Google Classroom Vs VERGE – Feedback

Google Classroom (Wikipedia) is a blended learning platform developed by Google for schools that aims to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way. It was introduced in May 2014.

It’s free and DeKalb Schools created user accounts for every teacher to use it … and use it they did. Numerous schools across the district adopted Google Classroom school-wide including Bethune MS, Kittredge ES, Barack Obama ES, Stone Mountain MS, Peachtree MS, Druid Hills MS.

Last year DeKalb Schools purchased from itsLearning for $500K a new Learning Management System (LMS) the school district is calling VERGE. Teachers came back to school this year to find their Google Classroom accounts turned off and access to the Google Classroom web site blocked.

I don’t understand why the school district blocked access to Google Classroom. Gary Brantley,Chief Information Officer (CIO), says VERGE is “acceptable” by all teachers and provides the following commentary.

What are your thoughts? Can anybody elaborate on Brantley’s comments?


Google Classroom Vs VERGE

Question: DeKalb Schools provided E-Accounts access to Google Classroom. It is an invaluable and free tool used by numerous schools across the district. I believe it was recently discontinued. Can we please reinstate that access to Google Classroom? If the district doesn’t reinstate that access via their school district E-Account, then they will migrate to using it with their personal accounts. It is a much better platform when used with their district E-Accounts.

Gary Brantley DeKalb CIO

Gary Brantley
Chief Information Officer, DeKalb County School District

ANSWER: The district has not provided E-accounts for Google Classroom. Google classroom has been discontinued. Teachers were afforded the opportunity to retrieve any information from the system. If needed, access will be provided to retrieve information upon request. For the past two years the district has been transitioning to “Its learning” which is also known as VERGE. This is the same system but with a lot more functionality. We have been actively working with teachers to show them the awesome features within VERGE and once shown, they have all found VERGE to be acceptable for classroom needs. This training is also included in our IGNITE U training that has been a major focus over the last year.

[Below] you will find a comprehensive comparison between Google Classroom and Verge.

VERGE Curriculum Supports Google Classroom
•  Shares district’s curriculum resources based on the course
•  Organizes, searches, and adds digital content/resources by standard, content areas, grade level, and other customizable categories.
•  Integrates state and national standards for easy alignment of course, lessons, resources, assignments and even test questions to standards.
 
VERGE Instructional Supports Google Classroom
•  Provides an interactive planning tool that supports the DCSD Lesson Plan process.
•  Supports collaboration and feedback (teacher to student, student to student, and teacher to parent) via discussion boards, instructional groups, and more. • 
•  Allows teachers to create engaging digital lessons that are accessible anytime and anyplace. • 
•  Enables ability to differentiate instruction and activities based on student groupings.
•  Implements a “Recommendation Engine” to facilitate differentiation for students not mastering objectives.
•  Provides an integrated plagiarism tool.
 
VERGE Assessment, Analytics, and Reporting Capabilities Google Classroom
•  Supports advanced analytics needed to see student standards progress and mastery tracking at a glance.
•  Provides integrated rubrics for assignments with personalized feedback.
•  Assessments include 10 different types of questions including hotspot, sort and match. Limited
 
VERGE Professional Development & Classroom Observation Google Classroom
•  Teachers can have dual roles – teachers for courses they teach and students for PD courses.
•  School leadership have the ability to conduct virtual “walk-throughs” or “observations” by visiting all online classrooms in assigned school.
 
VERGE System Administrator & Technical Functions Google Classroom
•  Integrates with Infinite Campus to manage courses and users.
•  Uploads grades to Infinite Campus gradebook.
•  Integrates with Illuminate to provide access to formative, summative, and high stakes tests.
•  Full functional administrative backend to control profiles, policies and other important settings. • 
•  Can view linked Google docs inline and access Google drive for uploading • 
•  Can view linked Office 365 docs inline and access OneDrive for uploading
•  Can be used seamlessly on a Chromebook. • 
•  Provides options for disaster recovery. ?
•  Provides a closed-system for communication and collaboration. ?

37 responses to “Google Classroom Vs VERGE – Feedback

  1. I have not seen either system so I cannot compare features and functions and what would be the “best solution” but I will tell you that “free” Google applications are limited, lack comprehensive and timely support and are not generally fit for commercial use (Gmail, docs aside etc). We have experimented with a number of their free apps and cloud solutions and have ultimately abandoned them.
    I am not sure if VERGE was developed in-house or is a COTS (commercial off the shelf system) but in my opinion the CIO’s response is appropriate.

  2. Laptop Boy, If VERGE is superior, wouldn’t all the teachers want to use that over Google Classroom? Why would they have to force teachers to use VERGE and block access to Google Classroom?

  3. Dekalb Teacher 1

    The Chief Information Officer at DeKalb Schools is wrong or lying. He said “The district has not provided E-accounts for Google Classroom”, but that is NOT TRUE. Both E#s for employees and S#s for students are used to login to our district Chromebooks. Once logged in, they work automatically with Google Classroom. Google Chromebooks work very well with Google Classroom … go figure.

  4. It looks like Mr. Brantley doesn’t know much about Google Classroom. For example, earlier this year Google Classroom integrated a plagiarism checker. Maybe when Google Classroom was released in 2014 it didn’t have everything the school district needed.

  5. @DeKalb Teacher 1 is absolutely correct in saying that “Both E#s for employees and S#s for students are used to login to our district Chromebooks. Once logged in, they work automatically with Google Classroom.”

    Our school is is Google Classroom and it is amazing. When you using the Drive feature, I can go look up a a lesson for middle school math that another teacher has uploaded if I am having a difficult time trying to teach the concept to my students.

    My question would be this… What is the financial gain that DCSD is getting by using VERGE? Someone somewhere is profiting from it.

  6. Thanks Lynn. So, I assume your accounts have been deactivated and Google Classroom website has been blocked. If so, how has this affected the teachers and learning?

  7. @Stan …..are you talking to me or to DeKalb Teacher 1? I left DeKalb three years ago. The school I am currently at uses Google Classroom.

  8. Lynn, Any idea how many schools in your district use Google Classroom?

  9. I am at a private school now and most of the private schools in metro Atlanta use Google Classroom.

  10. Mr. Jester,

    Why can’t the teachers decide which one works best for them? Is there a reason why a teacher cannot make a choice on which one to use? Just like some people love Apple products and some people swear by Androids. If there are some teachers that find Google Classroom works better for them, why can’t they continue to use it?

  11. As a teacher there is nothing more frustrating than creating and researching lessons and methods of delivery that are effective and then having those restricted instead of being able to expand on them. District admin, parents, and the public want creative and well prepared/highly educated professionals teaching the students, but they are not willing to pay them enough to keep them from leaving and will not trust their professional judgment. Attracting and retaining good teachers is not rocket science. They just want a few “well done” moments, a salary that reflects their professional training and experience (and they can live on), and respect for their knowledge in their field of expertise.

  12. Very interesting post. Thank you Stan.

    My 10 minute analysis indicates that teachers should love it. It does everything they want and is “owned” by the teacher. If they go to a different county then they can use the same resources. The system likes itsLearning because there are a lot of analytics on top. With the number of low performing schools we have, it gives them a snapshot into the classroom.

    https://itslearning.com/us/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2016/09/dekalb_county_public_schools_case_study_cs-1.pdf

    http://www.edudemic.com/itslearning-next-gen/

  13. Chad,
    DCSD paid $500K for itsLearning, their new Learning Management System (LMS). “They should love it” … ok … fine. Why force teachers and schools to use it if it’s so great? (Are teachers and schools allowed to make any decisions for themselves? I believe that’s the question it comes down to.)

  14. Favorite Dekalb Teacher

    This is flat out censorship. It’s one thing to give us VERGE. It’s another thing to not permit us to use Google Classroom as if Google Classroom will bring harm to the children.

  15. ITS Learning (https://itslearning.com/global/) is a Scandinavian company. There is mention of DeKalb County School System on their customer’s page (https://itslearning.com/global/about-us/customers/) which includes this edubabble: “… has gotten DeKalb County back on track towards their goals.” The discussion includes a case study (https://itslearning.com/global/about-us/resources/cs-dekalb-county-case-study/) offering a downloadable report (https://itslearning.com/global/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2017/06/DeKalb_2017_interactive.pdf). The report includes this notation: “The process of choosing which LMS to go with was a rigorous one. The district looked closely at five different platforms, on both an instructional and technological level.”

    The report indicates that “Monika Davis, Director of Virtual Learning and Instructional Technology at DeKalb County” played an important role in evaluation and selection. She offers her insights in a webinar on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAtYgY6xf-k). “DCSD with >180 countries, >150 languages and dialects…” Seems like a lot. Anyway…Then she points out that a lot of the teachers out there were not aware of the tools available and how to use them. One must assume that does NOT include former Google Classroom users. Frankly, after hearing this it would seem DeKalb teachers are a bunch of Luddites.

    She claims (9 minutes in) that this has been presented to the Board and Superintendent. Apparently the Board, Superintendent and his direct reports were “all on board with this” so the Google Classroom issue would seem moot. Around 13 in there is mention of Google Classroom and Moodle and how teachers were all over the place–hence the cat rodeo. Some teachers appear to be doorstops at least to the administration. Around 15 in the word remediate is used in reference to some teachers. That is pretty painful for a taxpayer to hear.

    If you are a teacher in our school system you should definitely watch the video but I highly recommend you start the video at the same time you start your second glass of wine.

  16. Monika Davis

    Monika Davis
    Director of Virtual Learning and Instructional Technology
    DeKalb County School District
    Aug 2016 – Present

    Manager of Instructional Technology
    DeKalb County School District
    Oct 2013 – Aug 2016

    Instructional Technology Specialist
    DeKalb County School District
    Nov 2000 – Oct 2013

    Technology Specialist
    Fulton County Schools
    1995 – 2000

    Promoting Critical Thinking at DeKalb County School District
    By Monika Davis

  17. I briefly watched various pieces of the video. One of my take-aways was Davis’ two points:
    1) Equal opportunity and access to technology and tools
    2) Teachers were “all over the place”

    It seems to be a one size fits all and you will all be made to teach the same thing in the same way.

  18. Stan, thanks again for the information. In my links it was clear there was a cost associated with ItsLearning. Interesting to know it’s $500k a year. Personally, I think you end up paying more with a subscription based model. I can’t speak to whether $4.50/student year is a good price over the functionality of Google provided for free for the system.

    This is a very “systems” based approach, similar to the whole MAP testing stuff. If I were a teacher, I would find it to be a soul sucking approach, especially if I was a really good, creative teacher. However, I find it strange that you can’t answer the “why make teachers use it” question? The analytics provided allow the school system a view into the classrooms and obviously I think that implies a greater ability to evaluate performance. It integrates with the MAP testing I am sure. For our lower performing schools, I think that this sounds like it would be a very effective approach.

    I can see why DCSD finds it worth the money and the private schools are fine with Google Classroom.

  19. Chad, Agreed. All processes and planning will be made with the lowest performing teachers in mind. Perhaps this is how we close the gap, by reigning in some of these high performing and creative teachers.

    I believe Google Classroom has the same analytics and administrative functionality.

    When you say “you” … do you mean “me” or “one”? I’m fine with making low performing schools or teachers use itsLearning/VERGE. I don’t understand why we have to suck the souls out of all the other teachers.

  20. Personally, I think one (instead of you) ends up paying more with a subscription based model.

    I think it would be very difficult to rationalize to half of the schools that they have to use the system and accept the higher accountability, and then say to the other half its okay not to use it. I appreciate that its a real inconvenience to the good to great teachers in our system.

  21. The rationality is that some schools or teachers have earned the flexibility to be creative and make some of their own decisions for what’s best for them. We already single out low performing teachers and schools. Low performing teachers are put on PDPs (Professional Development Plan) all the time. We have various lists of schools at varying levels of academic achievement: Priority, Focus and Failing schools.

    I don’t think it’s healthy to treat all teachers as if they were low performing.

  22. Retired teacher

    In my 20+ years of teaching in DeKalb things like this were rolled out every year or so. They were touted as the next great thing, everyone had to use it, teachers will love it, student outcomes will be recorded setting… and this new great thing faded into the shadows and disappeared in a year or so. Bet you will find out someone in admin was wined and dined by this company, and someone either got a kick back or a promise of a job when they leave the county. Why else make teachers stop using something that they like, students like, and is free?
    Hey DeKalb teachers, other counties and states actually treat their teachers like professionals… and they are hiring.

  23. I agree Stan, but how do we make it stop? Why don’t we stop throwing money at the low performing schools and teachers and punish the rest by making them do exactly the same thing? Spend the money drastically improving teacher pay and you will have many great teacher candidates to choose from. Economics 101

  24. Let’s think about the group of teachers who wrote the curriculum found on VERGE. Were these exemplary teachers, experienced in differentiating for all levels of learners?

    I have to think not, because I think a group of exemplary teachers, experienced in differentiating for all levels of learners, would not want to be involved in creating a system that would prevent them from using their skills and gifts as teachers.

    I really agree with Stan’s comment that DCSD’s approach to closing gap is to rein in some of these high performing and creative teachers. And I doubt there’s a darn thing he or anyone else can do about it. Just watch the Convocation performance by Dr. Green. He spoke defiantly against anyone who questions his actions. That’s probably why Gary Brantley can say about teachers that “they have all found VERGE to be acceptable for classroom needs.” Who would dare speak up against it?

  25. Stan, I dont know the answers to your questions. I also am not aware of policy and whether teachers can pick and choose the system they want to use.
    From an IT perspective it generally does not make sense to support two systems that are supposed to accomplish the same task.
    The CIO’s table (if accurate) shows VERGE is superior, but that needs validation.
    I have kids in 3 grades and we are now using 5 web based apps for learning/homework. 4 of them are new this year and scootpad has been turned off (a system everyone loved but our teacher said a recent upgrade made it unusable).
    I hope this gets worked out for the teachers.

  26. I think Google would support Google Classroom and it would be an as is service. The CIO’s table is highly suspect.

  27. Stan,

    In my conversations with Dr. Brantley he said the analytics, and ability to work with multiple testing softwares were the reason for purchasing Verge. From a teacher’s desktop, both should provide the same features. From the administration’s point of view, Verge allows for tracking of students’ performance on MAP and other tests. There were other techy things that went over my head.

  28. Brantley’s two page answer to me never included any reference to MAP testing. Slightly disturbing that we would get two different answers. OK … MAP testing … so the district requires teachers to use VERGE for MAP testing. I’m confident the teachers don’t care about that.

    Analytics … that is code for “monitor” … I think we’re getting somewhere. The district has some failing schools and failing teachers, so the central office wants to monitor all their employees. If Mr. Peterson doesn’t mind me appropriating his expression, the central office is going to suck the soul out of all the teachers just so they can monitor our struggling schools and teachers.

    We shouldn’t be centralizing everything and providing one size fits all processes designed for the lowest performing schools and teachers.

  29. Stan,
    MAP testing is done through a different website, not the VERGE platform.

  30. So, taking the MAP tests has nothing to do with VERGE or Google Classroom. Teachers should go to VERGE to see results of the MAP testing … sounds good. So, why block teacher’s access to Google Classroom?

  31. Stan, I’m sure one reason for blocking Google Classroom is to force teachers to use the new system. The district paid $500 K for it, and admin wants to be able to show teachers are using it and it was worth the cost. I am curious who is benefitting from the purchase. It is distressing that the administration distrusts teachers and building level administrators and needs so much software and testing to check up in them. Just ask the teachers what is working and why students aren’t performing. They can tell you without all the testing data and tracking. They are actually good at that and were trained appropriately, in most cases, to discuss, collaborate, and solve the issues they can control at the instructional/classroom level.

  32. As a middle school parent, it’s frustrating to speak with teachers about my son’s grades and mediocre lessons. I need him to be challenged. Mr. Brantley needs to address this issue and Infinite Campus not working properly. There was some update recently and I get no alerts. It took three phone calls to the school before anyone could help

  33. If your system has a CIO, with staff, then your school system is too big. It has become a bureaucracy that is of, by and for the bureaucracy. This cannot be “fixed” by incremental improvement of the bureaucratic structure or personnel. It certainly will not get better as it gets bigger and no “Learning Management System” will change that.

  34. I agree that smaller school districts tend to perform better. As you know, we can’t do that until Georgia laws change. So, what’s the plan until then?

    We have “struggling” schools with struggling principals and struggling teachers. The school administration’s plan is to flood these schools with social services, para-pros, and teacher coaches. There are pre and post tests for every unit that get reported to the administration. They have prescribed lesson plan structures complete with videos on what to do. Every data point possible is captured and reported back to the central office.

  35. Stan,

    It is not disturbing that we got two different answers. I asked a different question.
    MAP testing is a different platform. Verge syncs with it to allow the administration to track student performance. Google Classroom doesn’t.
    The question I asked was why some teachers used Edmonds, some Google, and other platforms. Verge allows for all teachers to have one platform for posting homework and messaging.
    As to why the district would block access to Google Classroom… I have no idea other than to prevent teachers from using multiple platforms.

  36. Maria Beal-Parker

    As a teacher in a district (DCSD) that is always rolling out something and does not provide adequate training on anything, I can only tell you what Google classroom does do because there is 24-7 help available, whereas the verge training I received 2 summers ago (2016) did not allow access to a live platform and no subsequent direct training has been made available for teachers.

    Be advised that many of our students use the Google suites because of easy access. Note Launch Pad and Microsoft 365 is not always easily accesses. Students have issues signing in and accessing saved documents.
    Google suites can be accessed via their smart phones and face to face instructions can be achieved via google hang outs.

    Therefore I chose Google Classroom!!!!!!

    ANSWER: The district has not provided E-accounts for Google Classroom. Google classroom has been discontinued. Teachers were afforded the opportunity to retrieve any information from the system. If needed, access will be provided to retrieve information upon request. For the past two years the district has been transitioning to “Its learning” which is also known as VERGE. This is the same system but with a lot more functionality. We have been actively working with teachers to show them the awesome features within VERGE and once shown, they have all found VERGE to be acceptable for classroom needs. This training is also included in our IGNITE U training that has been a major focus over the last year.

  37. Dekalb Teacher

    Is this the end of the Google Classroom discussion? Most Dekalb teachers using technology based teaching won’t use Verge, there is no benefit or advantage to Verge over Edmodo. I’ve given Verge a fair look for it’s functionality and will continue the clunky mix of Edmodo and Remind. Edmodo remains flexible and feedback friendly. If my student turns in a terrible assignment, I hit resubmit with comments. When I assign a new project, I attach the requirements, the links, and the rubric along with the due date. I was so disappointed that they restricted our access to Google Classroom, and every time I see an education sites like Quizlet, NEWSELA, PBS Learning Media, and others that links directly to Google Classroom I cringe again. I still belong to Google Classroom groups where teachers in Georgia and across the country are collaborating on curriculum and technology. Google Classroom save teachers so much time and copy paper, and would improve the entire Chromebook role out.

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