Google has announced a batch of updates to its education-focused platforms as it looks to help boost the spread of virtual and online learning.
The updates come as part of a major upgrade that sees the company's G Suite for Education renamed as Google Workspace for Education alongside updates to popular tools such as Google Meet and Classroom.
In all, Google has unveiled more than 50 new software tools aimed at remote learning as the company hopes to help advance education, both online and offline, in the classroom and also in remote learning environments.
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Google Workspace for Education
Google Workspace for Education now has four editions: Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals, Google Workspace for Education Standard, Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Google Workspace for Education Plus.
Education Fundamentals and Education Plus are already available, while the Education Standard and the Teaching and Learning Upgrade versions will be unveiled in April.
According to Google, 170 million students and educators are using Google Workspace for Education worldwide to create, collaborate and communicate.
Google Classroom, which lets teachers to create, distribute and evaluate assignments for students, is receiving the biggest upgrade, including add-ons that allow students to download and use various third-party ed-tech tools.
The add-ons feature will be made available later this year for Education Plus or Teaching and Learning Upgrade users only.
Teachers can now create online classroom area from where they can manage all of the documents their students need, with files stored in Google Drive and can be edited using Google tools.
Teachers will also get more tools for tracking student engagement so they can see who is progressing and who is falling behind, and the Google Classroom app will be updated to enable students with slow or intermittent internet connections to work offline, review assignments, open files and write assignments in Google Docs, even when they’re not connected to the web.
Google Meet control
Google Meet is another tool with Google Workspace for Education that enables teachers and their students to interact face-to-face over a video call.
Google says that its main priorities in terms of education is to make sure that online meetings are safe and secure and that students can stay engaged, and to that end Google Meet is gaining several new features.
Teachers will soon have the option to end meetings for everyone on the call, preventing students from staying on after the teacher has left — including in breakout rooms.
Google is also rolling out over the next few weeks the “mute all” option to help teachers keep class on track. And soon enough, teachers will also be able to control when students can unmute themselves.
In the coming months, educators using tablets or mobile phones to teach will also have access to key moderation controls, like who can join their meetings or use the chat or share their screen, directly from their iOS or Android devices.
To help support these upgrades, Google will also launch more than 40 new student Chromebook devices, including a number of convertible models that can function as both a laptop and a tablet device, with a stylus, touchscreen and dual-cameras.
This should help students take notes, edit videos, draw and record screencasts as they learn.
The new Chromebooks will also have more accessibility features for students with disabilities, including a new screen reader tool called ChromeVox.
Google has also come up with data storage policy changes for its education customers, offering schools and universities with a baseline of 100TB of pooled cloud storage shared across all their users.
The company says this is more than enough storage for over 100 million docs, eight million presentations or 400,000 hours of video.
This policy will go into effect across all Google Workspace for Education editions for existing customers in July 2022 and will be effective for new customers signing up in 2022.
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