Google Meet's new education-focused features are coming months too late for teachers

Google Meet Grid View
Google Meet Grid View (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google announced during its Anywhere School event that it has finally has timetables for several highly-anticipated Google Meet features.
  • Bigger grid views, better moderation and a collaborative whiteboard launch in September.
  • Custom backgrounds, attendance tracking, and breakout rooms arrive in October.
  • Temporary free recordings are also coming later this year.

Google Meet has been making out quite well this year, surpassing 100 million Android installs this summer and adding long overdue features like noise cancellation. But it still lacks a number of features that competitors like Zoom have had for a while; features like breakout rooms, custom backgrounds and the ability to see far more people on your screen at one time.

Google announced in June that it would be adding these features, and during the keynote of its Anywhere School event it now has a timeline for these features:

Coming in September

  • Moderator controls: Teachers will be able to end meetings for all participants once class ends, better manage join requests, disable in-meeting chats, require the teacher join before students can enter the meeting, and prohibit participants from joining after being ejected or denied entry twice.
  • Larger title views: Support for up to a 7x7 grid will let up to 49 students be seen at once
  • Collaborative whiteboard: Through Jamboard in Meet, students and teachers can encourage participation and creativity in sharing their ideas.

Source: Google

Coming in October

  • Breakout rooms: G Suite Enterprise for Education teacher accounts will be able to split classes into smaller group discussions.
  • Custom background support: Students and teachers will be able to blur or replace backgrounds to prevent distractions and keep things consistent for all students.
  • Attendance tracking: G Suite Enterprise for Education teacher accounts will be able to see and track which students attended virtual class.

Coming "later this year"

  • Temporary recordings: This will be available to all Education customers as opposed to the premium recordings only available to G Suite Enterprise for Education, allows teachers to record meetings and share the recording within their district for up to 30 days before the recording expires and is deleted.
  • Hand-raising system
  • Q&A features (limited to G Suite Enterprise for Education)
  • Polling to engage students (limited to G Suite Enterprise for Education)

You'll notice that the first batch of these features come in September, after most schools have already started, and the most important feature for most teachers — the ability to use breakout rooms for group activities and discussions — doesn't arrive until sometime in October. It's also worth noting that this means free Education accounts won't get access to Custom backgrounds or breakout rooms at all, as they'll arrive after the September 30 deadline for Google Meet's advanced features to all customers grace period.

What teacher wants to swap systems in the middle of a semester?

Google is likely moving as quickly as it can on these new features, but October will already be too late for many educators who will have had to use workarounds for the first 6-8 weeks of the semester — or use Zoom instead of the integrated Google Meet. Breakout rooms in particular are a vital feature as tens of millions of children are facing 100% virtual instruction for at least the first two months of their semester. Once teachers and districts have found a functional workflow after the first few weeks of school, what incentive do they have to change that mid-semester?

This is an unprecedented year for so many things, but this is already one of the most stressful back-to-school seasons of my lifetime, and anything that Google can do to help remove pain points and help reduce frustration for students and teachers is absolutely appreciated. It's just a shame that they couldn't get it together in time for schools to really rely on it for the fall semester.

Teachers, here's how to record a Google Meet session for absent students.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.