Online learning has been growing steadily for quite some time. New opportunities arrive almost every day, from digital courses to fully online college degrees. One of the major factors that contributed to its huge push was the COVID-19 pandemic. All the processes that existed before gained even more traction.
Digitalization of education and distance learning opportunities are undoubtedly powered by Google products. Let’s discuss how this happened and how Google took over online learning.
Although distance learning was introduced in the middle of the 20th century, it really took off with the internet. When computers became more accessible, the changes rapidly sped up. Today, it is a huge market that attracts investment and effort from all types of companies. Even before COVID-19, Research and Markets projected that online education will reach $350 billion in value by 2025. After the global pandemic, these numbers might be even bigger.
No one is surprised by the opportunities offered today. Students and pupils can learn from anywhere, access various platforms and apps, and get professional help. For example, services like WritePaper offer assistance to college students with their assignments. Professional academic writers provide advice and tips on how to develop this skill. They also help with writing, editing, and proofreading college papers of any complexity.
And this expert help is available to any student from the comfort of their home. It is just one example of how technology makes education easier and more accessible. So it is not surprising that EdTech is a booming industry today.
Today, the online learning market consists of several types of opportunities:
- Distance opportunities provided by colleges (additional courses or full degrees);
- Separate learning platforms (Udemy, EdX, Coursera, Udacity, etc.);
- Homework help platforms;
- Access to databases and all types of academic resources.
And there are tools that empower all of it – hardware devices and software solutions. And this is where Google enters the game.
Besides the online opportunities, Google transformed traditional classrooms worldwide. It was the first step to its domination of the industry as a whole.
There are several reasons why it happened:
- Affordable software products;
- Special devices like Chromebooks;
- Free applications;
- Ease of use and adoption;
- Google’s policy on reaching out to educators and pitching their services.
Now, let’s get into some details and statistics that show the depth of Google’s penetration of classrooms. According to the University of Phoenix research of 2017, 63% of US teachers used technology in their work daily. They used laptops, applications, 3D printers, as well as social media. The same processes were happening in Europe. Asia and Japan, in particular, lead the digitalization trend. According to the Deutsche Welle survey of 2018, the secondary schools in Japan all use technology for teacher and student interactions.
Surely, technology allows learning important skills and prepares students for the real world. No one can argue the multitude of benefits that EdTech can offer.
In 2019, Google revealed that 30 million educators and learners are using Chromebooks. Google Classroom had about 40 billion users at that time. And different educational Google apps counted about 80 million users globally.
In the US, Google representatives approached educators directly and pitched their services. They’ve made presentations and offered great deals when it comes to saving money. Only Gmail allows saving a huge chunk of the budget when used instead of a separate internal mailing system.
In 2017, 65% of US schools were using Google Classroom, according to the Market Brief statistics. And 52% of respondents claimed that they would opt for Google products for learning.
So how does it correspond to online learning?
First of all, when you are used to a particular product or operating system from a young age, it is easy to stay loyal. If pupils have been using these products all their school life, why would they choose anything else later?
Secondly, the company offers a well-developed ecosystem of devices and products that complement each other and work together.
The ecosystem consists of two main parts – devices and applications. When it comes to devices, there are smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Also, there is Google Nest for smart homes.
What makes them popular? The key factors are:
- They are lightweight and slick;
- They are affordable;
- They have pre-configured security and virus protection;
- They are user-friendly and have features like Assistant, voice commands, and multitasking opportunities;
- These devices are quite reliable and durable.
For many students, it is much more accessible than other high-end products. And when you get such a device, you also get access to a multitude of educational software applications that make life easier. Some of them are designed specifically for distance learning, others are just convenient.
One of the major benefits of these applications is that they are either free or very affordable. You can use Gmail and GoogleDocs for free. You also can easily organize and manage all study materials with Google Cloud. There is even a G Suite designed specifically for schools and colleges.
Some of the applications are:
When used all together, they are seamlessly integrated and synced. You can cover all your needs with little to no investment.
The main reason why Google was able to take over both traditional and online learning is that it offers great products for a fraction of the price.
You can distantly follow courses or even earn a college degree with the ecosystem provided. It covers all the needs, from scheduling and time management to various media and group projects. And in individual use, you do not get to spend much. The majority of the apps offer free functionality or affordable subscription.
It is comfortable, user-friendly, and easily available. This is what helped the company to beat competitors like Microsoft.
The secret behind it is that Google mainly earns through the use of personal information rather than selling devices or apps. They offer their services as cheap because they also get a much more valuable resource from users – their data.
And this is where the risks of such monopolization come from. With school penetration, the company gets access to children’s information. It can track the searches and interactions with ads. It can also view what images people download or read the emails. For instance, the company admitted to mining emails in 2014. Since then, it claims to not use the students’ data. It also stopped showing ads to children.
Yet, there are still concerns about personal information as the company does not completely disclose how they use it. New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the company in 2020 for invading the privacy of children through free learning software.
Google has crafted a winning strategy to take over the educational sector with affordable hardware and software. It offers a comfortable and powerful ecosystem that makes learning easier and more engaging. However, there are some risks that come with it. As the company’s main source of income has to do with the personal data of users. There is a lack of transparency from its side on this matter.