With millions of teacher and student users around the world, Google Classroom has become a staple for work, collaboration, and learning. Its user-friendly qualities make it a suitable learning management system (LMS) for students of all ages and for all subjects.
As more and more schools try blended learning, many teachers may wonder: How can I use Google Classroom as a learning management system for blended learning experiences?
In my classroom, my students rotate through a station rotation blended learning model. Each station is a different task, one of which is working in a small group with me. The technology station is an asynchronous course to support students in building reading and grammar skills—asynchronous meaning that students are free to work through the content at their own pace.
The following recommendations are ways teachers can seamlessly integrate asynchronous blended learning elements into their coursework while using Google Classroom as an LMS.
4 Ways to Use Google Classroom for Blended Learning
1. Take advantage of the setup: While other learning management systems may offer more in terms of organization, the design of Google Classroom does have its benefits. The Stream, for example, offers a place for announcements, check-ins, and questions. Previously, the Stream was a timeline of artifacts posted on Google Classroom, but teachers now have the option to customize it and decide what types of posts will appear, like general reminders about assessments or links to relevant and frequently used resources. My students like having their most frequently used websites, templates, and materials posted to the Stream.
The Classwork page holds all of the tasks students are expected to complete. Teachers can create a series of sequential modules or units with topics and associated tasks and activities listed underneath. For example, I have a module for one of my classes that covers commonly confused words and includes lessons and activities.
When introducing a module, it’s beneficial to review it in Classwork with students to help them understand how to navigate it. When a student clicks on a particular assignment, all of the directions, resources, and assignments appear. Keeping the Classwork page organized and efficient for students will assist them in working through their asynchronous course.
2. Integrate apps to build content: There are a variety of apps and websites that allow teachers to easily import or sync their Google Classroom rosters. Instead of having to go through the whole process of setting up an account, students are able to simply sign in with their Google account and begin working on the assignment. Some examples of apps that integrate well with Google Classroom are Edpuzzle, Newsela, Fluency Tutor for Google, and Edulastic.
3. Infuse collaborative elements: Students can work at their own pace in a blended environment, but that doesn’t mean they have to work alone. G Suite tools are known for making collaboration easy. In each module, I try to incorporate one type of collaborative activity for students to complete. Whether they’re sharing resources on a Padlet, discussing ideas through Verso, or recording messages on Flipgrid, I try to give students a chance to share with each other. I place links to these tools in the assignment on Google Classroom, and once a student reaches that assignment, they click through to that activity to complete it.
The problem with using these tools asynchronously is that once students complete an assignment or module, they usually don’t return to it. From time to time, I will explicitly direct students to return to previous modules to see what new ideas are being discussed, so that they will continue to learn from their classmates.
Another way to encourage collaboration is to make use of the Stream tab to allow students to post and make comments. Students can post questions about an assignment or a topic, and their classmates are able to answer them. In addition, if students create something as a result of their modules, such as a video on a topic they learned about, they can post the assignment to the Stream and their classmates can review and comment on it.
4. Set up procedures for grading, monitoring, and feedback: The hardest part for the teacher in an asynchronous blended learning environment is knowing when a student is ready for feedback. Even though I confer with students, it can be difficult to track where every student is in the modules.
To cope with this, I create a Google Form and post it as a Material resource at the top of the Classwork page. It stays there throughout the year. In the Form, students give their name, the current date, and the assignment they’re completing. The Form then asks them if they’re ready for informal feedback or an official grade.
While I could keep checking this Form to see when students need feedback, I activated the option to get an email notification every time a new response is submitted. This way I know exactly which assignment to visit, which student to observe, and what type of feedback to provide. Students have come to master this process throughout the year, and it’s been an easy way to track and monitor what they’re completing.