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What is Google Classroom?

Google Classroom
(Image credit: Google)

What is Google Classroom? That's a question that's been asked a lot since school closures forced teaching online faster than educators perhaps felt comfortable moving. This speed is one of the reasons that many teachers have gone for Google Classroom, as an easy-to-use, fast-to-learn, and widely featured online teaching tool.

Notice we've not called this an LMS (Learning Management System), such as Blackboard, as it's not here to replace those solutions, but rather as a complement. That said, many schools have exclusively used Google Classroom as a way to keep educating students remotely during lockdown.

So, you want to know more? You've come to the right place.

What is Google Classroom?

Google Classroom is a suite of online tools that allows teachers to set assignments, have work submitted by students, to mark, and to return graded papers. It, effectively, was created as a way to get rid of paper in classes and to make digital learning possible. This was initially planned for use with laptops in schools, such as Chromebooks, in order to allow the teacher and students to more efficiently share information and assignments.

As more schools have transitioned to online learning, Google Classroom has got far wider use as teachers quickly implement paperless learning as a way to continue educating students. Classrooms works with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar and Gmail, and can be supplemented by Google Hangouts or Meet for face-to-face live teaching or questions.

What devices does Google Classroom work with?

Since Google Classroom is online-based, you can access it in some form from pretty much any device with a web browser. Processing is done at Google's end mostly, so even older devices are able to handle most of Google's resources. 

There are device specific apps for the likes of iOS and Android, while it also works on Mac, PC and Chromebooks. A big advantage of Google is that on most devices it is possible to do work offline, uploading when a connection is found.

This all allows teachers and students to use Google Classroom since, in many cases, they can connect with it via any personal device. 

What does Google Classroom cost?

Google Classroom is free to use. All the apps that work with the service are already free to use Google tools, and Classroom simply conglomerates it all into a centralized place.

An education institution will need to sign-up for the service in order to add all its students and teachers. This is to make sure security is as tight as possible so no outsiders gain access to the information or students involved.

Google does not scan any of the data, nor does it use that for advertising. There are no adverts within Google Classroom or the G Suite for Education system. 

Google Classroom assignments

Google Classroom has a lot of options but, more importantly, it can allow teachers to do more to help educate students remotely. A teacher is able to set assignments and then upload documents that explain what is required for completion, and also provide extra information and a place for students to actually work.

Since students receive an email notification when an assignment is waiting, it makes the process very easy to keep on a time schedule without the teacher having to repeatedly contact the students. Since these assignments can be lined up ahead of time, and set to go out when the teacher wants, it allows for advanced lesson planning and more flexible time management.

When a task is finished, the student can turn in the paper for the teacher to grade. Teachers can then provide annotations and feedback that the student can see.

As of August 2020, Google announced plans for Classroom to allow for the export of grades into a student information system (SIS) making it far easier to use automatically school-wide.

Google offers an originality report feature. This allows teachers to run a check against other student submissions from the same school. A great way to avoid plagiarism.

Google Classroom announcements

Teachers can make announcements that go out to the entire class. These can appear on the home screen of the Google Classroom lander where the students will see it the next time they log in. A message can also be sent out as an email so that everyone will receive it at a certain time. Or it can be sent to individuals who it applies to specifically. 

An announcement can have more rich media added with attachments from the likes of YouTube and Google Drive. 

Any announcement can be set to either remain like a noticeboard statement, or it can be adjusted to allow for two-way communication from students. 

Should I get Google Classroom?

If you're in charge of teaching on any level and are set to make a decision about online teaching tools, then Google Classroom is definitely worth considering. While this isn't a LMS replacement, it is a really great tool for taking the teaching basics online.

Classroom is super easy to learn, simple to use, and works across many devices – all for free. This means no costs for maintenance since there's no need for an IT management team to support this system. It also means you're going to be growing in line with Google's advancements and updates to the service. 

Learn everything you need to know by reading our Google Classroom review.