The recent announcements from Google that Classroom is open to all is on the face of it a real win for what is one of our favourite tools (indeed one that has exploded in popularity in our schools in the last six months).
The change means that anyone, whether they are affiliated with a school or not, can create online courses for people to enrol on.
We believe that Classroom can make technology work effectively in any learning relationship between an instructor and student, no matter what shape that takes. We’re excited to see new educators and learners join the Classroom community, and are looking forward to seeing how they’ll use it to meet their needs.Experience tells us that there many people out there who can produce compelling learning resources and publish them on the web either as teachers publishing outside their work, or people from the wider community. Great.
But what about e-safety? What is the risk of someone creating "rogue" courses as a means to make contact with children? It might be a low risk, but it is our job to make sure that can't happen.
On our admin system (admin.google.com > Apps > Google Apps > Classroom > Class Settings) we have set up the rules for staff and students shown below.
Currently only people signed up with our system of 33 schools can log into any of the classes set up by our staff (and who on our staff can create a course is limited to those added to the "teachers" group). This is the most restrictive approach, but in the future we could whitelist other domains (perhaps to allow people from a school we were working with to join one of our courses) or indeed we could open it up to everyone - but as it is one setting for every course, that is unlikely!
We set things so that students can only join courses that are run by one of our staff. In theory we could allow a particular domain (so maybe a company might offer a Google Classroom course that we whitelisted).
So provided you set up Classroom correctly there is no increase in risk. I'm glad I checked ours "just in case" and suggest that anyone that administers a G-Suite system does the same!
It would be great if we could add a new setting in the admin panel: "Allow courses to have an individual setting for access." That would allow us as a Trust to say "a course manager can override this default to make it available outside" so that we didn't have to choose between a complete lock down, or a broader risk.