The Chronicle of Higher Education, in its Wired Campus column for Friday, October 9, 2009, wonders "Could Google Wave Replace Course-Management Systems?" (also available in print). Jeff Young writes, in part, that while Google is touting its new Wave to replace e-mail, "...blending instant messaging, wikis, and image and document sharing into one seamless communication interface...," others are more excited about replacing course-management software with it. It's difficult to tell so far because Wave is in ultra-beta right now, by invitation only, with only about 100,000 invitations extended. But each invitee can invite 8 friends, each of whom can then invite 8 more friends. So, the Wave pilot is slowly growing.
Google has posted an hour-long video demonstration of the system that drew quite a buzz when it was unveiled in May. That has sparked speculation of how Wave might be used.That video demonstration is on YouTube and is very interesting. Google unveils Google Wave at Google I/O 2009 to a crowd of enthusiastic developers, because they hope, while the Google programmers put the finishing touches on Wave, these developers will be creating apps for Wave at the same time. That's because Google Wave is open source. And the programming is easier than it might be otherwise because it can all be done with Google Toolkit.
Greg Smith, chief technology officer at George Fox University, did manage to snag an invitation to try Wave, and he too says it could become a kind of online classroom.
That probably won't happen anytime soon, though. "Wave is truly a pilot right now, and it's probably a year away from being ready for prime time," he said, noting that Wave eats up bandwidth while it is running. Google will probably take its time letting everyone in, he said, so that it can work out the kinks.
And even if some professors eventually use Wave to collaborate with students, colleges will likely continue to install course-management systems so they know they have core systems they can count on, said Mr. Smith.
Then again, hundreds of colleges already rely on Google for campus e-mail and collaborative tools, through a free service the company offers called Google Apps Education Edition. Could a move to Google as course-management system provider be next?
The little article in Wired Campus does not have nearly the detail of the lengthy video demo, which is fun to watch. Librarians watching the video might have lot of ideas for uses for Google Wave beyond what the chief technology officers and professors who have thought about Wave have considered. It does take e-mail, instant-messaging and shared document production to new places. It allows adding people to conversations retroactively and making them instantly privy to the whole chain of what has been said. It allows tracking who is responsible for changes to documents, while also creating a version that is clean and ready to post, with one easy click. You can drag and drop to share photographs. Filing and linking, interlinking documents, all can be made automatic or not. It's a very slick and interesting program.