pay-per-use pricing structure, the cloud allows individuals, small businesses, and institutions of all sizes to access world-class tools that have traditionally been reserved for big players with even bigger budgets. The licensing fees, the onerous personnel costs, the hardware and real estate investments, and the security risks all become part of an outsourced and offsite service. The result? A significantly leveled tech playing field where software can be applied in new and innovative ways.
Though we may not think about in quite this way, Google Apps for Education is really delivering packaged cloud services. And in the process, it’s changing the way students create, learn, and interact with each other and with faculty. The real revolution will come when we see how these tools promote engagement and efficient learning over time—and discover how new generations of services make education even more mobile and responsive.
At Enrollment Builders, our team of professionals offers a range of services designed to help schools reach and retain students, grow programs, and leverage new technology for the benefit of students and faculty. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us at 513-518-7824 or request information here.