Opening up the Google Classroom API. Why this will be driving Google Apps for Education adoption in 2015 and 2016

I wrote a post a year ago about what myself and the other AppsEvents team members saw as the three phases of Google Apps adoption in schools; namely Phase 1=Cost, Phase 2=Collaboration and Phase 3=Chromebooks/Common Core and I've been thinking recently about what the drive to adoption will be in 2015 and 2016.

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Phase 4 will be Google Classroom.... but not for what Classroom is now, but for what it will become by mid 2016.

To take a step back, there were strong rumors at the BETT show earlier in the year that Google would open up the API's for Classroom (for the non techies API's are ways of connecting different applications together, and with an open API other systems can connect to Classroom and share the data held there). It was widely expected that there would be some developer info released about it last month at the Google I/O developer conference.....then finally on Monday to coincide with BETT Google made this announcement that the Google Classroom API's will be open. It's now possible to apply for a developer preview account using this form, then from the July the API will be open to all domains.

Initial criticisms of Classroom centered about it's basic functionality but I believe this was the best starting point for Google. The team looked at how teachers were creating Google Sites for their classes and made Classroom to cover the most common use cases in a simple manner that any teacher could use. They also looked at several 'Google Apps integrated' LMS systems (including CourseDirector which we were proud to be involved in developing) that set up Google Drive integration, so student coursework could be submitted automatically to Drive and shared with the teacher. They followed the 'Agile' development model of releasing a simple version of Classroom quickly then 'iterating' regularly with regular updates.

I'd classify Classroom is a 'bottom up' LMS, meaning individual teachers can use Classroom but there isn't a way to manage it across a school, and for example push out classes to teachers pre-populated with certain themes, formatting and information. I'm predicting one of the first Apps to be developed will be a school wide management solution for Classroom to do just this, and this is when the enterprise LMS vendors will start to take notice of Classroom. Expect to see integrations with many third party school management systems as well.

With the opening of the API's Google would be signaling that they want the third party developer ecosystem to drive things from here and develop tools to extend the power of Classroom. It's fantastic to see what some of the developers who had early access have come up with including rosterSync, which allows admins to sync data from any SIS with Classroom, and Alma which lets schools easily create and sync their class rosters directly to Classroom.

I know from our experience with CourseDirector that Google is inundated with 'feature' requests for functionality that schools want integrated ....everything from an integrated SIS, grade-book, plagiarism checker etc. etc.... the list is endless. I think Google signaling that they want third developers to take it from here is fantastic and it's exciting to see what will come this year and in 2016.

My colleague +James Sayer  is always looking out for the admin angle and it's important to note that Google Apps admins will be able to restrict whether teachers and students in their domain can authorize apps to access their Google Classroom data. I'm off to play with the API :)

About the Contributor

Dan Taylor | Google Certified Education Trainer | Google Apps Certified Admin

Dan Taylor is from the UK and the Director of AppsEvents. He has been involved in the Google Education community since the launch of Google Apps for Education in 2006.

Connect with +Dan Taylor on Google+

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