Google Classroom: One Killer Feature and 5 Perfectly Nice Functions

I’ve been using Google Classroom for two years now, and I highly recommend it for the following reasons:
  • My students love the simplicity of this platform: it is very easy to navigate, there are no files to upload, and it integrates with their Google Drive, Calendar and Gmail;
  • Using a very simple menu, you can add an assignment, pose a question or announcement, or re-use a post;
  • Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 9.07.27 PMEverything is one click away (unlike some classroom management systems!)
  • Everything is backed up on Google’s servers rather than significantly more unreliable local servers;
  • It is an integral part of Google Apps.

The Killer Feature
However, the most powerful feature of Classroom is that it does what the revered Doctopus add-on script used to do. (Sidebar: I sat next to Doctopus creator Andrew Stillman at a Google Classroom demo at ISTE 2014, and he seemed to be all onboard with Classroom). Using the “Make a copy for each student” option when you create an assignment, Classroom distributes individualized copies of this document for each student. Moreover, the Doc is added both to the student’s individual Drive, and a folder containing all the students’ Docs will be added to your Drive. (However, you can also access all the Docs in Classroom).

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.32.35 PM

That’s it. Classroom emails the students their individual copies of the Doc (or they can open it from Classroom), they write their paper/ answer the questions/ create an image/ edit it, then simply press the “Turn In” button in the top right corner to submit it. Classroom will show which students have submitted their Docs, and you can then grade/edit the Doc and adds comments; they will see your edits but not the comments until your “return” the Doc to them. (I will often put the grade in a comment so I can control when they see the grade).

Aside from eliminating the need to upload documents, share docs, or track multiple versions of a document, the most powerful aspect of this feature is that you can include almost anything on your template: detailed instructions, drawings, rubrics – anything you could possibly add to a Doc. You can use the document distribution feature for almost anything: I use it to write my college recommendations, communicate with an athletic team I coach, and to lead technology training sessions.

Nice Feature 1
You can easily add other teachers to a course Classroom by using the “Invite teacher” button on the About tab. Other teachers can then edit anything on your course or merely audit it. Once again, this process is simpler than on some other course management systems.

Nice Feature 2
The course header is easy to edit/ customize. I usually take panoramic pictures of the students in my class (a long and narrow image is necessary), and use this as the header for the Classroom course.

Nice Feature 3
Add students either by inviting them through email or giving them the class code. As ever, this is a one-step process with a minimum of clicks.

Nice Feature 4
All assignments are automatically added to your Google Calendar (which then can be added to student calendars if you share it with them).Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.59.15 PM

Nice Feature 5
Using the “Question” option, you can create quick surveys/ exit tickets for your students: Classroom provides charts of the results immediately.


Clearly, Classroom is (not yet?) a fully-fledged course management system: it can record grades for each assessment, but there’s no grade book as such. However, in tandem with a grade book, Classroom provides a powerful and highly streamlined document and resource management system that eliminates a lot of wasted time clicking through menus and uploading documents.