At Chile’s Grupo Salesianos, Google Workspace for Education Plus helps education leaders navigate remote learning and teaching

Accelerating digital transformation

Grupo Salesianos’ schools were already working towards digital transformation when the global COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020. “We’d begun standardizing on Gmail for staff, along with Google Drive and Google Classroom for students,” explains Juan Pablo Vásquez Flores, director of the Grupo Salesianos school network. The migration to Google began with Grupo Salesianos’ 22 schools as an initiative of the Communications Area during 2016, a process led by Vicente Fritz, the school group’s Director of Communications. In 2019, Grupo Salesianos’ communication team merged with the education team, led by Vásquez, with the goal to start developing educational digital transformation processes.

In March 2020, as the school group grappled with the impact of switching to remote learning, Vásquez and other education leaders realized they had to move quickly on technology adoption. “Teachers were concerned about not having the technological tools to face this challenge—it wasn’t that they thought they weren’t up to the task,” Vásquez says. “But they feared starting remote learning without the tools they needed.”

One of the first steps was to bring on Sebastián Arragiada González as technology education leader, as he could help create standards and choose tools for the schools’ teachers to adopt. Schools in Grupos Salesianos can choose to adopt the suggested standards, based on their individual budgets.

The education technology team previously engaged with Nivel A, a regional Google for Education Certified partner with trainers based in Chile, to train teachers on using solutions like Google Classroom as well as Chromebooks. That training grew to three schools, and technology leaders hope to expand it to more Grupo Salesianos schools.

Google Meet helps schools create engaging classes

As soon as Grupo Salesianos leaders realized schools would have to switch to remote learning, the already-in-progress digital transformation was accelerated. “We had to help teachers motivate students and offer more ways to interact with classes,” Vásquez says. For remote learning, that meant using Google Meet to full advantage.

“Certainly the recording feature, and the capacity now to have surveys, questions, and breakout rooms, is a tremendous help to teachers,” Arragiada says. Since Grupo Salesianos teachers and administrators came to rely on Meet recording and other advanced features, technology leaders decided to upgrade to Google Workspace for Education Plus. As of early 2021, 18 of Grupo Salesianos schools are using Education Plus; since remote learning will continue well into 2021, education leaders hope that more schools will adopt Education Plus this year.

The ability to teach through a video conferencing tool such as Meet was extremely helpful for students enrolled in the group’s 14 vocational education schools. “The schools are preparing students for their future careers by teaching with technical equipment,” Arragiada says. “That is a challenge, because these students normally learn by doing, with activities that are often hard to recreate in the distance learning environment.” Vocational teachers have relied on Meet to connect with students; in mid-2021, educational leaders expect to tap into more Education Plus features to help further engage with students in the virtual classroom.

Plans to tap into more Workspace Plus features

Once Grupo Salesianos upgraded to Education Plus, technology education leaders like Arragiada made plans to bring enhanced tools, such as originality reports, into classrooms.

“Before we upgraded, we only had access to three originality reports a month,” Arragiada explains. “Now that our access to originality reports is unlimited, we think it will be helpful, particularly to high school teachers who have worried about plagiarism problems—for example, how they can determine how much information a student is taking from the internet without wasting time manually looking for that information?”

Another Workspace Plus feature, automatic attendance tracking via Meet, will also be welcomed by Grupo Salesianos teachers. “Many of the schools have to track attendance manually, which is exhausting,” Arragiada says. “We tried to manage attendance with some free add-in tools. But since Education Plus has this feature, it will be easy for teachers to use.”

Administrators are also benefiting from features in Education Plus, such as Meet breakout rooms. In the past, attendees of regular meetings between the group’s headquarters and individual school teams had to keep track of numerous links for smaller breakout sessions. “It was a lot of work,” Arragiada says. “So the Meet breakouts rooms have been extraordinarily beneficial for reducing that extra work.”

For the future, stronger connections with each school

Now that the early days of remote learning are behind them, Grupo Salesianos teachers hope to continue with their digital transformation, with help from Google Meet. “We emerged stronger as a school network,” Vásquez says.

To foster the ongoing digital transformation, each school will now have a technology education leader, in a position just like Arragiada’s in the group’s central offices. These leaders will help support wider adoption of solutions like Workspace Plus.

“This way we can have a closer relationship with each school,” Arragiada says. “Leaders can help their schools develop not only their learning and teaching processes but our entire digital transformation.”