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Instructional Design and Technology in Education

What’s new with Google Apps for Education March 2016

Google is always moving forward with new tools, techniques and processes. Here are some of the new things that pertain specifically to Google Apps for Education and are of interest to faculty and students.


Google has raised the participant limit from 15 to 25. This means that in most cases, you could use a Google Hangout to support an entire class. It sounds like you’ll only be able to visually see the 10 most prominent speakers at the bottom of the hangout window. I am guessing that those 10 images are those who are speaking the most. Google made this decision so that the video quality would not be compromised.

Hangout Chat

I find  the instant chat function of hangouts very useful. I get immediate answers to questions that I might need quickly. I try not to abuse it with my co-workers too often. Google programers have included some silliness to chats by including some easter eggs that appear when you  type in a specific word string into the chat box. For example, type in “/bikeshed” (without the quotes) and the background of your chat window changes colors for you and the person you’re chatting with. Type  “/bikeshed” again to change colors again. The colors do not stick after you close the chat window. Try “/pitchforks” and this is what you get!



Google Calendar

In addition to creating Events and Appointment slots, you can now create Reminders in your calendar.

  • Reminders carry forward to the next day unless you mark them as done.
  • Reminders are private to your calendar even if you share it with others.
  • You can add Reminders from Calendar or  from Inbox.

Google Drive

Getting a sharable link  for a file within Google Drive has changed. When you select a document and then click on the Sharable Link icon from Google Drive, you get the option to turn Link sharing on or off directly without having to click into the advanced settings to make this change. Thanks Google, for streamlining this feature!

link sharing

Another new features has to do with expiration dates. You can now set expiration dates on files in Google Drive, Documents, Sheets and Slides. Perhaps you want to set a limited amount of time on accessing a file. You can set a date for when access expires. From the Advanced settings under Sharing, hover over a name until you see a watch icon. Click on the icon to establish an expiration date. The time is set by default to be 1 minute before midnight.

Expiring Access


Google Sheets

Convert text to columns is now available in Google Sheets. Look at Data ->Split text to columns. You select how you want the column information is to be split: comma, semicolons, periods, spaces, and custom indicators. And immediately after pasting data, you’ll see a small clipboard icon by your selection. Use the contextual menu approach to quickly separate the data.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 2.02.12 PM

Google Docs

It can sometimes be hard to manage a  long document but Google has added a new tool that provides an outline of the document  in a Document outline side panel. From the Tools menu option within your document, select Document outline. The outline is based on headings that you apply, but if you don’t apply them, Google will try to select obvious headings for you.

google doc outline

Another feature added to Google Documents is the capability to export as EPUB publications. EPUBs is a file format that publishes accessible documents and digital books that is responsive to a variety of mobile devices and E-readers.


Looking for some professional looking templates? Five experts have created templates that have been added to the  collection of templates for Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Get inspiration to look like the experts! Try out the Annual Business Budget sheet created by Quickbooks or the Lesson Plans and Book Report template from Reading Rainbow.


In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, Google created the Chrome Music Lab. Check in out!

Want more? March 2016 Google Apps  Newsletter




Author: Heidi Olson

Heidi enjoys working with content experts in developing eCampus courses to provide alternatives for students. Her other interests include faculty training in best practices for eCampus and researching eCampus tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 20 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as technology and pedagogy evolve.

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