How many of you are a member of a Google or Yahoo group? They're essentially listservs on steroids, but are easily managed by end users and you can invite as many people to participate as you'd like. This function has oddly been lacking from Google Apps for Education (and the largely equivalent paid Premier Edition). Google announced Wednesday that it had added the feature to Apps in what some analysts suggest is shot across the bow at Microsoft's SharePoint product.
According to Google's blog post,
Today, we're happy to announce the launch of Google Groups to Google Apps Premier and Education Edition users. Google Groups is one of our most widely used applications, enabling everyone...to create mailing lists and discussion forums. Now employees within a company can create groups for their departments, their teams or their projects. Employees can use these groups as mailing lists, but they can also share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, calendars, videos and sites with groups, instead of many individual recipients. They can choose to receive communications directly to their email inbox, in a digest format, or in the Groups forum view, and can access all the information in the groups archive, without the intervention of an IT administrator.
Regular readers will know that I'm all about empowering end users to collaborate and do their jobs better. "No IT intervention?" Sounds like a winner to me.
Here's Google's video on Groups in Apps:
Existing Google Apps admins can enable groups my clicking "Add more services" in their dashboard. Set a few options and you're off. While many people simply use groups as an email list to which they subscribe, it's actually the closest thing to a mature version of Google Wave built into Apps, with its view of discussions and embedded documents. It integrates automatically with email groups that administrators have already created (the "listserv-only" group function has always been part of Apps).
I've enabled mine already - I can't wait to tell teachers that they can create groups with their classes, opening up discussion forum features to which they had previously turned to outside products.