Productivity Tools

G Suite for Ed Gets New Name and Pile of New Features

Google announced a spate of changes to its education offerings, including a renaming of its education bundle of productivity applications and a limit to free storage for schools and colleges. Security and engagement updates are also being added to the education version of Google Meet, and Google Classroom will see enhancements later this year. The announcements came during a 90-minute virtual session on "learning with Google." Replays of the event will be available for viewing by registered users after Feb. 19, 2021.

A New Name

G Suite for Education has been renamed. Starting today, it's known as Google Workspace for Education. There will be four editions available, one free, three paid, and all of which will include:

  • Gmail;
  • Calendar;
  • Meet;
  • Docs;
  • Sheets;
  • Slides;
  • Forms;
  • Classroom;
  • Assignments;
  • Sites;
  • Groups;
  • Drive; and
  • Admin.

The free edition is now called Google Workspace for Education "Fundamentals."

The "Standard" edition, $3 per student per year, adds a security center; device and application management; logging for Gmail and Classroom analytics; and audit logs for Drive, devices and LDAP. The company said this edition would be available soon.

The "Teaching and Learning" upgrade, $4 per license per month and also expected soon, includes all of that as well as a Meet capacity of 250 participants and live streams up to 10,000 viewers; additional engagement features for Google Meet, such as Q&As, polls and breakout rooms; and plagiarism checking across a private repository of student work.

For $5 per student per year, Google Workspace for Education "Plus" incorporates all of the previously mentioned functionality as well as the ability to livestream up to 100,000 viewers, syncing of rosters to Classroom from any student information system, a personalized cloud search for the given domain and faster technical support.

A Storage Limit

On the storage front, Google is imposing a new pooled storage model that the company said would work for "99 percent of institutions." Under the new policy, schools and universities will get a baseline of 100 terabytes of pooled cloud storage shared across all users. That's sufficient, according to Google, to storage 400,000 hours of video or more than 100 million documents. The new limit will be placed on all Google Workspace for Education editions for existing customers in July 2022 and will be effective for new customers signing up in 2022.

To help IT organizations "adapt" to the new model, Google stated that it would provide tools for identifying and managing storage use "far in advance of the policy going into effect." The company said it would also reach out in the next few weeks to those institutions that it expected would be affected by the change to discuss their options.

Updates to Google Meet

Google's videoconferencing program, Meet, is gaining functionality to increase session security and student engagement. Among the updates are these:

  • Teachers and instructors will soon be able to end meetings for everybody on the call, to prevent students from staying on after the educators has departed, including in virtual breakout rooms.
  • A "mute all" feature will allow the educator to get everybody's attention immediately, and at some point, meeting hosts will be able to control when students can unmute themselves.
  • People delivering instruction from iOS or Android tablets or mobile phones will gain access to moderation controls they currently lack, such as deciding who can join their meetings or use the chat or share the screen.
  • Meetings generated through Google Classroom will force students to wait to join the session only after the teacher has arrived, and Meet will know who's on the Classroom roster, so only teachers and students in the class will be able to join.
  • All instructors in Classroom will be designated as a meeting host by default, enabling multiple teachers to manage the same class. Later this year, meetings not started through Classroom will also be able to accommodate multiple hosts.
  • Later this year, the Admin console will be getting some additions too. Leaders will be able to set policies for who can join a school's video calls and decide whether people from their school can join video calls from other schools. This feature will make it easier for organizers to set up student-to-student connections across districts, professional development opportunities for educators and external speakers visiting a class.
  • The Admin console also now includes the Google Meet audit log, and those logs will get some additional information, such as external participants' email addresses. Schools using the Education Standard or Education Plus versions will also see improvements in the investigation tool, such as the ability for admins to end any meetings within their schools.
  • On the engagement front Meet users will soon be able to express their reactions with emojis, and educators will be able to designate when the emojis are acceptable to use.
  • For Meet users working on Chromebooks, Google has made performance improvements, such as optimizing audio, video and reliability.
  • Teachers using the Teaching and Learning Upgrade or Education Plus edition will be able to set up breakout rooms ahead of time in Google Calendar, without having to wait until the class session begins.
  • Later this year, the company will be adding the ability to generate meeting transcripts, which can be shared with students as extra notes or to help those who were absent.

Classroom, Google's classroom management application, will see some updates on its own as well during the year:

  • Teachers and instructors using the Plus edition or Teaching and Learning Upgrade, will be able to go into a marketplace to choose education technology programs and content and then assign it directly to students from within Classroom, without forcing extra log-ins. Administrators will also be able to install add-ins for teachers in their domains.
  • Classroom audit information will soon be available directly in the Admin console, to help them sort out problems, such as who removed a given student from a class or archived a class on a given date.
  • Admins using the Standard or Plus versions will be able to schedule exports of Classroom audit logs to BigQuery, where they can get adoption and engagement insights.
  • Teachers and instructors will be able to view statistics about student interaction in Classroom.
  • The Classroom Android app will be updated to work offline or with intermittent connectivity. Updates will also enable students to attach and submit photos of assignments more easily, cropped and with adjusted lighting.
  • Teachers and students using the web, iOS or Android will be able to customize Classroom assignments and posts using rich text formatting.

For more about what Google has already built into its suite of education products or intends to add, start with this Google Education blog article.

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