I’m a huge fan of Google Classroom. It has saved me invaluable time, allowed me to make my classes more dynamic, and greatly helped me cut down on paper (and lost assignments). With all of that said, I believe there are a number of things that need to be added or enhanced in Google Classroom to make it a more powerful tool for students and teachers.
For the 2015-2016 school year Google made a number of “enhancements” on how teachers can grade student work. Previously there was a list of students and their assignments with the newest submission being at the top. Teachers could easily add grades and see work that wasn’t completed yet. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked somewhat well.
This year they changed to a two panel, list/grid format. On the left panel you have a list of students who submitted their work and their grades. At the bottom of the list you can view students who have not submitted their work. On the right side there is a grid list of students, sorted newest submission to no submissions.
The problem comes when trying to actually grade. You cannot grade items when you open them. Instead you must return back to the grading panel and add points on the left-hand panel. The most annoying part of this is that grid panel on the right is sorted newest submissions to oldest, but the left panel where you actually input grades are in alphabetical order.
How to Improve: Get rid of the two panels and show only work that has been submitted or resubmitted. An area for grading should be directly tied into the submission and the teacher should not have to go back to another page to input a grade. A “next submission” button would be great as well instead of having to navigate back to the grading page for each and every submission.
#2 Custom Colors
Last year Google gave us the ability to change the theme from the standard images. I love that I can add my own header images to give my classroom it’s own personality. I like to have different headers for each class and as a result, I like to have different colors. It helps me be able to quickly go from one class to the next and in general, makes me more efficient.
The unfortunate part of this improvement is that you cannot select a custom color for the header. As you can see at #1 in the image above the main color used in my header is a dark blue, but Google decided that red would be a better fit. That color red impacts the class icon on the left side navigation as well (#2). I have six classes total, and three of them have red icons.
How to Improve: Add a color picker that allows the teacher to select the color of the class icon/header. One additional improvement that would be awesome is to allow for the classes in the left side navigation to be able to be reordered by the teacher.
#3 Create files from classroom
Google Classroom is the perfect vehicle for handing out and collecting Google Drive documents, sheets, presentations, and files. The biggest problem that I run into is that I cannot create anything from Google Classroom. Before I want to handout a doc, sheet, or presentation I have to go to the appropriate place (I usually just use Drive), create the item, and make sure it’s organized in the correct place.
When helping other staff learn Google Classroom I often find this is the number one spot that we run into issues. It’s simply not a natural step to create an assignment in one Google system and then hand it out in another system,
How to Improve: Add a button that allows the teacher to create a doc, sheet, or presentation directly from the Classroom.
On of the biggest annoyances for me is a teacher is when a student hands in something late to the Classroom and then asks why it hasn’t been graded weeks after he or she handed it in. It’s not annoying to grade late work per se (different discussion), but Google Classroom give me no indication that something has been turned in. The only way that I can see if something has been completed is by going to the assignment dashboard and taking inventory of all of the numbers or by going into each assignment and seeing when the latest submission was made.
An additional problem with this is that once you mark something completed in the assignment dashboard no new submissions or resubmissions will show up.
How to Improve: Give a real assignment dashboard that shows the teacher what needs to be graded. Submissions could be classified by assignment, late, and resubmissions. Another nice improvement would be to give a daily or weekly recap of graded, ungraded, and late assignments for the teacher to be able to keep better tabs on what needs to be done.
#5 Unified Gradebook
My final area of need is a unified gradebook. Right now the grades that you give assignments in Google Classroom mean nothing. Absolutely nothing. The grades are only shown in a single assignment and do not relate back to any type of gradebook or anything like that. For a student or teacher to see how the student did on an assignment they have to go to each assignment. To see how they are doing in the marking period they have to go to each assignment and figure out the math from there. This is crazy.
How to Improve: There needs to be a gradebook area for students and teachers to see all of the assignments by marking period or other timeline and view the grades on each of those assignment. Additionally the grades need to mean something, and talk to the gradebook. If a student has the grades of 100, 90, and 80 on three assignments the student should be able to see that they have an overall grade of 90%. This helps keep better accountability for students and teachers.
Other Notable Improvments
I have two other improvements that I would like to see be made to Google Classroom but I feel like the five improvements I made above are more important. The first would be a parent login option so that parents can see what students are doing and be able to check on their grades. Obviously some of the improvement suggestions I made above would need to be put into place before this happens to actually be helpful. The other thing I would like to see added is for the teacher to have a student view option so that the teacher can see assignments exactly as they would appear for students. Right now there is no way to do that and it can cause some issues when the teacher shows how to do something but students don’t see the same thing.
What did I miss
Is there something I missed or do these options already exist? Let me know in the comments below.