Google has announced a slew of updates for its virtual classroom platform Google Classroom and video conferencing platform Google Meet to improve online education amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Announced during the Learning with Google event that took place earlier today, the software giant says that over 50 new features are coming across its education products that aim to enhance e-learning. Notably, Google is renaming G Suite for Education to Google Workspace for Education, similar to how it renamed G Suite to Google Workspace last year. The rehashed Google Workspace for Education essentially includes existing services like Classroom, Meet, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more with some tweaks.
Google also said that the free edition G Suite for Education would be renamed to Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals, while there are three new paid plans for institutes that require more powerful security tools and productivity features. These are namely Google Workspace for Education Standard, The Teaching and Learning Upgrade, and Google Workspace for Education Plus (formerly G Suite Enterprise for Education). The company adds that users with Google education plans won't need to do anything, as changes will happen automatically. Google said it would contact impacted institutions in the coming weeks to discuss the storage options they might need.
In terms of features, the Google Classroom app for Android will get offline support later this year, allowing students to start their work, open Drive attachments, review and write assignments without an internet connection. The Android app will also get an improved grading feature to improve communications between students and teacher over assignments. Teachers using Education Plus or Teaching and Learning Upgrade will soon be able to integrate their favourite third-party EdTech tools and content directly into the Classroom interface, without any extra log-ins. The 'Classroom add-ons' feature will roll out later this year.
Google Meet will also support multiple hosts later this year to make it easier to partner with others helping facilitate the classroom. All hosts will have access to moderation controls, so they can share the load of managing who can join, controlling who can use the chat or present their screen, and more. Google will add a mute all button, and give the full control to moderators.
Speaking about India, Google says that the Teach from Anywhere hub launched in April last year has helped more than nine lakh people to get started with remote teaching amid the pandemic. The initiative aimed to improve online education by training teachers and other stakeholders. The company adds that over five lakh teachers have attended these webinars to learn digital tools for pedagogy and skills development, to date.