Fluidity in Academic, Collaborative Productivity: To G-drive or not to G-drive - seriously, is that really a question?
First and foremost, the United States is a nation of choices - many, many choices. We are fortunate to have choices on how and where we work. For knowledge workers, we are also fortunate enough to choose the types of software and devices on which we complete our work. Blessings are great here.
That being said: One of the nuances we (or, I, if you don’t share the sentiments listed below) deal with in the collegiate setting is that often seen between the management of information for and the management of information for faculty and staff. Why does this matter? Well, If you’re not familiar with Moore’s Law, get familiar with it, because inasmuch as computer capacity increases, the amount of information available to consumers (in this case, faculty, staff, and students) will increase. Information complexity will undoubtedly increase, and therefore, our collective ability to separate the wheat from the chaff needs to be founded on a simplified, consistent, and congruent process.
At my university, students have Google Drive accounts which of course includes Gmail communication. Faculty and staff have One Drive accounts which of course include subscriptions to Microsoft Office 365. (Side note: Google just updated their mobile app to include SMTP, which means users of the app can now add - accounts to their mobile app. Excite!) While this might not seem to be a great issue, think for a moment, teachers, how your course information is supported and managed electronically, on an institutional level. Blackboard is our drug of choice. And by no means do I find blackboard to be an addictive drug - at all! The barrier to entry is very high, particularly for new users. And students don’t appear to be efficient in their use of it until their last year of undergraduate work. So much for efficiency.
I am amazed at what some k-12 teachers are able to do with the simplest forms of technology. We should probably take a cue from them...
While I might enjoy Canvas or Tophat, the reality is that multiple Learning Management Systems (I hate that term) create additional learning barriers for college students, as they are now forced to deal with professors who swear by it and professors who use something else (Canvas, Tophat, Edmundo, etc.). So, for a simplified example, in the case of Google and Microsoft, when it comes to sharing files with students and vice-versa, the difference between a google drive file/link and a one drive file makes a huge difference in the way the information is passed to the student. Simply downloading a copy of the file and sharing with students can create additional barriers with multiple copies of files, editing the correct files, and teaching/instructing in such a way as to prove expedient, efficient feedback (can you see how often I’ve used the word ‘barrier’?). Plus the way blackboard deals with the file differs based on the type of window you have open, and the task you have at hand! In addition (and perhaps most importantly), user experience and interface design make a huge difference in how someone, especially the millennial generation, accepts, processes, and retrieves information. There’s much research previously investigating this topic. Check more of it out here.
So yes - design matters. Thank Debbie Millman.
I find that Google Drive /Google Classroom is really, really easy to use, and students can use it with minimal barrier to entry (that is, it doesn’t take long to learn to use effectively). Plus, with artificial intelligence built into their entire Cloud platform, students can outline documents and slides, and Google can take care of the semantics and point students to additional resources at no cognitive cost to the student. Nice! In turn, this increases the amount of time for students to focus on what matters the most: retaining and learning (not that they always take advantage of these features...)! And perhaps one of my favorite features in Google’s services is the artificial intelligence built into the calendar, such that they (upon your approval) prioritize aspects of wellness into your calendars. Users can essentially have google suggest certain times to healthy habits (exercise, yoga, meditation, etc.) into your calendar. Then, Google keeps track of the success you have keeping your habit.
On the other hand, many faculty and staff members are inclined and accustomed to using software such as MS Outlook. While Outlook is quite a powerful CRM system, it’s most powerful component is the desktop version, which can’t be accessed in across multiple devices. Moreover, when it comes to sharing files, let’s just say that one drive and google drive don’t really play well together (unless you know how to use the IOS Workflow app or Google APIs, which have a higher barrier to entry).
Then, tack on the fact that most people communicate (email) nowadays through their mobile phones, which don’t accommodate learning management systems such as Blackboard. There are companies out there (Tophat, for example) that do an exceptional job making mobile and student-friendly software. But for where most are right now, I would say that a better alignment is needed between student technology and faculty/staff technology and information management.
Not every small, e-nuance can be fixed. However, we are sadly mistaken if we think that pertains to email only. We communicate with comments and feedback on documents, discussion board posts, and the like. And those methods are just as important as cc'ing the entire department on a message meant for the Dean.
...And I haven’t even begun to talk about Apple Education, Dropbox, iCloud, and Box.