Google Documents Cubed

In approaching Activity 2, I wanted to evaluate an open source technology.  While Google has developed several open source applications, I chose to focus on Google Docs.

Face 1: Market Focus

Google Docs is being used in a variety of settings from K-12 to higher education institutions as well as in business venues.

Face 2: Types of Offerings

Google Documents encompasses a variety of offerings from word processing to presentations.

Face 3: Who is the Buyer?

Because Google Documents is open source technology, there is no “buyer” per say, but rather a customer. The decision to use Google Docs can be made by individuals or by institutions. In the educational arena, many utilize Google Docs for its collaborative features.

Face 4 – Global Markets

Google Docs is uniquely positioned in the global marketplace. Due to the popularity of Google’s free web browser and electronic mail service, customers can easily access Google documents. For those who are unfamiliar with how to use Google documents, tutorials are readily available such as this one from CommonCraft.

Face 5 – Development of the Market

A growing demand for open source applications ensures the continuing development of the market for application such as Google Docs. Other open source roducts such as OpenOffice  provide competition in the market. As a company, Google is committed to ongoing development and open access to an both products and an infrastructure which allow for ease of access (portability). For more information see

Face 6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

I am not entirely sure how to address this aspect. While Google Docs is not solely a learning technology, the growing demand from various sectors for open source productivity applications stimulates competition. Within the educational realm, the need for dependable, collaborative applications ensures that Google Docs and other developing open source productivity applications will be well received.


1 Lorne Upton { 09.28.09 at 9:33 pm }

Do you currently use Google Docs as a teaching tool? If you do, how so?

2 David Vogt { 09.29.09 at 6:13 am }

Google Docs had achieved good penetration in academic environments for a number of reasons. The collaborative features are certainly attractive. The overall usability remains inferior to that of other word processing applications, but in terms of value for money (its free!) it is hard to beat.

The primary stumbling blocks for Google Docs in education are about ownership and security. For example, many institutions outside of the US don’t allow their teachers and students to use it because the US Patriot Act would allow external surveillance.

The other issue is “who is the buyer” – it is advertisers. Google’s business model is identity taxation – selling information about you to advertisers. That’s not a welcome proposition in most schools.

3 Erica T { 09.29.09 at 9:41 am }

As a beginning MET student, I was introduced to Google Docs as a collaboration tool for the first group assignment in my other course. I saw it’s value there. But our “creation” did not occur there…only the beginnings of our collaboration. I can see applications (like creating the phone/email directory of my son’s school!) where Google Docs would be appropriate as each member of the team can update as the project goes along and then the document is found in one location in a completed form. (without all those piles of emails). I point out this application as an example, because the issue of ownership is not a concern in a project of this type. (However, security obviously is). But again, it comes back to the price. FREE is attractive, especially to users who are not necessarily using technology on a regular basis and just want an efficient place to get the job done as a team.

4 Tony D { 09.29.09 at 11:13 am }

I have tried to attach youtube video to my posts in this course but have been unsuccessful. How did you embed your video?


5 James Richardson { 09.29.09 at 4:50 pm }

Google docs are free as in beer and not free as in speech. Does UBC have a blanket policy on the use of Google docs that you know of?


6 David Vogt { 09.29.09 at 5:33 pm }

UBC’s “blanket” policy, such as it is, is to embrace new technologies in a critical and constructive manner. It’s more important that learners be actively aware (through hard personal experience, collaborative exploration, and discerning mentorship) of the both the potentials and pitfalls of emerging technologies than it is for their learning environment to be judiciously pruned or constrained by anyone posing to be wiser. My two cents, which UBC is attempting to follow.

7 Sean McMinn { 09.29.09 at 5:57 pm }

Security issues and end-user protection within this identity taxation model is an important thing to consider, I think. Something that I guess would apply to other online applications (like Ning), that rely on Google Ads for some of their income. Free is not free, is it.

I wonder, as more educational institutions become more aware of the issues involved around ToS, security, and such, will they be more hesitant in using the free online applications (like Google Docs and Ning)? Could that damage the business model and decrease potential income?


8 davidp { 09.29.09 at 9:06 pm }

This is a good one for further discussion in the Open Source module.

While Google Docs are free to use, I’m not sure they are open source. And, as has been noted by Jim, “free as in beer, or kitten, etc.”

When we get to open source we’ll look at different versions of free, including libre. I think Sean is getting at this point in his comment above..

9 Barrie Carter { 10.04.09 at 2:45 pm }

Hello Liz:

I have used Google docs as a collaborative tool with past fellow MET course mates.

Indeed, it is an interesting space… often messy when it comes to reading responses, adding posts, and editing content. However, I suspect that this is more of a group challenge than a design flaw in Google docs.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed Google talk, which was helpful with the group’s collaborative efforts.

Finally, although Google docs is not open source, there are many open source collaborative tools on the Web for users to enjoy.



10 Barbara { 10.04.09 at 6:56 pm }

One of the problems i have had with Google is that if a group of 20 tries to get access (a login and password) from a single classroom not all of them can get them. There seems to be a max from one venue and maybe then they charge something like a corporate rate. Has anybody encountered this?

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