In their search for cloud-based computing options that combine access to productivity and collaboration tools, some schools are turning to Google Workspace for Education.
Google Workspace for Education is a collection of cloud-based tools and services that aid teaching, learning, and collaboration. This platform gives schools access to Google Classroom – a central location for teachers to create, share and collect assignments from students. It also gives schools access to tools for collaboration like Google Docs, Google Forms, and Google Sheets, and platforms for communication like Gmail, Google Chat, and Google Meet. These simple, flexible, and practical tools are quite appealing to school leaders looking for a schoolwide, cloud-based comprehensive product suite.
For schools preparing to implement Google Workspace for Education, here are some key topics to keep in mind:
- Data migration – Does your school need to migrate its data? Schools that have yet to open or schools that have recently opened will have a fairly straightforward process because they are creating email accounts and setting up data storage for the first time. Existing schools and networks that have employed other platforms in the past, and are planning a transition to Google Workspace for Education, require a more thoughtful approach because of their data migration needs. Fortunately, Google has options to support these demands. Google has a data migration service that allows users’ email data to be transferred to the Workspace from a variety of other providers including Microsoft Exchange Server, Exchange Online/Microsoft 365, and any webmail provider that uses the IMAP protocol, such as iCloud, Bluehost, Yahoo!, etc. In addition to email and calendar data migration, Google Workspace Migrate brokers transfers between other file-sharing and content-storing platforms like SharePoint, Box, Microsoft One Drive, etc. Google also provides clear step-by-step instructions so that school-based IT or operations staff can manage the migration on site and they are able to reach out to Google’s customer service for additional support, if necessary.
- Data Security – Schools today store a large amount of sensitive data. For students, they store information like social security numbers, birth dates, health records, and home addresses. For staff, banking details and other private HR data are added to the list. This information is extremely valuable on the dark web and the black market. Because of this malicious actors have set their sights on the education sector – targeting schools, networks, and districts. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in education sector-related cyberattacks. This has made data security a key concern for school leaders. Fortunately, Google Workspace for Education comes equipped with a variety of security features that responds to the concerns of school leaders and many of these security features are customizable. In fact, Google Workspace for Education offers additional protection for K-12 institutions on top of what’s made available on the consumer side of Google. There are options for access and authentification parameters, as well as options for mail safety and security. This particular Workspace has an educational privacy and support agreement to ensure that Google doesn’t own any data from these K-12 institutions and it doesn’t collect or use any data for advertising purposes. Google has invested heavily in data protection to be able to identify and block cyberattacks. In fact, there has yet to be a reported cyberattack on any school using Google Workspace for Education. Given the variety of available security options, IT administrators and school leaders need to closely examine the settings and select a configuration that best suits the needs of their school, network, or district.
- Workspace Audits – After working with the Workspace for some time, schools may consider conducting a Workspace audit. The results of the audit can be used as a guide for school leaders and IT administrators to update their practices and configurations to increase their data security and keep their networks safe.
- User Training – Like with any technology, it is essential for school leaders and IT administrators to have a plan for training staff and students on how to use the Workspace. While Google Workspace for Education has many aspects that are user-friendly, training provides an opportunity to ensure that the platform is used most effectively, safely, and with fidelity. To support in-house training, Google for Education has a series of courses to support staff in learning the basics of the technology, as well as cutting-edge integration strategies.
- Related Devices – While Google Workspace for Education can be accessed from any device, there are some benefits to choosing Chromebooks for student devices. Chromebooks run on ChromeOS, an operating system with Google Workspace for Education tools built in. The devices are produced by Google, and the cloud-based system is designed to work seamlessly with Google Workplace for Education. Schools can access a Google Admin Console that offers the opportunity to centrally manage the devices. From a security standpoint, Google provides background updates including the latest features and security every 6 weeks, and offers layers of verification and data encryption.
- Budget – The cost of a platform is always a key consideration when schools are looking to adopt new systems. Google Workspace for Education has a few pricing models that schools can choose from. The Fundamentals version of the platform is free to use and gives schools access to all of the collaborative tools, email, and calendars. The Standard version of the platform, at $3 per student per year, offers additional security, analytics, and control. The teaching and learning upgrade is a $4 per license per month upgrade that provides enhanced instructional tools and video communication. The most expensive option, at $5 per student per year, provides a comprehensive school-wide solution that includes roster syncing, custom apps, and priority response from Google’s education specialists. With a limited budget, schools are still able to access the essential collaboration and storage applications in this platform and with a more flexible budget, they can opt for additional instructional tools and support.
At CTS, we support clients as they select the technology that best serves their unique mission.
The edtech market offers a variety of platforms, tools, and solutions to meet the instructional, operational, and cultural needs of schools. Researching these solutions and determining the right fit to meet a school’s needs can be a time-intensive process. School leaders, focusing on the other more pressing demands of their role, do not have the time to review these options. The team at CTS is here to support this work so that schools can focus on their unique mission. Through our work with schools, we have supported thousands of students, staff, and devices.
There are many quality tech offerings that provide email hosting, data storage, and collaborative tools to schools, school networks, and districts — Google Workspace for Education is one of them. If the Google platform is the best option for your school because you prefer Chromebooks or because you enjoy the security features, the courses that provide user training, or the overall flexibility, we are here to operationalize that decision. Our team at CTS has worked with more than 60 schools across the United States, many of whom rely on Google products to accomplish their unique missions. Comprised of educational technology veterans and former school operations leaders, our team has the technical know-how and on-the-ground experience to support schools as they make critical decisions about their technology.
Contact us today to learn more about our managed IT services and how CTS can partner with your school to tackle your team’s technology challenges.