What to Know Before Working With Google for Education


What to Know Before Working With Google for Education

By Wade Tyler Millward     Mar 6, 2019

What to Know Before Working With Google for Education
From left to right, Emma Fish, John Kline, Jeremy Lupoli, Devon Young and John Rodkey discuss Google's partner program. Part of the benefits include marketing support and appearances on Google channels.

Even if you don’t like Google, Jeremy Lupoli told a crowded room surrounded by products from the tech giant, you’ll still have to work with it to get ahead in the education technology industry. The company boasts a footprint of 80 million educators and students using its G Suite for Education tools, and 40 million users using its Classroom app.

Lupoli, vice president of technical integration strategy at Irvine, Calif.-based educator software provider Illuminate Education, was among four executives who talked candidly about working in Google’s partnership program for edtech companies.

“You’d be stupid to say, ‘We don’t want to partner with Google,’” Lupoli noted.

The executives touted the program for the marketing benefit it brought their companies and the access to educators and potential clients, they said Monday at SXSW EDU. But at least one of the executives had to penetrate Google bureaucracy to see benefits. Not all of Google’s education efforts, which cut across hardware, software, third-party partnerships and professional development, are always in sync with one another. Sometimes, it can feel like one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

“It was a mess” at first trying to keep up with the conversations happening across different Google teams, recalled John Rodkey, cofounder of cloud-based event manager and security monitor Now IMS, based in Sugar Land, Texas. Things later smoothed out when weekly all-hands meetings were called to coordinate internal communications.

The panel came the same day Google announced a Chromebook App Hub for developers to showcase educator-focused apps and classroom activities.

The hub, which will launch later this year, will also give educators a library of edtech tools with more relevant information about how they can be used in classrooms than what the existing Chrome app store provides, Google product management director Jonathan Rochelle said Tuesday.

Products and services featured in the hub aren’t necessarily endorsed by Google, Rochelle said. But to get into the hub, developers will have to disclose information on their data and accessibility policies.

The hub and Google’s industry partnership program reflect a goal over the next few years to grow the company’s influence in the education ecosystem, he said. That effort could include more curriculum development and machine-learning program offerings.

The hub is also supposed to help school districts that lack instructional coaches to help facilitate relationships between educators and edtech vendors, Emma Fish, Google for Education business development and strategy manager, told the crowd Monday.

These relationships can make the difference in how companies win or lose customers.

One district that lost its instructional coach cost Mountain View, Calif.-based online video creation platform WeVideo a client, company vice president and general manager of education John Kline said.

The biggest partnership benefit is the exposure from sharing event stages and promotional materials with Google, Kline said. Multiple companies could provide the development services WeVideo needed. But few could compete with the number of school districts and educators that interact with Google.

For Now IMS, which is already established in the sports and facility management industries, expanding its business to serve education clients proved a challenge. For starters, educators’ salaries are a paltry compared to the likes of the NFL, Rodkey said.

The partnership ran into an early hiccup of insufficient communication among the different Google departments working with Now IMS. But in about a year since the company entered the education space, Now IMS has landed clients like Florida State University and Fort Bend Independent School District in Texas.

“Communication for any partnership is what makes it work,” Rodkey said.

Google is always working to improve the program, including the difficulties Rodkey faced, Rochelle said.

For Lupoli’s Illuminate Education, the partnership has led to his company and Google collaborating on a machine-learning service to fill the needs of multiple districts.

Lupoli and Google representatives declined to go into detail about the project, saying that it is under a non-disclosure agreement.

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