The Problem with Student-Owned Google Classroom Classes


Whether your district is new to Google Classroom or if you’re veteran power users, inevitably you may be plagued with the existence of student-owned classes on your domain. In fact, much like orphaned Google Classroom classes, most districts don’t know they have student-owned Google Classroom classes unless they become a problem. And like orphaned classes left without a teacher to manage posts, students’ classes can be a place where students and their posts are left unchecked.

How do you find them?

Student-owned classes can be elusive, but there are a few ways to find them in your domain. The approach depends on whether you are responding to a problem or searching preemptively to attempt to thwart any future problems.

When someone at your district alerts you to a Google Classroom that is owned by a student, you can very easily find more information about the class using the Classroom API Explorer, searching by teacherId (student email). This will return the complete course information, including class id, which you can then use to remediate the issue (more on this below). If you’re a GAM wizard, you can also execute the API Explorer actions via GAM. Note you must be a super admin to execute the Classroom API.

A more proactive approach is to use Little SIS for Classroom to search in the primary teacher email address column (you can use a domain wildcard if your students and staff are on different subdomains), or in the Teacher OU column. The latter will allow you to search for student OUs in the teacher column so you can quickly identify classes that are owned by students, especially if all of your users are in the same parent domain. In Little SIS, you can also take action on these classes, like join as a teacher, or change ownership — more on that below.

How do you fix them?

There are several things that you want to keep in mind before you consider the solutions below. First, because Google Classroom posts are not retained in Vault or elsewhere, you want to ensure that any data in the class that should be retained, for disciplinary or other reasons, is not permanently lost. Second, you want to ensure that you don’t continue to have students creating Google Classrooms unfettered. To do so, the best solution is to set who can create classes in the domain settings to “verified teachers only,” and ensure you keep the classroom_teachers@ Google group up to date (Pro-tip: nest your staff user groups inside this group). You’ll also want to check that this group does not contain student email accounts, and if it does, remove them. The default setting is “Anyone on the domain,” so a lot of districts get tripped up on this.

While there may be legitimate reasons for students to be invited to teach a Google Classroom class, we don’t recommend that they do so without the accompaniment of a faculty advisor as the primary teacher — instead we recommend adding student teachers as co-teachers in Google Classroom.

In order to verify whether a student-owned class contains content that should be retained, the quickest solution is to add yourself, the domain admin, to the Google Classroom as a co-teacher. That way you can see the contents of the stream and determine your next course of action. You can add yourself as a co-teacher using the class id that you obtained via the Classroom API Explorer, or you can use Little SIS for Classroom to do so in bulk.

Once you’ve verified whether there are contents in the student-owned classes, the next step is to decide what to do with them. Using the same Bulk Actions menu showcased in the image above, you can change the primary owner on the classes as well, removing the student as the owner and taking ownership yourself or assign to a designated admin account. Primary ownership can also be changed in the API Explorer.

While we typically do not recommend deleting Google Classrooms where content may be present, in the case of empty classes with no posts in the stream, you may wish to clean up Google Classroom and purge these. You will need to use the Classroom API Explorer for individual class deletion, and GAM if you want to do a more bulk cleanup task. At this time Little SIS for Classroom does not support the deletion of active or archived Google Classroom classes.

  • Melanie Long
    Customer Success Manager

  • About the Author:

    Melanie lives in Virginia and is based in Amplified IT’s home office located in Norfolk. One of the first members to join the Amplified IT team, Melanie has worn many hats at the company.  She most enjoys interfacing with customers and helping them implement tools that solve common pain points and frustrations. Today she leads the onboarding and interfacing with Labs tool clients, making lives easier and breezier one implementation at a time.