Since this article’s publication, Google updated a few of the items mentioned below.

On February 17, 2021, Google announced its line of revamped educational offerings called Google Workspace for Education. This new platform makes several changes to Google's platform that are relevant for edtech developers and vendors. Here is what you should know about Google Workspace for Education.

No More G-Suite

This move comes four months after Google changed the name of it's corporate G Suite offerings to Google Workspace. However, Google held off on changing the name of G Suite for Education until now. All of the services that used to be packaged in G Suite for Education are now part of Google Workspace for Education.

Additionally, Google changed its pricing model for schools and districts. Previously, Google listed G Suite for Education as a free offering and G Suite Enterprise for Education as a paid, premium service. Now, there are four tiers:

  • Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals (formerly the free tier of G Suite for Education)
  • Google Workspace for Education Standard ($3/student/year)
  • Teaching and Learning Upgrade ($4/license/month)
  • Google Workspace for Education Plus (formerly G Suite Enterprise for Education and $5/student/year)

The major change here that is relevant for developers, which we'll discuss further down, is the addition of third-party application add-ons for Google Classroom. Only the Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Education Plus tiers will have access to this. This will be important to keep in mind when the ability to publish these add-ons becomes available to developers, as free and standard users will not have access to these apps.

Google Classroom Updates

Google has finally acknowledged that Classroom has morphed into the LMS of choice for several schools and educators across the globe. While Google Classroom was always a popular platform for teachers who needed a way to share online resources and assessments with students, its use and importance grew greatly in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Google Classroom now supports 150 million students worldwide and continues to grow.

In the announcement for Google Workspace for Education, the company also mentioned several updates to Google Classroom. Most of these changes are not yet live but will be available sometime later this year. As previously mentioned, perhaps the largest change that is relevant for developers is the addition of Google Classroom add-ons.

What are Google Classroom Add-Ons?

Great question! As of the time of writing this article, Google has provided very little information about add-ons. Based on the available sources, it appears that Google add-ons are applications that will be available for schools to add to their Google Classroom environments through some sort of online marketplace. However, this is going to be different from the current offerings of educational Chrome extensions or applications that integrate with Google Classroom via the Google Classroom API.

The mockup that Google displayed to show how an add-on might work demonstrates a teacher creating an assignment in Google Classroom and choosing an add-on from a list. The add-on then automatically generates an assignment in Google Classroom that natively appears in the user's Google Classroom environment. This sort of integration is reminiscent of LTI® and could very well be Google finally supporting the standard.

However, there is some evidence that this new type of integration is not through the LTI specification. Google never references LTI in the Google Workspace for Education announcement video or blog posts. Additionally, Google mentioned that IXL, Nearpod, Kahoot, and Adobe Spark would be the first add-ons available when the service launched. Kahoot does not currently have an LTI-compliant application. While this could certainly change, it does lead us to believe that add-ons are not going to be supported through LTI.

Where Should Developers Do About Google Classroom Add-Ons?

Developers should stay tuned to Google's updates and to any changes to the Google Classroom API that may indicate the availability of add-on functionality. Edlink will certainly be staying on top of developments to Google Workspace for Education and any changes to Google Classroom integration.

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