Google Classroom Integration Improvements
We continue to invest in our Google Classroom Integration to improve its functionality. We recently released an update to better support using the integration across multiple grading periods.
One challenge for teachers is that grading periods do not exist in Google Classroom. So they must invent a process to handle grading period transitions. Some teachers create a new set of Classrooms for each grading period. Others clean up existing Classrooms by deleting all old assignments. Still others continue using their original Classrooms and just add more assignments to them. Since there’s no “official” method supported within Google Classroom, teachers’ data is very chaotic.
In our original integration, we (wrongly) assumed TeacherEase and Google Classroom should be nearly identical copies of each other. So we tried to keep the data in sync, much like we do with rosters when integrating with other external systems. We would create, edit, and delete assignments/scores in response to changes in Google Classroom.
Unfortunately, teachers didn’t really want “data synchronization.” They manage gradebook and LMS data differently, and preferred a simple automatic import to reduce the manual labor of data entry, not a sophisticated data sync between systems. Specifically, automatic deletion of assignments in TeacherEase surprised many users and left them without important data in either system.
As an improvement, we removed automated deletion of TeacherEase assignments by the integration. This should allow teachers to better navigate grading period transitions.
We no longer delete assignments in TeacherEase when they are deleted in Google Classroom.
If you unlink an entire TeacherEase class from Google Classroom, we no longer delete all linked assignments.
If you relink a TeacherEase class to Google Classroom, we’ll detect any assignments that were previously linked, and relink them (not create duplicate copies).
If Google Classroom has assignments in multiple grading periods, we automatically pull the assignment into the correct grading period based upon its date.
Since all deletion is now manual, we updated “Mass Delete Assignments,” to make it easier to explicitly delete many assignments, if desired. We added a filter to find (and delete) unlinked Google Classroom assignments.
In TeacherEase, old assignments are rarely deleted. They typically persist in closed grading periods and support report cards that have been published and distributed. We updated the sync to prevent changes in Google Classroom from affecting scores in closed grading periods, which should presumably match existing report cards.
Another issue we attempted to address is editing of scores directly in TeacherEase. The Google API supports one-way transfer of data only (from Google Classroom to external applications), so we can’t push score updates back into Google Classroom. This means that scores modified in TeacherEase will be different from scores in Google Classroom.
We strive to build simple and clean products. Score inconsistency between the two systems has always seemed “messy” to us. Which score is the “right” one? Would parents and students be confused by different scores? If Google Classroom syncs a score that overwrites teachers’ manual data entry, would teachers be concerned when their data entry disappeared? The first version of our Google Classroom integration made no attempt to manage these edge cases.
We attempted to improve this situation by preventing manual updates from being overwritten by future syncs, but we got significant negative feedback from customers, "Why aren't my scores syncing?" Many teachers like the flexibility of entering different scores directly into TeacherEase, and don’t think it’s a problem that scores in the two systems are different. They didn’t like restrictions we added. Many wanted future updates from Google to overwrite their manual changes (e.g. replace zeros for missing work with students’ scores for late work). Many have already communicated with their community how it works in their classroom. So we rolled back most of our well-intentioned software changes.
Instead we’re going to take a different approach. We will allow changes in Google Classroom to overwrite manually entered scores in TeacherEase. When this occurs, we'll create a News Feed item and notify the teacher. Once aware of the change, they can manually correct the TeacherEase score, if desired. If this situation happens frequently and generates too much communication, notifications can be turned off. This feature should be released in the near future.
Many of our customers use Google extensively, and we plan to continue investing in the integration. Up next, we’re thinking about importing “missing” and “late” fields from Google Classroom, as teachers spend lots of time manually entering this data. As always, we’ll announce new features on our “News” page.
The Common Goal Team