A personalized online platform enabled the students of Geneva Business School to collaborate more efficiently, increasing their productivity, and reducing the School's dropout rates. Here's how.
Education is about more than just imparting information. For the Geneva Business School (GBS), education is about teaching the necessary skills to adapt, survive, and thrive in the world after pupils have graduated. With a diverse, international student body spread out over five campuses, the school prides itself on fostering leadership, communication, and productivity skills as well as academic achievement. In 2016, GBS began searching for ways to help its students work together and improve communication. To do that, it turned to Google Workspace for Education.
“We wanted our content stored in a digital environment where the students could collaborate on projects even when working remotely,” says Carlos Moreno Gonzalez, Barcelona Campus Director at Geneva Business School. “For us the solution was Google Workspace.”
Improving collaboration, increasing accountability
Prior to 2016, GBS’ online course components were designed to be worked on individually. Students could download course materials from extranet sites to work offline on traditional word processing and spreadsheet software. If they were working together, they had to be physically in the same room or would communicate over email. GBS places a strong emphasis on collaborative work, but in such a fragmented setup, it could be hard for professors to work out exactly who had contributed what in each group.
“In just a few clicks you can get a really good picture of the whole class. Whenever we tried this before Google Classroom, we would enter the grades manually and it took forever.”Sabrina Espasandin, Instructional Designer and Google Trainer, Geneva Business School
For GBS, the solution came from its Barcelona campus, which has a reputation as something of an innovation hub, says Sabrina Espasandin, Instructional Designer and Google Trainer at the school. “It’s smaller than the main campus in Switzerland so there’s more scope for experimenting with new technologies,” she says. GBS wanted to do more than just upgrade its email. The objective was to build an entire online platform enabling students, faculty, and staff to not only communicate with each other, but also to use it as a productivity platform for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more.
Connecting students and professors with Google Classroom
After evaluating its options, the Barcelona campus chose to implement Google Workspace for Education in early 2016, largely because of the widespread adoption of Google tools by students in their personal lives. “Most of our students were very familiar with Google tools and how Google works,” says Carlos. “It made the transition much easier for them.” With such a radical change, GBS also made sure to provide adequate training for everybody to help them overcome any issues that might arise during the transition. “There was a little pushback from people who had been using the same tools for a long time,” says Sabrina. “But once they saw for themselves the benefits of the new system, we turned sceptics into believers.”
The core of the new system was Google Classroom, a single, online destination where teachers and students could quickly and easily interact with each other no matter where they were. Gmail replaced the traditional email system, easing the load on the campus servers. Live editing in Docs, Sheets, and Slides meant that students could work on projects and presentations at the same time without having to email multiple versions, which could get buried in long threads.
“It’s changed the whole way we work. Students would post questions online, and other students would answer them before the teacher got there. It means the knowledge comes from the class, not just from the professor.” –Carlos Moreno Gonzalez, Barcelona Campus Director, Geneva Business School
The faculty used Sites as an opportunity to update their course materials from static slideshows that had to be downloaded for offline viewing, into animated, interactive pages online. Meanwhile, Forms proved itself useful as a way for professors to setup quizzes online and, in conjunction with Google Classroom, to help automate the marking process and quickly analyze results.
A new platform, a new way of working
The online hub that GBS built in Barcelona with Google Classroom and Google Workspace was very quickly seen as a success. So much so, that within six months, the school rolled out Google Workspace to all of its other campuses. As of Q3 2018, GBS has activated more than 2,300 user accounts. The students benefit from instant communication, frictionless collaboration, and the ability to work on projects outside the classroom. It also means they are in a better position to answer each other’s questions without having to wait for a response from their teacher.
Meanwhile, GBS’ teachers no longer have to deal with an extranet that required them to upload all their own content in an overly complicated way or spend hours bulk-creating new email addresses at the start of each year. “The time saved in administrative tasks has been massive,” says Sabrina. “User creation is a breeze compared to the past.” In addition, the faculty found a new efficiency with rote tasks, such as grading analysis, which allowed them to spend more time focusing on students and assessing their specific needs.
“In just a few clicks you can get a really good picture of the whole class,” says Sabrina. “Whenever we tried this before Google Classroom, we would enter the grades manually and it took forever.”
“We’ve built a very personalized online platform designed to engage students and reduce dropout rates. With Google, we hope to bring the collaborative spirit we have in our normal classes to our online classrooms.” –Carlos Moreno Gonzalez, Barcelona Campus Director, Geneva Business School
Meanwhile, Professors have found that, despite fears of an always-online culture, the collaborative nature of the new platform empowers students to help each other instead of just relying on help from the faculty.
“It’s changed the whole way we work,” says Carlos. “Students would post questions online, and other students would answer them before the teacher got there. It means the knowledge comes from the class, not just from the professor.”
With all of GBS migrated to Google Workspace, the search is on for the next leap forward. The school is currently working hard to provide some of its courses entirely online, for students who wish to work remotely but still benefit from GBS’ superior teaching and strong reputation. The content for the new modules will be hosted on Sites, while Google Classroom will serve as a central hub for teacher-student communication. GBS is working to personalize the modules for teachers and students alike. For example, every teacher will have access to a classroom roster that provides quick links to students’ digital portfolios, also hosted on a Google Site.
Building on the knowledge it has acquired in the last two years with various Google tools, the school is trying to make online learning more effective, as well as develop more in-depth measurements of student growth and progression. As it becomes more comfortable with Google Workspace and Google Classroom, GBS can look forward to exploring its new metrics with tools such as Google Data Studio.
“We’ve built a very personalized online platform designed to engage students and reduce dropout rates,” says Carlos. “With Google, we hope to bring the collaborative spirit we have in our normal classes to our online classrooms.”