When Google launched its new social network Google Plus this summer, the service was only available to a small number of users, but it seemed clear from the outset that the service had a lot of potential for education -- more granular privacy controls, real-time communication and collaboration via Hangouts, and so on.
G+ has since opened to everyone -- provided, of course, that people sign up with their regular Gmail addresses and that they are over age 18. It's hard to say whether or not these two factors have limited the adoption of Google Plus in any way. Certainly the social network has seen impressive growth in numbers. But without integration with Google Apps, there have still been those who've been reluctant to join and/or reluctant to encourage G+ usage in their classes.
Google has always promised that integration with Google Apps accounts was on the way, and today the company made it so. Google Apps administrators will now be able to turn the functionality on for their users -- users of both Apps for Business and Apps for Education. In making the announcement, Google pointed to 20 some-odd universities -- from Abilene Christian University to Wake Forest University -- that will be bringing G+ to their campuses.
The 18-and-older limit is still in place however, and as such K-12 schools that use Google Apps won't have this feature available for their staff and students.
But the move to the college campus may prove to be an interesting one nonetheless, particularly in light of the history of how G+'s primary social network rival grew. Facebook was, of course, founded on the campus of Harvard, and it spread from there -- university to university -- as students clamored to join. Will G+ find a similar success now that students are able to sign up for accounts with their Google Apps accounts?
And how will universities in turn respond to a social network that's attached to their Apps accounts? After all, as The Next Web pointed out and as the Terms and Service of G+ under an institutional email address account make clear, "your Google Apps administrator retains the right to access your Google+ data and modify or delete it at any time" and campuses' Acceptable Use Policies and Codes of Conduct will apply.
These issues might raise privacy concerns on the part of some faculty and students (who should probably then think twice about any of the things they do with their university email addresses -- but that's beside the point). But they might also help raise the bar, if you will, of the types of conversations people engage in on G+. Indeed, the new social network is already winning high marks for some deep and thoughtful engagement on the part of its users -- and now that engagement gets to include Apps for Higher Education users.