Blog Post

8 things to know about Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a great way for teachers to organise, track and mark assignments. It’s free to use - either for personal use outside of school or, if you’re a teacher, in school (or HE). Anyone who wants to use it at work needs to get their school to sign up. Again, it costs nothing so it shouldn’t be too difficult to persuade your school to let you try it out, even as a pilot.

The focus is on setting tasks - simple questions or assignments - and then tracking student progress. It takes only minutes to create a class and invite students. Classroom is well thought out and has just enough features to streamline your admin without trying to change the way you teach; it makes it easier to do what you’re already doing. The default screen in the class ‘Stream’ - a very familiar newsfeed type view of all the assignments and activities for that class.

Here are 8 things that make Google Classroom genuinely useful:

  1. Categorising and finding assignments is kept simple. You can create topics within a class and then use them to categorise questions and assignments. Topics are a good way to organise questions and assignments. Students can filter a growing list of tasks by selecting one topic.

  2. Tasks can either simple questions (including multi-choice) or ‘assignments’. Those two things are really the same in Google Classroom although I think you’d use them in different ways. Both kinds of tasks let you attach links or upload files. I’d use assignments to longer pieces of work around an uploaded worksheet. Students would upload their responses (all files go into a Class Google Drive folder). Questions would be shorter and answered directly in Google Classroom.

  3. Google Calendar integration. Keeping on top of things is easier because not surprisingly, Classroom integrates with Google Calendar. Students get to see when work is due. They also get notified when work is late. The teacher gets an over of scheduled work across all the different classes they teach.

  4. Feedback to classes and students. You can make comments at class level and at individual student level. The private comments at student level are good way to give feedback and send reminders. Everyone sees class comments - another way to provide feedback and extra clarification to the whole group.

  5. Returning marked work to students. You can return marked work to students and they can see your comments. Again, the notifications that students get are really clear. Returning work in Google Classroom is a lot faster than physically handing back work in class.

  6. There are Google Classroom apps for both IOS and Android. I bet most students will spend 90% of their Google Classroom time in the app, particularly if their teacher only sets the shorter questions. The same app works for the teacher - it makes it very easy to keep tabs on who has submitted work and who needs a nudge. The online ‘markbook’ part of Classroom is one of its best features.

  7. Questions and assignments can be scheduled - so you can plan ahead and not worry about overwhelming students with lots of tasks at the start of a course. I‘d use this feature to get ahead. It’s always easy to forget to set homework when you’re in the middle of a busy term. With Google Classroom you can quickly create a few questions that you can save as draft and then schedule later. You can also reuse questions and assignments from other classes, again that’s a much easier way to stay organised; you spend way less time looking for paper worksheets in filing cabinets.

  8. Keeping parents in the loop. Teachers in schools can use Classroom to connect with parents by automatically sending out email summaries. Parents can be invited to join. They can then set their own preferences - how often they receive emails.

Try Google Classroom if you haven't used it before. It’s free, very easy to use and has features that are focused on reducing teacher admin. It’s a great example of technology in the education space that’s trying to add value by reducing time spent on admin.