Tag Archives: G Suite

Make “work from home” work for you

In my job at Google, I advise people on how to use their time as efficiently as possible. When working from home, my productivity strategies are even more important because I don’t have the ordinary structure of a day at the office, like commuting to work, walking to meetings, or running into coworkers. When your house becomes your office, you need to learn a whole new routine. 

Getting work done when your teammates aren’t physically with you has been the norm at Google for a while (in fact 39 percent of meetings at Google involve employees from two or more cities). But it might not be for everyone, and many people around the world are now finding themselves in new work situations. So I put together some of my go-to productivity tips—no matter where you’re working—and a few things I’ve learned about how to get it all done from home.

Designate your “spot” where you work (and where you don’t)

It’s easy to pull your computer up to your kitchen table or plop on the couch and start working. But a consistent room, spot, desk or chair that you “go to” every day to work helps your brain associate that spot (smells, sights and sounds) with getting work done. Put up some things you had at your desk, like pictures of your friends or family. Get a new mousepad you love. Stock your go-to snacks on a little shelf. And just as important as creating your "work spot" is determining the areas where you don’t work. Maybe you never bring your computer upstairs or into your bedroom. This helps create mental distance and allows you to relax often even though your work is at home with you.

Use Hangouts Meet like a pro. 

You’ll probably be spending more time on video chat—in our case, Hangouts Meet. Here are a few tricks for Meet at home: lower your video quality when you’re experiencing bandwidth restrictions or delays, dial into a video call but get audio through your phone, andcaption your meetings to make sure everyone can follow. If you’re needing some (virtual) human interaction, set up an agenda-less video chat with your team or friends in the office—it’s not a formal meeting, just time to chat and check in with each other.

Practice “one tab working.” 

If you don’t have a large monitor or your usual screen setup at home, it’s even more important to focus on one Chrome tab at a time. If you’re on a video call from your laptop, minimize all other tabs and focus on the conversation—just like you would put away your phone or close your laptop in a meeting to stay engaged.

Act the part. 

Resist the urge to wake up and start working in bed—it doesn’t help your brain get in the “mood” of being productive. Stick to your usual routines like waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, then “commuting” to your new work space. Staying in your pajamas, while comfortable, will make you feel less like it’s a regular workday and make it harder to get things done.

Play around with your schedule and energy.

The good news about working from home? No commute. Think of this as a time to experiment with alternate schedules and finding your “biological prime time.” If you’re a morning person, try waking up and working on something for a bit, then taking a break mid-morning. If you’re a night owl who prefers to sleep a little later, shift your schedule to get more work done in the later afternoon when you may have been commuting home. Productivity is not just about what you’re doing, but more importantly when you’re doing it.

Working from home does not mean working all the time. 

One of the hardest things about working from home is setting boundaries. Leave your computer in your workspace and only work when you’re in that spot. Pick a time when you’re “done for the day” by setting working hours in Google Calendar to remind people when you’re available. Take mental breaks the way you would in the office—instead of walking to a meeting, walk outside or call a friend.

Create your daily to-do list the day before. 

Part of staying on track and setting a work schedule at home is listing out what you have to do in a day. I created a daily plan template (you can use it too!) that helps me create an hour-by-hour plan of what I intend to do. If you fill it out the night before,  you’ll wake up in the mindset of what you need to do that day.

Finish that one thing you’ve been meaning to do.  

Working in the office can be go-go-go and rarely leaves alone time or downtime to get things done. Working from home is a chance to catch up on some of your individual to-do’s—-finish those expenses, brainstorm that long term project or read the article you bookmarked forever ago. Set up an ongoing list in Google Keep and refer back to it when you have pockets of downtime. 

Cut yourself (and others) some slack

Some people only have a one bedroom studio and are spending their days there. Some people have spouses who are working from home, kids at home, or dogs at home (I have all three!). Connectivity might be slower and there might be some barking in the background, but just remember everyone is doing their best to make working from home work for them.

Make “work from home” work for you

In my job at Google, I advise people on how to use their time as efficiently as possible. When working from home, my productivity strategies are even more important because I don’t have the ordinary structure of a day at the office, like commuting to work, walking to meetings, or running into coworkers. When your house becomes your office, you need to learn a whole new routine. 

Getting work done when your teammates aren’t physically with you has been the norm at Google for a while (in fact 39 percent of meetings at Google involve employees from two or more cities). But it might not be for everyone, and many people around the world are now finding themselves in new work situations. So I put together some of my go-to productivity tips—no matter where you’re working—and a few things I’ve learned about how to get it all done from home.

Designate your “spot” where you work (and where you don’t)

It’s easy to pull your computer up to your kitchen table or plop on the couch and start working. But a consistent room, spot, desk or chair that you “go to” every day to work helps your brain associate that spot (smells, sights and sounds) with getting work done. Put up some things you had at your desk, like pictures of your friends or family. Get a new mousepad you love. Stock your go-to snacks on a little shelf. And just as important as creating your "work spot" is determining the areas where you don’t work. Maybe you never bring your computer upstairs or into your bedroom. This helps create mental distance and allows you to relax often even though your work is at home with you.

Use Hangouts Meet like a pro. 

You’ll probably be spending more time on video chat—in our case, Hangouts Meet. Here are a few tricks for Meet at home: lower your video quality when you’re experiencing bandwidth restrictions or delays, dial into a video call but get audio through your phone, andcaption your meetings to make sure everyone can follow. If you’re needing some (virtual) human interaction, set up an agenda-less video chat with your team or friends in the office—it’s not a formal meeting, just time to chat and check in with each other.

Practice “one tab working.” 

If you don’t have a large monitor or your usual screen setup at home, it’s even more important to focus on one Chrome tab at a time. If you’re on a video call from your laptop, minimize all other tabs and focus on the conversation—just like you would put away your phone or close your laptop in a meeting to stay engaged.

Act the part. 

Resist the urge to wake up and start working in bed—it doesn’t help your brain get in the “mood” of being productive. Stick to your usual routines like waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, then “commuting” to your new work space. Staying in your pajamas, while comfortable, will make you feel less like it’s a regular workday and make it harder to get things done.

Play around with your schedule and energy.

The good news about working from home? No commute. Think of this as a time to experiment with alternate schedules and finding your “biological prime time.” If you’re a morning person, try waking up and working on something for a bit, then taking a break mid-morning. If you’re a night owl who prefers to sleep a little later, shift your schedule to get more work done in the later afternoon when you may have been commuting home. Productivity is not just about what you’re doing, but more importantly when you’re doing it.

Working from home does not mean working all the time. 

One of the hardest things about working from home is setting boundaries. Leave your computer in your workspace and only work when you’re in that spot. Pick a time when you’re “done for the day” by setting working hours in Google Calendar to remind people when you’re available. Take mental breaks the way you would in the office—instead of walking to a meeting, walk outside or call a friend.

Create your daily to-do list the day before. 

Part of staying on track and setting a work schedule at home is listing out what you have to do in a day. I created a daily plan template (you can use it too!) that helps me create an hour-by-hour plan of what I intend to do. If you fill it out the night before,  you’ll wake up in the mindset of what you need to do that day.

Finish that one thing you’ve been meaning to do.  

Working in the office can be go-go-go and rarely leaves alone time or downtime to get things done. Working from home is a chance to catch up on some of your individual to-do’s—-finish those expenses, brainstorm that long term project or read the article you bookmarked forever ago. Set up an ongoing list in Google Keep and refer back to it when you have pockets of downtime. 

Cut yourself (and others) some slack

Some people only have a one bedroom studio and are spending their days there. Some people have spouses who are working from home, kids at home, or dogs at home (I have all three!). Connectivity might be slower and there might be some barking in the background, but just remember everyone is doing their best to make working from home work for them.

Make “work from home” work for you

In my job at Google, I advise people on how to use their time as efficiently as possible. When working from home, my productivity strategies are even more important because I don’t have the ordinary structure of a day at the office, like commuting to work, walking to meetings, or running into coworkers. When your house becomes your office, you need to learn a whole new routine. 

Getting work done when your teammates aren’t physically with you has been the norm at Google for a while (in fact 39 percent of meetings at Google involve employees from two or more cities). But it might not be for everyone, and many people around the world are now finding themselves in new work situations. So I put together some of my go-to productivity tips—no matter where you’re working—and a few things I’ve learned about how to get it all done from home.

Designate your “spot” where you work (and where you don’t)

It’s easy to pull your computer up to your kitchen table or plop on the couch and start working. But a consistent room, spot, desk or chair that you “go to” every day to work helps your brain associate that spot (smells, sights and sounds) with getting work done. Put up some things you had at your desk, like pictures of your friends or family. Get a new mousepad you love. Stock your go-to snacks on a little shelf. And just as important as creating your "work spot" is determining the areas where you don’t work. Maybe you never bring your computer upstairs or into your bedroom. This helps create mental distance and allows you to relax often even though your work is at home with you.

Use Hangouts Meet like a pro. 

You’ll probably be spending more time on video chat—in our case, Hangouts Meet. Here are a few tricks for Meet at home: lower your video quality when you’re experiencing bandwidth restrictions or delays, dial into a video call but get audio through your phone, andcaption your meetings to make sure everyone can follow. If you’re needing some (virtual) human interaction, set up an agenda-less video chat with your team or friends in the office—it’s not a formal meeting, just time to chat and check in with each other.

Practice “one tab working.” 

If you don’t have a large monitor or your usual screen setup at home, it’s even more important to focus on one Chrome tab at a time. If you’re on a video call from your laptop, minimize all other tabs and focus on the conversation—just like you would put away your phone or close your laptop in a meeting to stay engaged.

Act the part. 

Resist the urge to wake up and start working in bed—it doesn’t help your brain get in the “mood” of being productive. Stick to your usual routines like waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, then “commuting” to your new work space. Staying in your pajamas, while comfortable, will make you feel less like it’s a regular workday and make it harder to get things done.

Play around with your schedule and energy.

The good news about working from home? No commute. Think of this as a time to experiment with alternate schedules and finding your “biological prime time.” If you’re a morning person, try waking up and working on something for a bit, then taking a break mid-morning. If you’re a night owl who prefers to sleep a little later, shift your schedule to get more work done in the later afternoon when you may have been commuting home. Productivity is not just about what you’re doing, but more importantly when you’re doing it.

Working from home does not mean working all the time. 

One of the hardest things about working from home is setting boundaries. Leave your computer in your workspace and only work when you’re in that spot. Pick a time when you’re “done for the day” by setting working hours in Google Calendar to remind people when you’re available. Take mental breaks the way you would in the office—instead of walking to a meeting, walk outside or call a friend.

Create your daily to-do list the day before. 

Part of staying on track and setting a work schedule at home is listing out what you have to do in a day. I created a daily plan template (you can use it too!) that helps me create an hour-by-hour plan of what I intend to do. If you fill it out the night before,  you’ll wake up in the mindset of what you need to do that day.

Finish that one thing you’ve been meaning to do.  

Working in the office can be go-go-go and rarely leaves alone time or downtime to get things done. Working from home is a chance to catch up on some of your individual to-do’s—-finish those expenses, brainstorm that long term project or read the article you bookmarked forever ago. Set up an ongoing list in Google Keep and refer back to it when you have pockets of downtime. 

Cut yourself (and others) some slack

Some people only have a one bedroom studio and are spending their days there. Some people have spouses who are working from home, kids at home, or dogs at home (I have all three!). Connectivity might be slower and there might be some barking in the background, but just remember everyone is doing their best to make working from home work for them.

Even without internet at home, students can keep learning

If your school is operating virtually as a result of COVID-19, you may be wondering how to continue teaching students who don’t have access to the internet at home, or who only have low-bandwidth access. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep Chromebooks and G Suite up and running even when online access is slow or unavailable. We’ve pulled together ideas for educators and school IT teams who want to encourage all students to keep learning, regardless of their online access. 

For edtech and IT teams: The basics of enabling offline access

Using Chromebooks and G Suite without Wi-Fi or low connectivity is relatively easy, but you may want to enlist your EdTech and IT teams to set up offline access for everyone. Here are the key steps in the process, along with useful Google support links. 

Keep in mind that people need to go through this process while they still have online access. Consider taking a few minutes to guide students and staff through the process while they’re on school Wi-Fi networks.

Step 1: To help students, teachers and staff work in G Suite offline, the first step is to enable offline access for all users. Your IT or EdTech team can do this from G Suite’s admin console using these instructions for managed devices; in the Features and Applications section of the Admin console, administrators can click “Allow users to enable offline access.” 

Step 2: G Suite users also need to download the Google Docs Offline extension for Chrome Browser, which will allow them to use Google Docs, Sheets, Drive and Slides without online access. 

Step 3: Finally, people should turn on offline access for the G Suite applications they’d like to use before they go offline. Share these instructions for opening G Suite files offline. It’s a good idea to ask students to test that offline access is working properly; help them turn off W-iFi access and try to access a G Suite file. Students can download notes from Slides, Docs, and more, and download the lectures from Classroom and Drive to watch later if they do not have internet at home.

For teachers: Things to do offline

Remind students that even if they don’t have Wi-Fi access away from school, there’s a lot that they can do with their Chromebooks:

For edtech and IT teams: Chrome extensions that work offline

Encourage students to use Chrome extensions that help them do classwork while offline--and ask your edtech or IT team to push out the extensions to all G Suite and Chromebook users. Search theChromebook App Hub or the Chrome Web Store using the “runs offline” option to find useful extensions, or start with Screencastify for recording and editing videos and Soundtrap for recording and saving audio files. 

Tips from teachers

Teachers are already brainstorming creative ways to help students without home online access continue their studies:

Create a “file upload” feature in Google Forms:Eric Lawson, director of technology at Maine’s York School Department, shared that you can create a Google Form directly from Google Classroom. One of the question options in Google Forms is to create a “file upload.” This allows for students to work on podcasts, videos, journals, infographics, etc. and simply submit them to their teacher through a form. On a day where students may not have internet access, they can still work on their project offline on their Chromebooks at home and then submit the file when they have access.

Offer mobile hotspot access:At Grain Valley Schools in Missouri, Kyle Pace, director of technology, plans to remind students that they can check out mobile hotspot devices from the school’s libraries--just as they’d check out books.

If you use Google Classroom and want to make sure students can view assignments offline, follow this YouTube tutorial from Stewart Lee, technology integration coordinator with Anderson School District 3 in South Carolina.

8 tips for getting it done when working from home

With many businesses considering how best to keep teams connected when not everyone can be in the same location, we’ve been asked by a number of our customers for recommendations for staying productive and on task. Here are some best practices for fostering collaboration when your teams find themselves working remotely.

Set up your team for remote work

Make sure your team has the right tools and processes set up before you transition from working at the office to working from home. Once they’re set up, here are a few extra steps you can take in advance: 

1. Create a team alias to easily stay in touch. An email list that includes all your team members lets you quickly share information, and a chat room can be used for faster-moving discussions. 

2. Check sharing permissions on important documents so collaborators can edit and comment as needed. You might even consider creating a shared drive where your team can store, search, and access files from any device. 

3. Schedule meetings now so you can stay in contact later. Set up calendar invites, create an agenda ahead of time, and attach relevant docs to the invite. It’s also a good idea to make sure everyone is familiar with video conferencing

Keep your team connected and organized each day

Now that your team is set up and everyone’s ready to work from home, it’s important to keep everyone on the same page. Now that your team is set up and ready to work from home, here are some ways to keep everyone on the same page.

4. Hold daily meetings to stay connected with your co-workers. Working at home can be isolating for some, and video conferencing is a great way to keep people engaged. Try to be visible on camera when appropriate, present relevant content, and ask questions to spark conversations. When time zones prevent everyone from joining a meeting, record it—after making sure that participants feel comfortable being recorded!

5. Share goals and updates regularly. Whether it’s through a chat group or in a shared document that everyone updates,  a record of what’s being accomplished is a great way to feel connected, keep everyone up to date, and follow-up on action items. You can also set up an internal site to consolidate important information and resources into a central hub for your team, or to share information with your organization more broadly.

6. Continue to practice good workplace etiquette. Just because your team isn’t at the office doesn’t mean they’re not busy. Check calendars before scheduling meetings, and when you reach out via chat, start by asking if it’s a good time to talk. You can also proactively inform your co-workers of your own availability by setting up working hours in Calendar. That way, if a team member tries to schedule a meeting with you outside of your working hours, they’ll receive a warning notification.

Getting your work done on the Wi-Fi at home

Sharing space—and an internet connection—at home means you might need to be mindful of the needs of others in your household. Here are a few tips.

7. Don’t spend all day on video. There are many tools at your disposal for staying in touch with your team, whether it's a chat room, a shared document, a short survey, or a quick conference call. Pick what works best—especially if you’re sharing an internet connection.

8. Find the right set-up for you. You might need to try a few different configurations before you discover how to stay focused and not distract others. Here are six tips for better video calls including how to turn on live captioning so you can read a transcript of the meeting in real time. 

These are just a few of the ways the G Suite team is thinking about staying focused and collaborative. For more information, watch these videos with tips on working from home, and check out the latest updates in our Learning Center article on tips for working remotely.

Preparing students to learn from home with Chromebooks

As educators and IT administrators prepare for potential school closures due to COVID-19, we’re offering free access to advanced Hangouts Meet features, as well as resources and tips for teaching classes remotely.

School admins can quickly and securely prepare their school's Chromebooks to go home with students. Educators and IT administrators can also use our new resource hub to find materials, resources and training—and we'll continue adding to this as additional resources become available. 


Sending Chromebooks home for distance learning

Chromebooks are remotely managed through the Google Admin console, making it simple for schools and IT administrators to deploy and manage thousands of devices. There’s no need to manually install software or login to a device to apply settings—admins simply flip a switch online and every device updates its applications and settings automatically. These same capabilities make it just as easy to turn school-based Chromebooks into take-home devices for students to continue learning in times of need. For example:

  • Admins can restrict device access to managed student accounts or set “Off Hours” when students can sign in with their personal accounts.

  • Admins can use URL blacklists to set content restrictions and ensure that students are held to the same responsible-use policies off-campus as they are inside their classrooms.

For more information, please see our Help Center article on how to prepare Chromebooks for e-learning days at home.
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Using Chromebooks from home 

Even if students don’t have WiFi access, they can access their Google Drive, and edit and save files offline. And they can take photos, record videos and screencasts while offline on Chromebooks.

Sharing information with families

Some parents and guardians might not be familiar with Chromebooks and how they differ from other computers. Admins might consider sending an email home to parents to explain how these devices work and how to assist students at home with our Guardian's Guide to Chromebooks. It’s important to share information with families about how to manage their child’s Chromebooks, including activity controls and which sites to allow. Schools might also consider sharing their distance learning plans with families so they might know how to support the transition.

More resources for distance learning

As families support students learning at home, we’re here to help. You can find resources on our distance learning hub and watch our webinar on distance learning strategies. We’re inspired by the ideas and resources educational leaders are sharing with each other. To continue the conversation and share your own ideas, join us on Google Educator Groups, Twitter and Facebook

Google Cloud for Student Developers: G Suite APIs (intro & overview)

Posted by Wesley Chun (@wescpy), Developer Advocate, Google Cloud

Students graduating from STEM majors at universities with development experience using industry APIs (application programming interfaces) have real-world practice that can prove valuable in terms of career readiness.

To that end, the Google Cloud team is creating a "Google Cloud for Student Developers" YouTube video series crafted specifically for the student developer audience.

While viewable by developers with any experience with Google Cloud, this series focuses on developing skills that will help student developers in their future careers. Google Cloud includes a pair of well-known product groups, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as well as G Suite. While most equate GCP for developers and G Suite for users, many don't know that behind each G Suite application like Gmail, Google Drive, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, are developer APIs.

The Google Cloud higher education team is happy to announce the first of a 5-episode mini-series to kickoff the video collection that shows student developers how they can code G Suite, starting with this first one introducing the G Suite developer landscape. Viewers will hear about the HTTP-based RESTful APIs as well as Google Apps Script, a serverless higher-level development environment that allows for automation, extension of G Suite app functionality, as well as integration of your apps with Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and many more G Suite, Google, and even external services.

Succeeding episodes dig deeper into the RESTful APIs as well as Apps Script, with the final pair of videos showing students full-fledged apps they can build with G Suite developer tools. To learn more about integrating with G Suite, see its top-level documentation site and overview page as well as the set of all G Suite developer videos. Also stay tuned for new episodes in the series that focus on GCP developer tools. We look forward to seeing what you can build with G Suite, but also with GCP as well… or both at the same time!

With school closures, teachers can keep their lessons going remotely

I spent more than a decade working in schools as a teacher and administrator. Whenever there was an event that caused the school to close, I found a way to ensure that students didn’t lose valuable learning time. We call this “distance learning” and many teachers, whether they work in a virtual school or are faced with a unique event, are exploring how to make it work. Currently, we’re facing such an event. Concerns over the transmission of COVID-19 are closing schools across the globe, and millions of students are unable to physically attend school. 

To help with this, we recently announced that advanced Hangouts Meet features are available for free to anyone who uses G Suite around the world. This means you’ll be able to put up to 250 people on a Hangouts Meet call—an entire class or group of classes can join a lesson simultaneously. You’ll get live-streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within your domain, so that you can do a virtual school assembly or stream a lecture. Plus, you can record meetings and save them to Google Drive. When students can’t join the lesson, they’ll be able to access the content later.

For educators preparing for potential school closures—or currently facing them—here are a few other ways to handle distance learning.

Keep students engaged while they’re at home

Virtual learning can be isolating and disengaging for students. Sitting in front of a screen for hours watching videos may compel a student to fast forward or even skip a lesson altogether. To keep them engaged, open up virtual discussions about what they’re learning. In a lesson exploring the water cycle, challenge students to pause the video and join a discussion in Google Classroom (using the Stream) about the last time they experienced a thunderstorm. You can also use comments in Google Docs and Classroom to have a two-way discussion with students as you give feedback on their work—another great strategy to engage when you can’t see them in person.

Frequently assess student learning

Formative assessments help you make sure students are continuing to progress while away from school. Check for understanding during group instruction by asking a poll question in the middle of a lesson and showing the results in real time. This can also help you “take attendance” in a virtual setting. Quizzes in Google Forms offer auto-grading features, allow you to embed videos, images, and as many answer choices as you want. You can also assign graded discussions in Google Classroom, and students can demonstrate their knowledge through project-based learning assignments using Slide presentations, Docs or Sites. 

Continue to connect with Hangouts Meet

When students’ routines are disrupted, many realize how much they actually miss the structure of school, and learning with their teacher. It’s important to maintain that feeling of comfort and safety during a time of uncertainty.

If your students have Wi-Fi access, you can see them virtually on Hangouts Meet. You can also use this platform to create video discussion sections for students to engage with one another and support their peers who might be struggling with concepts. Turn on live captions to help students focus, and so that students who are deaf or hard of hearing can read spoken language during the call.

Scheduling is another challenge that may arise. Using Calendar Appointment Slots, students who need extra help can sign up to meet 1:1 or in small groups with you. Due to intermittent or lack of Wi-Fi access, or shifting childcare solutions, not all students may be able to join a virtual classroom at the same time. Your instruction will likely be a mixture of live video and sharing recordings of your lessons for students who couldn’t make it. Thankfully, advanced features in Hangouts Meet allow you to record your lessons to share with students. 

Hangouts Meet.gif

Check in with how your students are feeling

Social Emotional Learning can continue in a distance learning setting as well. Just as you can use Hangouts Meet to “be” there for your students and maintain your classroom culture, you can provide other ways for students to share and process their emotions while away from school. Using Google Forms, create mood check-ins for students to share their emotional state on a daily basis. Within the Form, students can request a conference with the teacher if they need extra support. You can also set up a private blog for students to reflect on the experience by journaling or recording video reflections. 

Think beyond the clock

With distance learning, you don’t have to worry about time constraints of the normal school day: rushing students into the classroom or hurrying to finish your lesson before the bell rings. Students can take more time on some activities and breeze through lessons that come naturally to them. Take advantage of this opportunity and design your lessons to include more “choose your own adventure” activities rather than a fixed schedule of lectures and lessons.

Explore more approaches to distance learning

As educators and administrators set up contingency plans and consider making classrooms fully virtual, we’re here to help. We’ve seen educational leaders reaching out to one another, sharing ideas and providing support through Google Educator Groups, and other social networks, including Twitter and Facebook. Check out this webinar on distance learning strategies, find resources in the Teacher Center, and continue to share ways you support remote learners.

With school closures, teachers can keep their lessons going remotely

I spent more than a decade working in schools as a teacher and administrator. Whenever there was an event that caused the school to close, I found a way to ensure that students didn’t lose valuable learning time. We call this “distance learning” and many teachers, whether they work in a virtual school or are faced with a unique event, are exploring how to make it work. Currently, we’re facing such an event. Concerns over the transmission of COVID-19 are closing schools across the globe, and millions of students are unable to physically attend school. 

To help with this, we recently announced that advanced Hangouts Meet features are available for free to anyone who uses G Suite around the world. This means you’ll be able to put up to 250 people on a Hangouts Meet call—an entire class or group of classes can join a lesson simultaneously. You’ll get live-streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within your domain, so that you can do a virtual school assembly or stream a lecture. Plus, you can record meetings and save them to Google Drive. When students can’t join the lesson, they’ll be able to access the content later.

For educators preparing for potential school closures—or currently facing them—here are a few other ways to handle distance learning.

Keep students engaged while they’re at home

Virtual learning can be isolating and disengaging for students. Sitting in front of a screen for hours watching videos may compel a student to fast forward or even skip a lesson altogether. To keep them engaged, open up virtual discussions about what they’re learning. In a lesson exploring the water cycle, challenge students to pause the video and join a discussion in Google Classroom (using the Stream) about the last time they experienced a thunderstorm. You can also use comments in Google Docs and Classroom to have a two-way discussion with students as you give feedback on their work—another great strategy to engage when you can’t see them in person.

Frequently assess student learning

Formative assessments help you make sure students are continuing to progress while away from school. Check for understanding during group instruction by asking a poll question in the middle of a lesson and showing the results in real time. This can also help you “take attendance” in a virtual setting. Quizzes in Google Forms offer auto-grading features, allow you to embed videos, images, and as many answer choices as you want. You can also assign graded discussions in Google Classroom, and students can demonstrate their knowledge through project-based learning assignments using Slide presentations, Docs or Sites. 

Continue to connect with Hangouts Meet

When students’ routines are disrupted, many realize how much they actually miss the structure of school, and learning with their teacher. It’s important to maintain that feeling of comfort and safety during a time of uncertainty.

If your students have Wi-Fi access, you can see them virtually on Hangouts Meet. You can also use this platform to create video discussion sections for students to engage with one another and support their peers who might be struggling with concepts. Turn on live captions to help students focus, and so that students who are deaf or hard of hearing can read spoken language during the call.

Scheduling is another challenge that may arise. Using Calendar Appointment Slots, students who need extra help can sign up to meet 1:1 or in small groups with you. Due to intermittent or lack of Wi-Fi access, or shifting childcare solutions, not all students may be able to join a virtual classroom at the same time. Your instruction will likely be a mixture of live video and sharing recordings of your lessons for students who couldn’t make it. Thankfully, advanced features in Hangouts Meet allow you to record your lessons to share with students. 

Hangouts Meet.gif

Check in with how your students are feeling

Social Emotional Learning can continue in a distance learning setting as well. Just as you can use Hangouts Meet to “be” there for your students and maintain your classroom culture, you can provide other ways for students to share and process their emotions while away from school. Using Google Forms, create mood check-ins for students to share their emotional state on a daily basis. Within the Form, students can request a conference with the teacher if they need extra support. You can also set up a private blog for students to reflect on the experience by journaling or recording video reflections. 

Think beyond the clock

With distance learning, you don’t have to worry about time constraints of the normal school day: rushing students into the classroom or hurrying to finish your lesson before the bell rings. Students can take more time on some activities and breeze through lessons that come naturally to them. Take advantage of this opportunity and design your lessons to include more “choose your own adventure” activities rather than a fixed schedule of lectures and lessons.

Explore more approaches to distance learning

As educators and administrators set up contingency plans and consider making classrooms fully virtual, we’re here to help. We’ve seen educational leaders reaching out to one another, sharing ideas and providing support through Google Educator Groups, and other social networks, including Twitter and Facebook. Check out this webinar on distance learning strategies, find resources in the Teacher Center, and continue to share ways you support remote learners.

Evolving automations into applications using Apps Script

Posted by Wesley Chun (@wescpy), Developer Advocate, Google Cloud

Editor’s Note: Guest authors Diego Moreno and Sophia Deng (@sophdeng) are from Gigster, a firm that builds dynamic teams made of top global talent who create industry-changing custom software.

Prelude: Data input & management … three general choices

Google Cloud provides multiple services for gathering and managing data. Google Forms paired with Google Sheets are quite popular as they require no engineering resources while being incredibly powerful, providing storage of up to 5 million rows of data and built-in analytics for small team projects.

At the other end of the spectrum, to support a high volume of users or data, Google Cloud provides advanced serverless platforms like Google App Engine (web app-hosting) and Google Cloud Functions (function/service-hosting) that can use Google Cloud Firestore for fast and scalable data storage. These are perfect for professional engineering teams that need autoscaling to respond to any level of user traffic and data input. Such apps can also be packaged into a container and deployed serverlessly on Google Cloud Run.

However, it's quite possible your needs are right in-between. Today, we're happy to present the Gigster story and their innovative use of Google Apps Script—a highly-accessible service conventionally relegated to simple macro and add-on development, but which Gigster used to its advantage, building robust systems to transform their internal operations. Apps Script is also serverless, meaning Gigster didn't have to manage any servers for their application nor did they need to find a place to host its source code.

The Gigster story

Gigster enables distributed teams of software engineers, product managers and designers to build software applications for enterprise clients. Over the past five years, Gigster has delivered thousands of projects, all with distributed software teams. Our group, the Gigster Staffing Operations Team, is responsible for assembling these teams from Gigster’s network of over 1,000 freelancers.

Two years ago, our team began building custom software to automate the multi-stage and highly manual team staffing process. Building internal software has allowed the same-size Staffing Operations Team (3 members!) to enjoy a 60x reduction in time spent staffing each role.

The Apps Script ecosystem has emerged as the most critical component in our toolkit for building this internal software, due to its versatility and ease of deployment. We want to share how one piece of the staffing process has evolved to become more powerful over time thanks to Apps Script. Ultimately, we hope that sharing this journey enables all types of teams to build their own tools and unlock new possibilities.

End-to-end automation in Google Sheets

Staffing is an operationally intensive procedure. Just finding willing and able candidates requires numerous steps:

  1. Gathering and formatting customer requirements.
  2. Communicating with candidates through multiple channels.
  3. Logging candidate responses.
  4. Processing paperwork for placement

To add complexity, many of these steps require working with different third-party applications. For awhile, we performed every step manually, tracking every piece of data generated in one central Sheet (the “Staffing Broadcast Google Sheet”). At a certain point, this back-and-forth work to log data from numerous applications became unsustainable. Although we leveraged Google Sheets features like Data Validation rules and filters, the Staffing Broadcast Sheet could not alleviate the high degree of manual processes that were required of the team.

centralized Staffing Broadcast Google Sheet

The centralized Staffing Broadcast Google Sheet provided organization, but required a high degree of manual entry for tracking candidate decisions.

The key transformation was integrating Sheets data with third-party APIs via Apps Script. This enabled us to cut out the most time-consuming operations. We no longer had to flip between applications to message candidates, wait for their replies, and then manually track responses.

To interact with these APIs, we built a user interface directly into the Staffing Broadcast Google Sheet. By introducing an information module, as well as drop-down lists and buttons, we were able to define a small set of manual actions versus the much wider list of tasks the tool would perform automatically across multiple applications.

integrating Apps Script with third-party APIs

By integrating Google Apps Script with third-party APIs and creating a user interface, we evolved the Staffing Broadcast Tool to centralize and automate almost every step of the staffing process.

doPost() is the key function in our staffing tool that facilitates third-party services triggering our Apps Script automations. Below is a snippet of how we listened to candidates' responses from a third-party messaging application. In this case, queueing the third-party message in a Google Sheet so it can be processed with improved error-handling.

/**
* Receive POST requests and record to queue.
*/
doPost(e) {
var payload = e.postData.contents;
SpreadsheetApp.openById(SPREADSHEET_ID)
.getSheetByName("Unprocessed")
.appendRow([payload]);
return ContentService.createTextOutput(""); // Return 200
}

Almost all manual work associated with finding candidates was automated through the combination of integrations with third-party APIs and having a user interface to perform a small, defined set of actions. Our team’s day-to-day became shockingly simple: select candidates to receive messages within the Staffing Broadcast Tool, then click the “Send Broadcast” button. That’s it. The tool handled everything else.

Leveraging Sheets as our foundation, we fundamentally transformed our spreadsheet into a custom software application. The spreadsheet went from a partially automated datastore to a tool that provided an end-to-end automated solution, requiring only the click of a few buttons to execute.

Evolution into a standalone application

While satisfied, we understood that having our application live in Google Sheets had its limitations, namely, it was difficult for multiple team members to simultaneously use the tool. Using doGet(), the sibling to doPost(), we began building an HTML frontend to the Staffing Broadcast Tool. In addition to resolving difficulties related to multiple users being in a spreadsheet, it also allowed us to build an easier-to-use and more responsive tool by leveraging Bootstrap & jQuery.

Having multiple users in a single Google Sheet can create conflicts, but Apps Script allowed us to build a responsive web app leveraging common libraries like Bootstrap & jQuery that eliminated those problems while providing an improved user experience.

When other teams at Gigster got wind of what we built, it was easy to grant access to others beyond the Staffing Operations Team. Since Apps Script is part of the G Suite developer ecosystem, we relied on Google’s security policies to help deploy our tools to larger audiences.

While this can be done through Google’s conventional sharing tools, it can also be done with built-in Apps Script functions like Session.getActiveUser() that allow us to restrict access to specific Google users. In our case, those within our organization plus a few select users.

To this day, we continue to use this third version of the Staffing Broadcast Tool in our daily operations as it supports 100% of all client projects at Gigster.

Conclusion

By fundamentally transforming the Staffing Broadcast Tool with Apps Script, Gigster’s Staffing Operations Team increased its efficiency while supporting the growth of our company. Inspired by these business benefits, we applied this application-building approach using Apps Script for multiple tools, including candidate searching, new user onboarding, and countless automations.

Our team’s psychological shift about how we view what we are capable of, especially as a non-engineering team, has been the most valuable part of this journey. By leveraging an already familiar ecosystem to build our own software, we have freed team members to become more self-sufficient and valuable to our customers.

To get started on your Apps Script journey, we recommend you check out the Apps Script Fundamentals playlist and the official documentation. And if you're a freelancer looking to build software applications for clients, we’re always looking for talented software engineers, product managers or designers to join Gigster’s Talent Network.

Thank you to Sandrine Bitton, the third member of the Staffing Operations Team, for all her help in the development of the Staffing Broadcast Tool.