November 10, 2021
Google Workspace for Education Timeline: A Successful 3-Year Adoption
Knowing when to take strategic actions will help make for an effective program.
Google Workspace is not just a user-friendly, reliable and secure suite of tools for communication and collaboration. It is a long-term journey for the continued growth and consistent success of administrators, teachers and students. While the path is ever evolving with changes and updates to meet the unique needs of institutions like yours, there are strategic steps Google admins can take each year to avoid technical challenges, establish an efficient adoption process, and optimize their domain for teaching and learning.
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Google for Education Journey: Year One
With the introduction of any new technology, the adoption process plays a leading role in an institution achieving its technical goals. To smooth the bumps in the road, there has to be buy-in across the board. When institution leaders identify and communicate the benefits of the tool, and administrators experience firsthand how it can solve infrastructural challenges, teachers and students also develop user-confidence. The first year should always be geared towards onboarding and discovering solutions for things like diverse learning models, setting configurations and application security.
The beginning Google for Education journey sets the foundation for the future development of the domain. Not many institutions realize that Google Workspace does not come out of the box configured for the education industry or their unique environment. It is important that the admin console is properly configured but, oftentimes, when it is done without expert-level support, Google admins are left with misaligned settings; improper OU structure; an over-abundance of delegated permissions; and security vulnerabilities that affect teaching, learning and safety.
To avoid this, particularly when an institution is brand new to Google, services like the adoption of Google Workspace easier by saving time and resources.
Google for Education Journey: Year Two
After a year of managing the Google Workspace domain and assessing the user experience, institutions can identify the successes with their Google transformation and the challenges their stakeholders are still facing. Edtech consultancies like ours often hear that deploying and redeploying Chrome devices can be tedious, keeping up with Google’s constant app setting modifications can be difficult, and making changes in the system to provide stakeholders with the permissions they need to work and stay safe can be draining.
On the brighter side, by now institutions should have enough qualitative and quantitative data to optimize their digital infrastructure by streamlining tedious processes and onboarding valuable add-ons to solve their problems:
Chrome device deployment: Technology in the classroom has shifted from being a luxury to a necessity. Students really just need the basics: a device that connects to the internet and the web. Chromebooks and other Chrome devices are a popular option for the education industry because they are cost effective and include a full suite of integrated applications for learning. They also have built-in deployment and management features in the Google Admin console. However, the features have limited search parameters, require device-by-device data entry, and don’t allow for seamless bulk actions. This makes it harder to filter devices, query activity history, keep device data up to date, and explore patterns.
Tools like Gopher for Chrome Premium are solid solutions for these issues. Google admins won’t have to individually maintain Chrome devices. They can quickly update and manage fleets of Chromebooks, even remotely. This tool is included in CDW’s Gopher Pack, alongside other solutions such as Gopher for Gmail, Gopher for Users, Gopher for Groups, and the latest, Gopher for Drive.
Google Classroom management: Google Classroom becomes a well-used eLearning application during an institution’s Google journey. It provides teachers and students with integrated access to other Google apps such as Docs and Meet, all in one place, and enables communication and engagement from anywhere. It is beneficial for in-person, hybrid and remote models, but a reported pain point is the set up and management of the classes. Google Classroom does not seamlessly sync with student information systems (SIS), so at the beginning of the academic year teachers have to create their classes, share a “join code” with students, and then spend time making sure they all complete the enrollment process.
Little SIS Premium, a flexible cloud-based tool that synchronizes SIS rosters with Classroom classes, simplifies this. Teachers will no longer have to manually roster their Google Classroom. The tool will automatically create classes based on SIS data, and it even allows for the assignment of co-teachers and substitutes.
Stakeholder communication: Communication is the key to a successful institution-stakeholder relationship. Administrators and teachers most often email to connect with parents and students. But calling or even texting on a phone often reaps greater benefits of timely responses and building camaraderie. Most institutions are still using a desktop telephony system, which becomes useless in a learning continuity as they strategically or abruptly transition to a hybrid or remote model. As the education space changes, so should how stakeholders communicate with each other.
Google Voice integrates with the Google Workspace workflow to ensure stakeholders stay connected on a reliable phone system. It has even proven to be a crucial addition to the learning continuity plans that should have been formulated after an institution has adopted Google. Administrators and teachers can communicate with each other, students and parents via a desktop phone or cellular and computer devices from anywhere without having to use their personal phone numbers.
Security protocols: Google Workspace enables more students to use the internet to their academic advantage. However, not every student is mature enough to develop a positive digital footprint without guidance. At this point in the journey, institutions may have handled instances of cyberbullying, identity theft and unsuitable websites and will have recognized the need for an end-to-end security solution to avoid any additional problems.
With partner tools like Securly, institutions can transform how they keep students safe while online. It allows Google admins to monitor student activity, provides customizable settings to block inappropriate content and offers parents the ability to co-manage device use at home.
Maintaining a few of these add-ons in the admin console can require a heavy lift from technical staff who may not be knowledgeable enough for the task if they aren’t caught up on Google news. Another thing to consider is taking a deeper dive into mastering the Google Workspace domain with a first round of training. The Amplified Admin Level 1 Certification Training guides Google admins through admin console basics and key setting configurations to enable them to solve some domain challenges on their own.
Google for Education Journey: Year Three
By now, institutions have witnessed the adaptive nature of Google for Education by navigating regular changes and updates. Due to the frequency of these releases and because of their competing priorities, it can be difficult for Google admins to keep up, resulting in a mismanaged and an insecure domain. Even if technical staff are equipped with the basic knowledge, they need to keep it running, it is time for the operation of the digital infrastructure to be re-evaluated by Google experts.
A Google for Education Audit, which should be conducted every two years or after a significant change in staff or academic model, analyzes existing admin console settings and provides recommendations to address necessary modifications for adoption, usage, security and compliance. After completing the audit, Google admins may want additional training and should pursue a Amplified Admin Level 2 Certification to properly manage more complex console settings.
Depending on their original subscriptions, at some point institutions will need to renew or even upgrade their Google Workspace editions, add-ons and partner products. As they progress in the Google journey, they will need regular audits of their environment, can use the Collaborative to stay-up-to-date on Google news and continuing education to stay fresh on EDU best practices, and should consider a support contract for proactive assistance through consultancy, project management, technical planning and training with support hours or Support Stacks.
This adoption timeline can still apply to institutions that have been Google Workspace users for a few years or more. It is never too late to remap the Google journey. Institutions should begin with a Google for Education Audit to ensure Google admin console settings are configured for success and with the Amplified Admin Level 1 Certification Training to expand their knowledge on how to maintain them and make the right changes as they on-board additional solutions.
To learn more about how CDW’s Amplified Services can support your institution on its Google Workspace for Education journey or to explore our products and services that can help you get the most out of the Google Cloud, contact an account manager.
Eric Sizemore is a technical specialist. Eric helps create and execute strategies to drive schools’ use of Amplified IT’s services. Using technical understanding, EDU experience and consultancy skills, Eric helps connect schools to the services that most help their staff and students, empowering them on their digital transformation journey. Prior to joining Amplified IT and CDW, Eric spent 8 years in public education as a technology director for both a K12 organization and a career technology center introducing and implementing Google Workspace for EDU across both organizations.