What remote learning will look like this fall in Meet, Teams, and Zoom

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What remote learning will look like this fall in Meet, Teams, and Zoom

In March and early April, schools flipped from in-school instruction to distance learning seemingly overnight. Now, this fall, teachers using Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and Meet, and Zoom are returning to teach online once again.

How each teacher and school district will use each tool may vary. But we’ve spoken with Microsoft and Google, and teachers who are using these applications, to understand what each “virtual classroom” experience will be like when kids go back to school this fall, and how it will differ from this past spring.

Signing up school districts and teaching students the ins and outs of their respective platforms is an enormous strategic win for tech platforms like Google and Microsoft. Both companies have rolled out a dizzying rush of new features to meet the urgent demands of these users. 

Google’s traditional advantage has been in hardware. Its cheap, managed Chromebooks have served as a vehicle to install Google Classroom and Meet inside American school districts. Part of Microsoft’s benefit is that it can offer a powerful, integrated suite of applications, including Microsoft Office, Teams, and FlipGrid. Finally, there’s Zoom, the videoconferencing service that’s now become ubiquitous with video chat.

Google: Catching up in a big way

In New York State, Zoom offered a number of features that Google didn’t when the school systems suddenly flipped to distanced learning, according to Bill Vacca, Director of Instructional Technology at Mohonasen Central School District in Rotterdam, NY. But among Microsoft, Google, and Zoom, Google was the only company that had filed the requisite certificate to meet Education Law Section 2-d, which governs data privacy—which meant that the state adopted Google’s G Suite for Education, including Google Classroom and Google Meet. Though the others have now filed their certificates, that readiness gave Google a leg up.

Google Classroom student view homepage Google

An example of Google Classroom from a student’s perspective.

Google’s ecosystem is based upon G Suite. Google Classroom provides a hub to direct students to specific tasks, which they can perform with Google Docs, Slides, Keep, and other applications. Meetings are conducted by Meet. Schools can choose from the free G Suite for Education, or else pay for G Suite Enterprise for Education, which adds more advanced features. (Google provides a detailed comparison chart of the two flavors.)

On Tuesday, Google will launch what the company calls The Anywhere School, to introduce Google Classroom’s new features for in-person and remote learning for the fall. Many of Google’s new Meet features will be familiar, as they were announced in June: a 49-person view that will debut in September, custom and blurred virtual backgrounds that can be managed by administrators rolling out in October, alongside breakout rooms and attendance tracking; plus Meet’s new integration with Google’s Jamboard digital whiteboard and more. 

Google Classroom stream Google

A stream of assignments within Google Classroom.

Google plans to announce a few new features as well for Classroom, according to Zach Yeskel, a product manager for Google. Improvements for the To-Do page within Classroom are being added to help see what’s coming up. As a hedge against first-day setup problems, students can be sent a link to join Classroom directly. New administrator dashboards will also be available. 

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