Colleges and universities find new ways to work and learn with Google for Education

(Cross-posted on the Google for Education Blog.)

Editor's note: In this post, we’re sharing some of the great work that colleges and universities are doing with the help of Google for Education tools. To learn more about Google’s solutions for higher education, come visit us at EDUCAUSE – the largest higher education EdTech event in the US – October 27-30 in Indianapolis, at #1110 in the Expo Hall. We’ll be demoing the latest products with Googlers, administrators, professors and students giving short presentations throughout the week. And if you can’t attend EDUCAUSE, be sure to join our webinar with University of Texas at Austin on November 17th at 2pm EST / 11am PST.

Many higher education campuses are home to tens of thousands of students, thousands more staff, and dozens of buildings and academic departments — not to mention online learners. How do you create community and enable collaboration in academic settings that are the size of small cities, while making it easy for everyone on campus to learn and work together? Millions of students, teachers and administrators at colleges and universities around the world use Google Apps for Education to access their coursework from anywhere, communicate at any time, and share ideas for academic projects. In fact, the majority of U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 universities use Google Apps. Here’s how several major universities have brought professors, students and departments closer together.

Bringing Google’s best solutions to campus 

Introducing new technology tools often means adoption delays and integration headaches. At schools like Georgetown University (case study), where Google is already the top choice of many students and faculty for email and collaboration, using Google Apps for Education for official school business was a painless transition.

The high awareness of Google Apps, and its seamless integration with other systems, was also a deciding factor at North Carolina State University (case study). “For the students, many of whom were already using Google, it really was a no-brainer,” says Sarah Noell, an assistant director in the school’s Office of Information Technology.

Schoolwide solutions unify large campuses 

At the very largest universities, like the University of Michigan (case study) which has 43,000 students, separate schools and departments often choose their own email and collaboration tools — which means there’s no consistent way to share documents or manage email across the vast university community. With Google for Education, Michigan was able to unify all of its 19 schools under one collaborative solution. “When Google Apps for Education was introduced, there was a huge sigh of relief,” says Jeff Ringenberg, a faculty member in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department. “Previously, it was very difficult for students and professors to keep their information synchronized.”

Professors and students work anytime, anywhere 

Not only do schoolwide collaboration and productivity tools unify campuses, they make it easy to tap into course syllabi, reading lists and progress reports from professors. At Brown University (case study), moving from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps meant students no longer needed to carry their laptops around – they were able to choose any device on campus or pull out their mobile phones and immediately be productive. “All you need is a web browser,” says Geoffrey Greene, Brown’s director of IT support. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on your PC at home or on your Chromebook at work; you can do anything from any machine, anywhere.”

The students running Brown Market Shares, a food distribution program, use Google Drive to share meeting agendas and customer check-in sheets. “Using a Google Doc for our weekly meeting agendas, is useful because we can each add items to it before the meeting at any time of the day or night,” says Meagan Miller, an undergraduate student and Brown Market Shares’ communications coordinator.

Security and privacy help research and learning flourish 

With anytime, anywhere access, students and teachers need assurance that their projects can only be accessed by their chosen colleagues. Brown decided to adopt Google for Education in part because the university needed to protect in-progress research while encouraging collaboration from the campus community. The University of Texas at Austin made a similar choice: “What happens in the classroom should stay in the classroom,” says Christy Tran, a student intern working in CIO Brad Englert's group. “Students can trust that they’ll have a safe learning experience.”

Better communication and feedback beyond the classroom 

At UT Austin, home to 51,000 students, it’s not easy for professors to touch base with all of their students face-to-face. Google Apps lets feedback happen outside of class time or office hours. “I may only see students in class three hours a week, but we’re working together and editing classwork all the time, even on weekends,” says Angela Newell, a faculty member of UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business. “It allows us to move projects along much faster, and we can increase camaraderie with students.”

The University of Michigan’s Jeff Ringenberg collaborates with other teachers on his Electrical Engineering and Computer Science course syllabi and exams using Google Docs. “It eliminates the need to send thousands of versions back and forth,” he says. “We’ve streamlined the process of writing an exam, which frees me up to focus on communicating with students as opposed to generating content.”

There are many more stories about colleges and universities that are are re-thinking the ways they learn and work. If you’re in Indianapolis, we hope to see you in the EDUCAUSE Expo Hall at #1110. And if you can’t make it to the conference, be sure to join our webinar with University of Texas at Austin on November 17th at 2pm EST / 11am PST.