I have encountered many strong opinions about Google Classroom. The overwhelming majority of these are positive like my own. However, some colleagues dismiss it by saying it is not a Learning Management System (LMS).
Even the leading expert on Google Classroom, Alice Keeler, says it is not an LMS. She argues that Google Classroom is neither an LMS nor a CMS (Content Management System) because it does not automate course enrollment, have a grade book, or house content.
Alice Keeler is right. Google Classroom is not an LMS, it’s better.
She goes on to define Google Classroom as “Google Drive Management.” This description is accurate. Google Drive Management is more valuable to students and teachers than what an LMS provides because Google Apps for Education (GAFE) are essential for collaboration and feedback. Students hone future-ready skills when they collaborate and give and receive feedback in the Google ecosystem. Google Classroom automates the distribution of Google Drive files. Conventional LMSs force teachers and students into time-wasting workarounds to access and share Google Drive files.
Teachers are better off working in Google Drive than investing time building courses in an LMS the district might ditch a few years down the road. Even if Google Classroom goes out of vogue, all teacher files will still live in Drive. I know a teacher who has invested countless hours putting multiple choice questions into Moodle. If only he used Google Forms for assessment instead! Flubaroo would easily grade his assessments and he could copy and paste questions into Google Docs or Microsoft Word if he needed. Now his hard work is invested in an LMS that is falling out of favor.
One drawback of Google Classroom is its lengthy Facebook/Twitter feed that makes reviewing old content difficult. LMSs have modules that make going back easy for students. Play around with them in your school’s LMS. They are organized like traditional file cabinets, not like 21st-century tools. Google Classroom is user-friendly and intuitive for students and teachers. But what about organizing units?
Try this simple solution suggested to me by educator Todd Nasife at EdcampQC: make each unit it’s own Google Classroom. This is brilliant. It makes accessing old units simple for students. Look at this mock-up of what it would look like for a World History class:
Here is how to do it:
Most students and teachers I work with like Google Classroom. I decided to poll my 7th-grade and 8th-grade literacy block students to generate some (admittedly crude) data about Google Classroom and LMSs used in my building. Check out their responses.
Not a single student chose Google Classroom as their least favorite!
One final reason Google Classroom is better than traditional LMSs is its ability to grow and evolve. When released in August 2014, some complained that Google Classroom lacked integration with Google Calendar and the ability to co-teach classes. Since then, it has added both capabilities and so much more in less than 15 months:
- Saving drafts
- Questions (great for class discussions)
- Google Form integration (no more cutting and pasting!)
- Moving posts to the top of the stream
- The ability to upload an image for the class
- The Google Classroom mobile app
- Reusing posts
- The gorgeous redesign of the assignment view for teachers
- The ability to archive classes
Google Classroom will continue to grow and respond to teacher and student needs. These improvements are faster and more plentiful than growth in traditional LMSs.
Care to discuss Google Classroom and other LMSs further? Comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thanks for reading.