Tips for starting the school year with Google Workspace

As Summer projects wind down, construction and buildings get built (hopefully) and we start hearing those “I forgot my password” and “I need this right now” comments. We all know what time it is: time to transition from being “summer busy” to “school year busy.”

Knowing it’s crunch time, I want to go over 5 Tips for G Suite Admins that will help not only right now, but throughout the entire school year. Whether you’re an admin console newbie or a GAM expert, the following tips will spot check several different areas of G Suite and Chrome to make sure you’re setting yourself, your staff, and your students up for success in the 2019-20 school year.

1. Simplify Annual Settings Rollover with a Grade level OrgUnit

This tip is for schools that are manually moving students from grade to grade within the admin console. By creating a Grade and Graduation Year OU admins are able to configure settings on the Grade OU while placing users into the Grad Year OU. This means that users in the Grad Year OU will inherit settings from the Grade OU. All that needs to be done is move the Grad Year OU under the next Grade OU each summer.

One thing I hear all of the time during our Audit service when discussing OUs is “we don’t do settings by grade.” Yes, that’s all you did last school year but what about this school year? A new school year brings new initiatives, new teachers, and new G Suite updates. Make sure you are being future ready!

To review a more in-depth explanation about Organization Unit Structure, check out our previous blog post.

2. Enable Inactive Device Notifications to find Chromebooks, not in use

Let’s get right to it and head to:

Admin Console > Device Management > Chrome Management > Device Settings

Configure the setting to “enable,” select the number of days for inactive range, input how often you want to be notified and at what email. This can be configured differently per OU.

Why is this useful? It helps to identify devices that are not used and should be moved to a location that will get usage or located and assigned as “broken.” Learn more here.

Suggested article: Knowing what you don’t know within the Admin Console.

3. Enable Alerts to get notified by Google when there are outages

Some of you may or may not know about the G Suite Status Dashboard, which helps schools monitor the status of G Suite services. It’s a great resource that displays the current status of G Suite services. We recommend you share it with your IT staff and possibly your faculty. Pro tip: link to it on your Staff Technology Resources page.

If you’re like me and want your IT staff to be proactive in your knowledge and response to G Suite outages, head into your admin console > click on the navigation sidebar > Reporting > Alerts and click VIEW SYSTEM DEFINED RULES. Find “Apps outage alert,” click and configure the alert appropriately.

Now, when there is an outage you will get an email from Google describing the issue. When everything is back up you will again receive an email stating so. This gives staff the confidence to know it’s nothing on your own network; it’s a Google problem.  Pro tip: create a Group with all IT staff and have the alert be sent there. Be aware that your own staff will most likely tell you there is an issue before the email alert is sent but it will give your IT staff confirmation that it is a Google issue, provide verbiage to relay to staff, and notify you when the issue is resolved.

4. Make sure teachers have archived last year’s Google Classrooms

Short and sweet. It’s worth checking in with your instructional staff to see if teachers have been archiving old Google Classrooms. If not, students get the pleasure of seeing a bunch of Class Cards, some from last year and the new ones from this year. We’ve also found that bullying happens within old Classroom Streams when they are not archived. For help archiving classes in bulk to help your teachers clean house, check out our Little SIS Web tool. For admins who know command line, GAM can be used to accomplish this.

5. Use the Power of Reports

If you’ve been to any of my trainings you will know I get pretty excited about Reports. I will try and make it brief by pointing out one example of just how granular you can get within Reports.

Use Case: A teacher accidentally shares a student’s IEP doc with a student named Maria Anderson instead of a teacher, also named Maria Anderson. The teacher realizes 15 minutes later and unshares the doc. How can we be sure Maria Anderson the student did or did not view the doc?

Reports > Audit > Drive then search for the Doc (by title or ID). It will show you all activity on that Doc for the last 6 months. You can see if Maria Anderson viewed the doc, printed the doc, edited, downloaded the doc, etc.

As you begin another year with G Suite, it may bring along a set of new challenges. But the good news is Google provides Admins with a lot of tools to be proactive and better address issues when they do arise. We hope you explore each tip within the console because as you navigate through the different areas you will see new interfaces, features, and changes along the way.

If you’ve enjoyed these tips and want more, please check out our North American Google Technical Collaborative, where every month the Amplified IT team gives their favorite tips in the form of Geek Speaks. 

Cheers to the new school year!

  • Melissa Benson
    Google for Education Consultant

  • About the Author:

    Melissa has been a G Suite for Education Consultant for Amplified IT since 2015. She began working with the Google for Education (GFE) Admin Console in 2008 where she helped implement and integrate G Suite and Chromebooks into multiple K-12 school districts. Now, as part of the Amplified IT Team, she continues to help schools set up and manage G Suite environments with educational best practices.