Are Google Apps the New Way to Learn in Philippine Universities?

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Untitled-2It looks like search engine giant Google is about to make a remarkable change for Philippine education. It just launched its “Schools Gone Google” project, which gives 16 of the biggest universities in the Philippines access to Google Apps for Education.

Google Apps for Education is a suite comprised of hosted email and Drive, its online Microsoft Office-like collaboration applications that are offered for free by Google to universities. With this ongoing implementation, Google apps will be used by almost the entire population of schools in the nation. Students, teachers, and staff already have the ability to put all their educational materials, work information, contacts, and schedules online to be accessible anywhere on the web.

Janet Yoon, Google Apps Supporting Programs (GASP) lead for the Philippines says:

Google is more than willing to assist higher education institutions who want to use our tools for a more collaborative learning experience.

Now the dog can’t eat your homework

We know how we can all use Google to search and store files, but what makes it different in a university setting? Google gives each user 30GB of inbox space (double the regular 15GB space), and it also gives 5GB of free Drive storage for each user, with the option to add extra storage of up to 16TB per user, for an additional fee. Google uses two-factor authentication for these accounts.

Philippine schools are not so much behind on technology. They use laptops and tablets for reports, but other aspects like taking down notes, creating lesson plans, and marking grades are still generally done on paper. With the introduction of Google apps for universities, that will move to the cloud. For example, Drive can allow a professor in one branch to collaborate with his colleagues at another campus in real-time. Students can upload papers, where teachers can simply make notes and comments online. Staff can create and share calendars where they can easily coordinate and schedule meetings. The way I see it, it will become a more streamlined process for a huge population like universities.

One of the biggest universities in the country to migrate its education management system is the University of the Philippines (UP), the country’s premier state university. This is part of its eUP project that aims to bridge the gap of students and teachers that are in the different branches of the university nationwide. Currently, it has two branches in Metro Manila, and a number of branches more in provincial areas.

UP president Alfredo E. Pascual says that implementing “Google Apps for Education for the whole UP system is a big move” for them. He adds:

We want to optimize the use of technology to provide our students with a better learning experience.

Synced-up campuses

The university’s main campus in Metro Manila is bringing 70,000 of its students, faculty, staff, and alumni to the education suite. Once the whole UP system has completed the integration on all its campuses, it is expected to reach 250,000 users.

Of the early adopters of the program was the AMA Computer University, which is currently the biggest in terms of Google Apps user-base. The university has already migrated 150,000 students, faculty, and staff, including those in its international campus in Bahrain.

Google is looking to make this available to close to two million students, faculty, and school staff once all the schools have fully migrated. It also reports the Philippines’ Commission of Higher Education (CHED) and Department of Education led this development and also brought almost 700,000 employees into the program. Here’s what Charlie Calimlim, chief of the information and publication division at CHED says:

Our productivity increased by 166 percent. We were able to take action on client requests more efficiently after implementing Google Apps for Education.

Google is not alone in this space. Microsoft, has also been busy tapping technical colleges and educational institutions throughout India to provide Office Web Apps. The two tech giants offer similar features for educational institutes of all sizes to access and share documents through any device.

This could be an efficient system given that in the Metro Manila area, most students now have tablets and laptops to work with, and schools are also providing wi-fi access. If this is the new way of bringing out the best in the education sector, it’s something we should see in the coming months.

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