Google Apps for Dummies
September 5, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I want to love Google Apps for Education. On the surface it does everything we want it to do, provide emails for students, offer individual log-in, save items on the Google Server rather than individual computers, provide simple document software, etc. Except that it doesn't.....

We set up our Google Apps for Education domain last year. When I say we, I mean, that I did as the resident non-tech, techy person. When it works it is great, however, it doesn't work a lot of the time.

I'm not sure if our issues are globally with the whole thing or just individual issues that add up so that it feels like we have a bigger problem than we do.

Here are the problems we are having with the Google Docs.

Server issues: For example two days ago I created a form via the Google Forms. I haven't been able to access it since and I keep getting a server error. I can see all my other documents just fine.

Excel Issues: The spreadsheet lines don't exactly line up. It is very difficult to tell which lines you are writing on when looking at the actual spreadsheet area.

Connectivity and Slowness: When a group of students are all working on a document it goes sloooooww. I understand when using a small website that things would go slower, but this is Google right? We shouldn't be slowing down something from Google.

The issues could probably just keep going on and on, but my main question is this: Are there elementary/middle schools using Google Apps for Education effectively? What secrets do they have? I feel like I hear about this every time I go to a conference, but the reality is so wieldy and clunky.
posted by aetg to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Connectivity and Slowness: When a group of students are all working on a document it goes sloooooww

What is the connection from the school like? The most likely explanation would be overall bandwidth, the more students on your connection the slower things will get.

I agree that the Google end is almost certainly not the issue there, it's probably local.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:48 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you tried having everyone use Google Chrome to go with it? Its use of SPDY rather than HTTP to talk to Google Apps is just one way it might improve your experience.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:48 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wildcrdj--Our school bandwidth may indeed be the problem, but we aren't noticing this with other websites, which is why I was wondering. Also, the Sllloooowww often ends up being crash and reopening the document.

Monsieur Caution--I will admit that I only kind of know what you are talking about, but that is exactly the kind of suggestion I was looking for?

Sorry to thread-sit. I just know that my question wasn't exactly the clearest.
posted by aetg at 3:55 PM on September 5, 2012

What web browser / operating system do the students normally use? Some browsers will run Google Docs better than others, although the latest version of pretty much any of them should work pretty well.

We have large # of concurrent users on docs at work and it usually runs great (although in my case connectivity/bandwidth is essentially unlimited).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:01 PM on September 5, 2012

We typically run Internet Explorer or Firefox, but if Chrome is the answer we will use it!
posted by aetg at 4:13 PM on September 5, 2012

What hardware and OS? Do you have old under powered machines?
posted by alms at 4:27 PM on September 5, 2012

Recent versions of Firefox can do SPDY too, but anecdotally, an update to Google Reader is what finally caused me to give up on Firefox. I think it was primarily the performance gain in Javascript execution that I needed at the time, but whatever it was the difference was like night and day.

That said, large documents are going to be slow. Turning off the spellchecker helps.

But venture into the subterranean depths of Google Apps Script if you need unambiguous evidence of just how bad GAE's server-side performance can be (e.g. two-line scripts taking 5-25 seconds to create a menu item).

I was a GAE administrator in higher ed for four years, and all I can say is it's the best general purpose collaboration suite there is--it's not perfect by a long shot.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:28 PM on September 5, 2012

alms--we are running Microsoft XP and 7, different machines, and ipads. I'm sure our browsers are in various states of up-to-date. Yes, I'm sure they would qualify as old and clunky. That would probably at least explain the problem of why students open the same document, but it doesn't look the same.

Monsieur Caution--Even though it is annoying that Google Apps has the server issue it is reassuring that it isn't only a school-side problem. It also explains why I can't run things from home, either.
posted by aetg at 6:19 PM on September 5, 2012

Use Chrome. I had a lot fewer problems with the Apps with my students in Chrome. Be sure each student logs out before leaving. I had problems with that.
But the slowness is on your side.
posted by Kazimirovna at 8:35 AM on September 6, 2012

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