Google Fortifies Its Cloud, Hangouts To Better Serve EdTech


Google has now announced a plethora of updates for its Hangouts and wider cloud services geared toward improving life for its education sector cloud customers. Revealed in conjunction with Google Cloud Next 2019, changes span the breadth of G Suite for Education, which the search giant says is now used by more than 90 million students and educators around the globe.

Three of the alternations are rolling out starting today, with two of those tied directly into making the process of learning with G Suite more accessible. More directly, both center around the addition of machine learning-driven closed-captions, although in each instance those appear to only be available for English as of this writing.

Those are being added first to Google's video and audio-based Hangouts tool — Hangouts Meet. Captions will be available for English in the US on Slideshows created in Google Slides.


The third change rolling out immediately for G Suite for Education customers is the ability to add audio files directly to a slideshow from Google Drive, making it easier for educators to prepare presentations in advance.

In a similar vein, Google says that starting today, Gmail will allow users to schedule emails for sending.

Features still on the way 


Not content with that array of changes, Google also plans to roll out updates to Hangouts Meet to be publicly live streamed to up to 100,000 users that aren't part of the registered domain associated with a G Suite for Education account. Summarily, that means Hangouts Meet can now be utilized for widespread lesson sessions publicly, without the need for learners at a distance to sign into a G Suite-associated account.

For those who are signed up, as many as 250 participants can now take part in Hangouts Meet sessions with the ability to turn off the video stream for data savings and usability even under sub-par network conditions. Although use is limited to a specific group of G Suite users, that figure is significantly higher than what's on offer by the competition in the consumer virtual group meeting market.

Each of those changes will be rolling out "soon," Google says.


Google is presently working to build out more features in Google Sheets, Google Docs, and Google Drive too. For the former of those, the company plans to allow Google Sheets to include as many as 10 billion rows of BigQuery data for collaboration without the need for SQL. That's on top of a change that will let users apply themes to multiple Google Sheets elements for quicker adjustments to the consistency of larger spreadsheet documents.

Metadata in Google Drive will soon be editable for organizational and sorting purposes, with custom searches available to rapidly rediscover tagged files.

In Google Docs, the company expects to release a feature that allows two documents to be compared directly, with differences and suggested edits appearing in a separate Google Docs file.


Interconnected solutions

Looking further afield, the search giant has continued to collaborate with partners to make G Suite more individually useful as well.

Starting today, those efforts mean that teachers and students who prefer Microsoft Office to Google's solution can use G Suite without the need to convert file types. That means a Word document can be opened in Google Docs without concern for formatting problems and other issues while giving users G Suite specific features. The same applies to other Microsoft file types across their G Suite Slides and Sheets counterparts.


Hangouts Meet has been integrated into Gmail — replacing "Classic Hangouts" — as part of an ongoing beta and with Jamboard. The latter of those means that students who aren't able to attend or who attend at a distance can now have Jamboard whiteboard-based lessons streamed directly to them. Educators can participate in meetings utilizing similar functionality.

Finally, Google Voice is now available as an add-on subscription allowing connections from anywhere and any compatible device via a dedicated purpose-specific line, complete with AI-based transcriptions for voicemails and spam blocking.