Google Apps are being deployed in thousands of organizations around the world, including schools and universities. We have examined the adoption and use of these cloud-based services on five campuses of the University of California system and the University of Michigan. Google Apps is going beyond simply replacing existing email services to being integrated into the classroom curricula and the research activities of these learning environments. After being given a new “branded” email address that is actually a gmail account, people then explore and adopt the highly popular Google Docs, Sheets, Calendars and Forms. We found in particular that student clubs were heavy users of shared calendars and forms, the latter to poll their club members with short surveys on needs and feedback.
In the literature, there is a lot on the diffusion of an innovation. In contrast, the rollout of Google Apps is a diffusion of a complex set of applications, which, in some cases, reduces the reliance on Microsoft products, but also adds the important benefit of easy sharing. In fact, in class projects, we found that students teams were using the ability to write simultaneously to write their assignments. In some cases, the team got together for a little over an hour, and hammered out the final assignment with all being in the same document at the same time. Not only can they contribute individually, they can read each others contributions as they appear and critique them so the document is good and has coherence. Google Apps provide new ways of working.