Google announced this week that its Apps for Education suite is now being used by 20 million students, faculty members, and staff around the world, but I’m not convinced that it’s anything more than a clever marketing ploy. While Google touts that their 20 million loyal education minions users include seven of eight Ivy League universities and 72 of the U.S. top 100 universities (by the U.S. News and World Report’s Rankings), and that they’re killing the competition—in this case, Microsoft’s Office 365 for Education—by 5 million users, there’s a problem with that number. Namely, it’s too small.
Twenty million users evidently don’t include all the students, faculty, and staff who use Google’s tools without being officially signed up with Apps for Education, e.g. most people in America. We didn’t have Google’s official blessing where I went to college, but pretty much everyone I knew used Google Docs in one way or another. The Apps for Education website lists Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and Sites as features of the package, but all of those applications are available for anyone with a (free to set up) Gmail account. In fact, the only unique feature that is included in Apps for Education is Vault, essentially a separate Google Drive where critical information can be stored and accessed in case of an emergency accreditation inspection or lawsuit, or whatever other reason universities would need digital copies of i important files already stored in hard copy in filing cabinets.
Apps for Education’s user count, therefore, is probably a dramatic understatement of the true value that Google is providing to educators and students around the world, nor is it indicative of the lead it has in providing cloud tools for schools—outside of the people using it, I’d wager no one has heard of Office 365 for Education, Google’s closest competitor. So what is Google announcing here? That at least 20 million people use all of their apps for education? Either Google doesn’t realize how ubiquitous their tools are (unlikely), or they’re trying to draw as much attention to this particular “offer” as possible.
To their credit, Google certainly seems to think they can revolutionize education. The official Apps for education invites users to “discover a better way of learning”, and if this video is anything to go by, Google will forever make High School less of the angst-ridden stressfest it was for so many teenagers, thanks to its completely applicable Forms tool. I’m skeptical.
Still, 20 million users is 20 million users, and Google docs is the best way, hands down, to collaborate on a group project, so we’ll see what is yet to come from them.