LTC Pilot Uses Google Apps for Education in College of Education Courses July 16, 2012
Karen French and Chad Fulton meet to manage the pilot.
Timing was good, explains Karen French, LTC IDEA Studio Coordinator, when University of Texas at Austin leadership agreed that the use of Google Apps for Education should be piloted in the College of Education. “We were eager to explore alternatives to TeachNet, which needed to be replaced, and UT was considering whether Google Apps for Education would be appropriate for campus-wide use,” explains Karen.
The pilot project began in the spring of 2012. Karen and Chad Fulton, LTC Coordinator for the Laptop Initiative, devised the pilot activities and managed its implementation. More than 60 instructors and teaching assistants and 550 students participated. Most were in teacher education cohorts, but some graduate courses were also included. Both instructors and students received hands-on training, and then used the Google Apps, in conjunction with the Blackboard learning management system, to support critical course activities, such as online collaboration and discussion, group communication, and submission of assignments.
Karen looks through pilot records stored on Google Drive.
Google Apps for Education is a suite of applications that includes Docs, Drive, Mail, Calendar, Sites, and Groups. Groups was a particularly important app for the teacher education courses because it simplified the sharing process. It was easy to send messages to an entire group, share documents, and even work on a document collaboratively.
Karen says the pilot was successful, and Google Apps worked well as a replacement for TeachNet’s communication and collaboration functionalities. “We also learned a lot that will be helpful when considering a campus-wide implementation.”
For example, the set up of student accounts, which was done manually by IDEA Studio staff, would need to be automated if done on a large scale. Accessibility for visually impaired students is also a critical issue that must be resolved before wider implementation is possible. Google Apps can be enlarged on the screen, but screen readers do not work with it.
Chad noted that support of “cloud based” services like Google’s has its challenges. “Google could make changes to the apps but we had no control over what the changes were. We would simply have to do whatever was needed to support those changes in the pilot.”
Google provides analytics on usage of students in the pilot.
The pilot of Google Apps for Education continues with the summer teacher education cohort, and will also be conducted in the fall. The University’s Information Technology Services will help set up the student accounts and groups, and Karen and Chad plan to streamline how the apps are used in the teacher education cohorts so that students have a similar online experience in all their classes. A new learning management system, Canvas, will also be an option to Blackboard.
After the fall 2012 semester, the plan is to continue in the College with the use of Google Apps for Education in conjunction with one of the learning management systems. The University will look closely at the College’s experience in determining when and how a campus-wide implementation of Google Apps could be done. Whatever is decided, the Learning Technology Center will have made, once again, an important contribution to the use of technology in education.
- Google Apps for Education
- IDEA Studio
- Retiring TeachNet a Longtime Aid to Collaboration in the College