Google Launches New Feedback Tool ‘Course Kit’ to Eliminate Assignment...


Google Launches New Feedback Tool ‘Course Kit’ to Eliminate Assignment Uploads

By Tina Nazerian     Jul 17, 2018

Google Launches New Feedback Tool ‘Course Kit’ to Eliminate Assignment Uploads

Do your school’s students submit their school assignments by uploading PDFs or other files within a learning management system? If so, a new tool from Google is looking to upend that practice—by connecting the LMS directly to Google Drive.

Called Course Kit, the new tool, announced today, lets students upload their work by tapping into their Google Drive account. Instructors can then use Drive and Google Docs to grade assignments and share course materials. As of now it integrates with many learning management systems, specifically, ones that support the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard, such as Blackboard.

This is Google’s latest update to its education product suite. In June at ISTE, the annual K-12 education technology expo, Google unveiled 12 updates to education tools, including Google Classroom. Google is not the only major tech company that has pushed updates in the education space these past few months. Last week, Microsoft launched the Surface Go, designed for kids in grades 3-5, along with new classroom management tools. In March, Apple came out with a new 9.7 inch iPad and the Apple Pencil, as well as a series of upgrades and apps that work with the new tablet.

Zach Yeskel, product manager for Google Cloud, tells EdSurge Course Kit includes two tools. The first allows instructors to embed their course materials from Google Drive directly into the LMS. The second lets instructors use Google Docs and Drive to collect assignments and give feedback within the school’s LMS.

In short, here’s how the second tool works: an instructor goes into the LMS and creates a task for students, and attaches the Course Kit assignment tool to that task. When the student logs into the LMS, he sees the option to link his Google account. He then attaches a file from his Google Drive account, and submits it. Once the student submits the task, he can’t modify the document, as the ownership of that document has transferred from him to his instructor. The instructor adds her feedback and grade, and clicks “return.” The document’s ownership returns back to the student, who can then view the comments and make modifications again.

Yeskel says the technology represents a shift from the traditional method of uploading and downloading files. The benefit of Course Kit, he believes, is that it’s one collaborative file shared between the student and professor.

“Historically the model has been that students turn in something, and instructors review it later, give feedback and return it to the student,” Yeskel says. “And that works, but sometimes students get feedback too late to matter, sometimes it’s in a different document, sometimes it’s in a different PDF or a different file.”

The move away from uploading and downloading files might be Google’s way of making its G Suite for Education, which currently has 80 million users, even more of a standard in the education space, and expanding its reach to more educators and students.

Phil Hill, an edtech consultant and blogger at e-Literate, sees Course Kit as a move by Google to get students, specifically college students, to see Google Apps as the “default for productivity.” Many students in their late teens and 20s only use Microsoft Office when a teacher requires them to do so, he writes in an email to EdSurge. He thinks Course Kit could help lessen that use even further.

He adds that Course Kit shows Google’s acknowledgement that the K-12 market and higher ed markets are very different. He thinks this is the first time one of the big tech companies has embraced LTI standards “so openly.”

“Google Classroom is a huge focus for K-12 teachers but not for higher ed instructors, and Google needs a different strategy to deal with the surprisingly resilient LMS market,” Hill writes. “Positioning collaborative Google Docs and Drive to be easily integrated with the pervasive LMS is a clever judo move—stop fighting the LMS and instead use its momentum to their advantage.”

For Google’s part, Yeskel says the company wants a diverse set of schools to use Course Kit, including K-12 institutions.

Yeskel says the idea for Course Kit had been circulating for a long time, but he and his team only started working on it about a year ago. The company ran a pilot this past spring with more than a dozen colleges and universities. Yeskel says the way his team likes to operate is to try to get some functionalities “in the hands of customers, so that those customers can be partners in developing the feature and product.”

Course Kit is now available in beta mode in 44 languages. As part of G Suite for Education, it’s free. One caveat: instructors who want to use Course Kit need to have a school-provided G Suite for Education account. Those at higher education and K-12 institutions interested in using Course Kit can request access to the beta mode here.

In a blog post, the company notes that once a school has been “whitelisted,” an IT administrator can install Course Kit into its LMS. And for those who use Google Classroom, the company mentions that it’s working to add “new improved feedback functionality directly” to that tool, and will have more updates this fall. Yeskel says the updates to Google Classroom will include some features, but not the entirety, of Course Kit.

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