If you weren’t aware, Google have created their own virtual learning environment called Google Classroom. It’s a decent VLE, with a number of useful features. So far, so good!
But are we not as aware of the Google Classroom disadvantages as we should be? The New York Times recently published an article on precisely this topic, titled How Google took over the Classroom. It all sounds very dystopian, although to a teacher, it might sound like a lifesaver.
As per the reporter, a social science class in Chicago starts out with each student grabbing a Google-powered laptop, and opening Google Classroom; then they write their essays in Google Docs.  And that one school isn’t alone, because more than half of America’s primary and secondary school students use either Gmail or Google Docs. That’s an incredible thirty million children.
The benefit for students is ease of use; the benefit for teachers is to have everything under one umbrella, information shareable between devices. But what else do we get?
What do we get?
There’s no doubting that Google Classroom is a well put-together online learning platform. As a virtual learning environment goes, it has a number of excellent features. It’s accessible from any number of devices and is easy to use, has a nice clean interface, and speeds up marking and review, just like other VLEs.
Google Classroom’s virtual classroom software is also another of its advantages. If you’ve never encountered anything like that before virtual classroom software is a synchronous learning solution, or in English, a VLE that operates in real time. So, they commonly feature live chat that can be used by students and teachers, for instance. It’s designed to simulate the classroom environment, but entirely online.
Google Classroom reviews paint a mixed picture, as reviewers understand the excellent symmetry and ease of use of everything that Google offer, but others are worried about just how ubiquitous Google are becoming in class. But Google Classroom reviews shouldn’t be the only thing we judge their software on.
What’s really in it for Google?
One of the key Google Classroom disadvantages is… As an online learning platform, Google Classroom stands alone as the one with outstanding privacy concerns. Indeed, a number of Google Classroom reviews point out these privacy concerns; as do hard hitting articles on NPR  and Recode.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation lodged a complaint not too long ago with the US Federal Trade Commission, accusing Google of collecting personal data on students.  The accusation is that when students log in to Gmail with their account, they log into their YouTube and Blogger accounts at the same time. The EFF say that Google then gather that data and use it for advertisement purposes. 
The benefits are great, but the Google Classroom disadvantages are simply too serious for many schools and parents. Schools shouldn’t be a testing ground for future customers, or a place for gathering data on potential consumers. That’s why we recommend considering alternative education platforms before you go all out with Google.
Google aren’t satisfied with owning (and monitoring!) half the world. Google Classroom is one of their latest ventures, and it’s their first stab at e-learning and mobile learning software. It’s a decent first attempt, but we think there’s a really important thing they get wrong. The basis of any amazing VLE has to be education, education, education: but true to form, Google’s Classroom is designed with advertisers in mind just as much as students. Read on to find out exactly what we mean.
What do Google get right?
The very many tools that Google offer are popular for a reason. Typically, they bring out the best of new technological advances, and add their own twist. Take Google Drive: it was introduced in 2012, right at the beginning of the cloud revolution, and it cemented its place in the market both because of the omnipresence of Google- everyone has a Gmail account- and because of its genuine functionality. As of 2017, Google Drive holds over two trillion files and has 800 million active users.
Google’s Classroom is their attempt to force their way into the emerging VLE market. It has many of the features commonly found in virtual learning environment software, and offers the same sorts of benefits: it saves time and paper, organises classwork in one place, and enables quick and easy communication with students. The other Google Classroom pros are its simplicity- it’s very easy to navigate- and its compatibility with Google’s other apps. Apart from that, it’s all par for the course for e-learning software.
Google Classroom vs other VLEs is therefore not much more than a personal choice. Perhaps you like the idea of your students finding it easy to use because of its compatibility with many of Google’s apps for Android and iPhone. Perhaps that doesn’t appeal to you. But where Google’s Classroom succeeds as an effective VLE, it fails because of Google’s insistence on pandering to its advertisers.
What do Google get wrong?
The problem is that like many of Google’s offerings, their focus isn’t always on providing a great service to you, but providing a great service to their advertisers. Remember, everything that you Google search is collected, collated and sold to advertisers so that they can better market their products. The websites you find through Google search, or visit on Google Chrome, are similarly analysed.
This is where Google’s Classroom falls down. Google make almost all of their profits from their Google Adsense service, so it’s no surprise that they want to monetise as many of their offerings as possible. But this really is fundamentally incompatible with e-learning software, which should always be for- well, learning, not marketing. Put simply, the monetisation of Google’s Classroom is a step in the wrong direction.