What Is Google Classroom?

An introduction for parents to Google's online learning area

Google Classroom is a web app that educators can use to manage all the documents they would typically share with and collect from students in the classroom. Developed by Google and provided for free, it uses Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals, which is a suite of Google's productivity and educational apps, to provide a secure foundation for teaching, collaborating, and communicating. Students can use their own Google accounts to upload their own files.

Think of Google Classroom as a centralized dashboard for simplifying all teacher and student communication.

How Does Google Classroom Work?

Google Classroom is a front end, or dashboard, that teachers can use to manage their classroom and all the accompanying documents. In the past, you needed a paid business-level Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) account to use Google Classroom, but now it's available free to all eligible institutions, including homeschoolers,

In addition to using Google Classroom with a free Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals account, there are paid tiers that offer features such as advanced security analytics, video communication, tracking tools, and academic integrity tools. These tiers range from $3 to $5 per year, per student. Visit Google to compare Google Workspace for Education editions.

If you're new to Google Classroom, it's easy to get started. Visit Google Workspace for Education and select Get Started for Free. Follow the prompts to create your free account; you can always upgrade later if you find you have additional needs.

Once you create a classroom, you'll get a class code. Share this with students so they can join the classroom and have access to the documents and information you share there.

What Is in Google Classroom?

Google Classroom makes it easy to share a wide variety of documents with students and let them stay engaged with the teacher, whether that's happening in the classroom or remotely with students accessing from home. Here are its major features:

  • Post announcements. As the teacher, you can post messages and announcements on Google Classroom's front page. These are free-form and unstructured, so they can be simple greetings, motivational statements, assignment reminders, grade postings, or anything else you need to communicate. 
  • Make assignments. Google Classroom is a comprehensive tool for making class assignments. You can use Google Docs to upload files students will need to perform the assignment, post the rubric and deadline, and any other information you need to covey. Students get notifications of the assignments and can post their completed assignments to Google Classroom when they're done. 
  • Conduct tests and quizzes. Teachers can create quizzes and post them. Google provides a lot of flexibility; quizzes can be any length and complexity, with options for multiple choice and short answer, for example. 
  • Serve as a document library/repository. Google Classroom serves as a friendly front-end to Google Drive, so you can make documents available to your students this way. 

All Google Workspace for Education editions include the full suite of Google apps and Classroom apps, including Docs, Drive, Gmail, Calendar, Meet, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Assignments, Sites, Groups, and Admin.

How Google Classroom Improves on Paper-Based Classrooms

Google Classroom has a number of compelling features that make it a smart alternative to a more traditional paper-based curriculum. 

  • It's available wherever students and teachers are located. With students increasingly learning remotely from home, educators can stay actively engaged with students no matter where they are. There are mobile versions of Google Classroom for iOS and Google Classroom for Android in addition to the web-based version. 
  • It can test for originality. With plagiarism a constant concern in the classroom, Google Classroom has the ability to report on student work and indicate if it appears to reuse wording from a different source. 
  • It offers centralized grading. Google Classroom can manage student grades and make this information available to both teacher and student. When student assignments are turned in, teachers can return assignments to students for additional work and selectively allow students to revise assignments and turn them back in again. 
  • Remote students can use Meet for face-to-face education. Each classroom can have its own unique Google Meet code, which allows teachers to set up video sessions with students within Google Classroom. 

More Google Classroom Features

New updates to Google Classroom in 2021 include:

  • Integration with other online learning tools through add-ons
  • Advanced scheduling with SIS roster syncing
  • Audit and activity logs for administrators
  • Tools for tracking student engagement
  • Rich text formatting options (bold, italics, etc.)
  • Multilingual plagiarism detection
  • Export grades directly to your school information system
  • Upload and edit multiple images at once
  • Students can work offline
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