Using Google+ as an alternative to a learning management system

Since the introduction of communities on Google+ it has become very simple to use Google+ as a substitute for an LMS like Moodle. Of course, Google+ lacks some important features of an LMS, like a gradebook and lerner analytics. Still, in some circumstances it might make a lot of sense to use Google+ as an LMS:

  • no LMS is available (most frequently in lower grades)
  • students’ acceptance of LMS is very low
  • LMS is used mainly for discussion and course materials vs grading and testing

In these cases I have traditionally used a class blog as a substitute for an LMS. The advantage of Google+ over a blog here is that it being a social network facilitates both posting as well as student interaction (posting, commenting, sharing).

This year I am teaching a video-editing class with Google+ rather than Moodle for the first time and it has been a great experience: sharing information, materials and links is much easier and faster and so is posting example videos. Social interactions and peer learning are much easier on G+ than inside an LMS.

Here are the required steps and some tips:

  • Set up a private community and invite students to join
  • Set up required categories (e.g. materials, coursework, discussion board)
  • Set up a shared Google Drive folder for course materials
  • Set up a shared folder for students to upload their materials
  • Sharing photos, videos, docs, etc. from Google Drive works seamlessly
  • Use Google Forms for quizzes, feedback, polls, etc. directly inside the G+ community
  • Use Events as class calendar (shown on the right hand side of the community)

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