First, let’s clear up some confusion. Google recently announced they will now be charging a fee for their Google Apps for Business services. But, no need to worry. Google Apps for Education will remain free to schools and universities. And even with the “no cost” model, Google continues to add bells and whistles to current apps in addition to new offerings.
Just last month, Google+ opened up its availability to all schools using Google Apps for Education (previously, only verified higher education institutions could access this service). Now, a greater number of educators and students will have the opportunity to communicate through Google’s Social Media site and utilize one of its more popular features, Google+ Hangouts. The “Hangouts” allow for face-to-face live video meetings from any device (phone, computer, tablet, etc.) with an internet connection and camera. Previously, this feature allowed for up to 10 participants, but that limit has recently been increased to 15. So, let’s say a professor temporarily is working on a project out of the country, but still wants to keep up the class momentum and be readily available to students. He or she can still meet with a group of students from anywhere in the world using this technology. Or, maybe a weekly study group wants to continue meeting over the Thanksgiving holiday, but some participants plan to be out of town. No problem – the study group can still be held through the Google+ Hangout. The options are virtually endless!
Latest Google Drive Feature
The introduction of Google Drive earlier in the year allowed for a more flexible use of Apps and cloud storage options. Educators and students now share more than just documents. Lesson plans, class projects, photos, videos, lectures – you name it – can now be stored and backed up on Google servers and remotely accessed from anywhere at any time from any device. Starting December 11th, users will now have the ability to insert files directly from Drive into Gmail without leaving Gmail. And, are you ready for this? Google Apps users can now attach and send files up to 10GB in size from Drive through Gmail.
Although it does take some time to get accustomed to the total online immersion aspect of Google Apps, the interface, ease of use and Chromebook capability make Google Apps not only an attractive option, but an affordable one. Chromebooks differ from traditional PCs and Macs in that they are designed specifically for use with Google Apps. They boot up almost instantly, surf the internet quickly and update automatically. Their thin size makes them very portable and their lower price point is designed not to break the budget.
The key to optimizing your schools use of Google Apps is to keep up with the new features which are continually being added. Overall, Google Apps provides a reliable, affordable, user-friendly platform for educational institutions.
Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications on behalf of a number of companies, including Spanning.com. Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.