The idea of the classroom being the only outlet for students to learn from and interact with faculty is almost antiquated, as the development of out-of-the-classroom tools continues to skyrocket.
One of these includes Google’s (News - Alert) (News - Alert) Apps for Education, a version of Google’s online productivity tools geared toward K-12 schools and universities. Since the beginning of the school year, Google said the application has gained a substantial amount of new users – a staggering 2 million on top of its 8 million students, staff, faculty and alumni from a few weeks ago, bringing the total to over 10 million.
Blogger Audrey Watters recently pointed out in a post that more and more school districts are choosing to move to cloud-based offerings such as Google’s Apps for Education, saving these educational institutions a significant amount of money.
Oregon was the first state to take a swing at the program, which Google said it plans to continue as a free offering. By using the application, Oregon school districts were able to save about $1.5 million for e-mail, as well as cut down the budget in hardware and software upgrades since the OS is in the browser.
Also, Howard Chan, director of technology for K-12 public charter schools in San Diego, helped eight schools make the move to Google Apps for Education. According to Chan, this saved the school time and money since e-mail servers did not have to be administered. He also cited the development of new tools such as a Tech Support System using Google Voice and Google Docs.
The service currently offers filtered e-mail, calendar, online documents, video conferencing and website development. Schools are granted their own domain that is managed by IT departments, while the school staff manages the amount and type of e-mail messages that pass through the system.
The three C’s – communication, collaboration and customization – enable faculty, staff and students to work together and learn more effectively, according to Google. Community dialogue is enhanced with hosted e-mail, shared calendars and integrated video chat; students and teachers can share documents online at any time and location via Google Docs and Google sites; and IT systems can be easily integrated with Google.
Microsoft (News - Alert) also offers Live@edu, a similar suite of online productivity tools for students and faculty. According to a recent article, Google's Apps for Education is slightly behind Microsoft's Live@edu, which has close to 11 million users.