Using the cube to evaluate Google within the e-learning domain

I have focused my analysis on Google and their software application “Google docs” and it’s contribution to e-learning.  Previously I have used Google docs during one of my MET courses, and with the launch of their web browser “Chrome” and new cell phone platform, Google has been a company that gets a lot of discussion within my Business class.

Background on Google Docs

Google Docs is a software application that allows users to create and edit a variety of documents (word processing, spreadsheet, and presentations) entirely online.  There is no need to download the software, and this allows users to access the files anywhere and at anytime.  Furthermore, users can invite others to collaborate on the document and different versions can be saved and changes are shown in real time.  In addition to creating documents, Google docs also recognizes traditional file formats such as MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  Google docs is available free of charge.

Face 1: Market Focus

Google docs can be used by a variety of consumers.  Public Schools (k-12) could benefit from using Google docs as opposed to MS Office, and save money (how much? Not sure….but the district could be close to saving thousands of dollars a year on licensing fees).

In terms of higher education, Google docs can again be used to save the colleges and universities from paying software licensing fees.  At the same time, the applications allow students to collaborate on projects in real time and can be a useful tool in online learning, especially for group work, where the group members maybe geographically separated.

Individual families may also switch to using Google docs versus MS Office and save money in licensing fees.  The only downside of Google docs is that it requires the users to have an active Internet connection.

Face 2: Types of Offerings

Google docs operate on a software infrastructure that recognizes other application platforms, and allows those files to be uploaded and worked upon over the Internet.    It allows users to save their work directly over the Internet, and access it on any computer with Internet access.

Face 3: Who is the Buyer?

As Google docs is a free application, I believe every individual and organization is a potential user or customer.

Face 4: Global Markets

Google is in many countries over the world, and with the launch of their new web browser, new cell phone and open-source platform, Google is clearly trying to establish themselves as a leader in software innovation and applications.  Google docs will allow people working in Global markets to work with clients and employees from around the world on the same document.  I believe the document has to be in English; however Google is also working towards translations as well.


Face 5: Development of the Market

Google docs have great positioning and potential in the market for online applications.  Already, they have the reputation of being a leader in search engines and with their mapping software they will benefit from a market that is expanding.  More and more potential users are using their mobile phones to connect to the Internet to get directions or check their email or simply surf.  Google already offers the searching and the Gmail, but now they can also capitalize from people using their applications to edit and upload documents online.

Face 6: Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

The technology presented by Google docs can be used by traditional schools and replace MS Office applications.    Google docs are a tool that can be used by both traditional and e-learning systems of education.


– Jag


1 David Wees { 09.20.08 at 5:48 pm }

In an area of the world, Google docs can allow schools to do the unthinkable, completely release themselves from the tyrany of the Windows operating system. With Google docs, and some other tools provided with the Linux operating system, schools can greatly reduce the costs associated with software licenses.

2 David Wees { 09.20.08 at 5:52 pm }

Oops, I meant to say ‘internet connected’ part of the world, my bad.

3 Carolann Fraenkel { 09.20.08 at 9:06 pm }

Actually google does have customers, advertisers. About 90% of their revenue comes from advertising. They also offer a whole host of other education based tools. Here is a link to a YouTube video from teachers and principals about google docs

and here is one to Google Tutor (good for the geek in you)


4 Bryan Funk { 09.20.08 at 10:53 pm }

I am a google Docs user myself. It enables me to work on documents and not have to worry about remembering to save them to my jump drive to take to work or back home. Also eliminates the confusion of having several versions of the same document.

5 Bryan Funk { 09.20.08 at 11:16 pm }

You may have seen this but this is an interseting look at the possible future of Educational Technology and Google.

Go to the website and watch the 20/20 Vision exerpt. The others a thought provoking as well.

6 Susan Wilson { 09.21.08 at 6:31 am }

I have used Google Docs both in my MET courses and with my students. It is a great tool for collaboration.

One aspect of web-based software that I did not mention in my cube-analysis is that students can access them at our school. I will assume that most school networks have limited privileges for students in terms of downloading aps and deep freeze systems that wipe any changes off the system.

Google Docs also has a great Form feature that can be used to populate spreadsheets. It is improved now so that you can link to a public spreadsheet and have anyone fill it or you can even embed the form in your CMS, blog or site and have students or parents fill in the information that you can then view in a spreadsheet. Once you have all that, take a look at the widgets!

Another great improvement is the live chat feature!

Google Docs is an excellent tool for education – thanks for the post Jag!

7 cwickes { 09.21.08 at 9:39 am }

Thanks for the post about google docs – I spent some time exploring….It’s unbelievable what is now and will be in the future available to students in this day and age and beyond.
This kind of technology seriously changes the way some kinds of lessons are traditionally taught – as an example I’m thinking of the ‘Writing Process’ that incorporates several levels of pre-writing to publishing in a collaborate environment. This technological environment could certainly enhance this process.

8 Gillian Gunderson { 09.21.08 at 12:29 pm }

Nice post, Jag.

Google docs is a good option for collaboration. I have used it only once in MET, to complete a paper for 511, but the potential is huge.

I’m using Google sites for 531, and Google reader for this course.

David W. mentions the “tyrany of the Windows operating system” and is happy there are other options. Google is huge – is there or will there perhaps be a backlash from those looking for other options that don’t include a huge entity that is “swallowing” much in its path? What about utility? Google sites is free, but frustrating!

Will it matter? Windows is still huge, despite being a negative experience for some.

Another note: A group member in 531 has suggested Zoho (offers similar things to Google, but…it’s different). There are so many freely available applications that trying to keep up with current trends or everyones’ personal preferences is overwhelming. I would pay for someone to organize all my “free” stuff into one interface.

Convergence at its finest: free meets fee.

9 Joe Dobson { 09.21.08 at 8:42 pm }

Great choice of topics for the analysis. I hadn’t heard of Google docs until a few months ago when someone introduced it. I set up a form with it (very easy) for conference proposal submissions for a conference this October. The great aspect of it was the level of collaboration possible – folks in other cities can be given access to the forms and it makes working together a heck of a lot easier. The interface leaves a little to be desired (as do some of Google’s China policies for that matter), but I think they’re onto something.

10 Sarah Wood { 09.25.08 at 7:33 am }

The company my husband works at uses Google docs as an emergency recovery system. In the event that an emergency renders the company’s servers inaccessible, the company has all its important documents, and emergency procedures hosted on Google docs. During the emergency all employees can access the documents and collaborate within Google docs….and the business continues to function!!!


11 Marc Kampschuur { 09.25.08 at 11:34 am }


I dont know what company/line of bussiness your husband is hence perhaps the following comments are not on point but in general would have the following questions in the application of Google Docs as an offsite backup tool.

If there is an emergency and employees need to access emergency procedures, will employees remain on the premises to access Google docs? Will the power be on? Will sprinklers/water allow the interface to work?

What is the nature of the important documents that are stored offsite on the Google Docs? Does the company understand the controls in place at Google to protect the information stored on Google Docs? Can the CIO signoff on the statements?

Are there protocols to ensure the completeness, existence, accuracy… of the data stored? Would be funny if one doc was set to “publish” (just takes one click) which converts it into a publicly accessible webpage.

There are businesses specialized in providing offsite data backup serves – Mozy comes to mind ( (

Cheers, Marc

12 Sarah Wood { 09.25.08 at 5:28 pm }

Hi Marc,

Thank you for your questions – I had to wait until he got home before I could respond….

The company has 20-25 people and the majority have company issued laptops so they can work remotely from home. For them, data backup is separate from the emergency preparedness plan (company phone numbers, procedures, templates, etc.). Critical documents are backed up on separate archived servers, Blueray, and client documents are hosted on an iCentera hosted secure portal.

Thanks, Sarah

13 Bruce Spencer { 09.26.08 at 9:05 am }

I have also used Google Doc but to a limited extent.

Thanks everyone the wealth of information and for sharing your experiences… my mind is in overdrive at the moment… I’ll have to take a closer look at Google Docs to see if it can’t be put to good use within my own working environment.

14 Jagpal Uppal { 09.28.08 at 5:09 pm }

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to thank everyone that has shared and commented on this post. Your collaboration has helped make this a very insightful experience.

Sarah – the idea of using Google docs as an emergency server to host valuable documents and keep the company in business…..was one that I had not thought of. This is a real life application, that I will definately share with my students….thanks!

To be honest….these MET courses can sometimes be like a rollercoaster. During the “fun” parts of the ride, I get exposed to many different software applications, platforms, and resources. The “not-so-fun part of the ride, comes when everything gets confusing….or redundant. There are a wealth of resources out there…but sometimes I feel like my colleague Gillian Gunderson who said:

“There are so many freely available applications that trying to keep up with current trends or everyones’ personal preferences is overwhelming. I would pay for someone to organize all my “free” stuff into one interface.”

Thanks again to everyone for sharing.

15 Marc Kampschuur { 09.30.08 at 12:38 am }

Hi Sarah:

That makes more sense – and suppose there is a benefit too of having the non-sensitive docs separate from the sensitive ones. Also a benefit that immediately linked to email.

Cheers, Marc

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