Educator vs. Personal Accounts on Zoom and Google Classroom

Hello everyone,

I have been investigating options for using Zoom and Google Classroom. I am an ESL instructor of non-credit courses in a community education department which operates out of a community college, but we are not given the same access to technology or platforms that the rest of the community college has. I set up a personal Zoom account, the free basic version. I am now setting up a Google Classroom account, also the free basic personal version.

My question is, does anyone have experience in a community education program, in applying for or getting access to the free educator versions of Zoom or Google Classroom? I would love to have the advanced features you get with the educator accounts. I am not in admin in my department, but I have been messaging someone who is our IT contact. He is not sure either how to go about this or if we qualify.

If anyone else has the free personal Google Classroom account, I'd love to share information about how you use it, what features you like, etc. 

I appreciate any information anyone may have to share.


Jennifer Kluempen

ESL Instructor

Trenton, NJ






Hi Jennifer! I am using the free Google Classroom account now for my Franklin Township Adult High School students who are studying to pass the high school equivalency test. For the most part, it has worked out well. I send announcements through the Stream page and the Classwork page allows me to provide step by step instructions on completing assignments. I can also attach videos and they just tap on the link to open them. Most of my students do not have a computer, so they are using their phones to access the classroom and complete assignments. They either respond in the Comments section or take a picture of their work and send it back to me. I can also provide feedback in the private comments section. I had to download a scanner app that lets me export to Google Drive so that I could also attach handouts or pages from other books for them to read. It has allowed me to continue instruction and keep my students engaged during these difficult and challenging times! Hope I was able to help you!

Hi! Thanks for your reply. This is helpful information. 

Many of my students don't have a computer either, so I'm glad to hear that your students are using it with their phones. When they take a picture of their work how do they send it to you? Is it going directly to the Google Classroom? I have students sending me photos of work on WhatsApp. Can you transfer the photo to the Classroom? I also just got a scanner app, Tiny Scanner, so I'm going to try out using it.

Did you try to apply for the Educator account or just not bother with it? I guess if the free version is serving your needs maybe it's not worth it?

Great to share experiences with you!


Hi Jennifer,

     You’re very welcome! I did not apply for any other Google account. This one has been working out just fine. To upload a picture of a student’s work, tell him/ her to tap on Missing, then Add Attachment, then choose Access Camera, take picture and send. 
     Teaching during this  crisis has turned out to be quite a learning experience for me as well! Previously, I had always referred to myself as “technologically challenged,” but research on Google, help from my daughter-in-law, and  YouTube videos have been my lifesavers! As for Zoom, I haven’t had too much success, but I am starting to use WhatsApp.
     I wish you all the best with teaching your class during these challenging times! It seems like our state of New Jersey is swiftly approaching “the surge.” Hopefully, we will be on the other side of the apex soon, and like I always say to my students, “WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER!” ❤️





Hi Jennifer!

I don't know if this will make a difference for you, or not, but I signed up for my Zoom account using my email credentials from my program. I too am in a community program housed within a community college. Fortunately, my program instructors are allowed access to all of the resources available to the rest of the community college faculty, staff, and students. My students and I have been using Zoom in conjunction with Burlington English (mandated by our program and state) and Canvas (as opposed to Google Classroom). So far, my students have been very creative with participating in the Zoom calls (I have all level students from 1-6) in our virtual classroom. I have spent time making Google slides for students to use for watching presentation of material and Google docs for submitting work. I was also encouraged to use editable PDF files for students to save and upload. I think that the PDF files would be the most cumbersome for me, because I do not have the technology on my home computer and connecting to my remote desktop has been a pain!

Keep in mind the limitations of whatever platform you choose and the simplicity of all you do for your students. Any student that has decided that logging into participate is just to hard to do right now, has decided to take a break until we return to classes again (hopefully in May here in AZ). My other students are happy to understand how to use Zoom (they now want to teach their families abroad to have social time with them and check-in!). I sometimes wonder if I am teaching anything right now, but I imagine that the opportunity for all of our ESL students to build their technology skills exponentially is just as important as the rest of the English we are teaching in the classroom. :)

I wish you well!

Dr. Tasha

Hi Dr. Tasha, 

I agree with you about the challenges and rewards of using new technology. Some of my students are taking to it very quickly as well, and others I think I may be losing. 

WhatsApp has been the most familiar and most used by all my students because they all had it before we closed 3 or so weeks ago. It took time to explain how to use Zoom.  Everyone in our dept has now been asked to use Google Classroom, so I am now asking students for a gmail address, and explaining how to sign up for Google Classroom. I hope I don't lose many more with this new change. The benefits of using Zoom and Google Classroom are great in terms of connection, ability to teach and organize everything.  I'm glad I have them, and I'm enjoying learning the new technology myself. It's a challenge though to balance the advantages with the possibility of losing students.

Many of my students are under so much stress already with the current situation. Many are out of work, home with small children, or worried because they have to go to work in unsafe conditions. I have one student working at a warehouse with no mask provided, only gloves. Another student who worked at Amazon is now sick and waiting for her test results. But many of them they take the time to message me and let me know how they are doing even if they can't attend the Zoom lesson. I'm not sure how much mental energy they have to tackle learning Google Classroom now. So far I have 8 out of 16 from one class in Google Classroom and 6 out of 22 in the other. But I just opened it up this week, so maybe more will join in the next few days. The core group of regular students really seem to appreciate the Zoom sessions and are so committed to continuing their learning. I think the class is also a social and emotional support right now. 

I also agree with you about the possibility for carrying this technology forward once regular classes get going again. It will be so much easier to introduce and expand upon when we have in person classes. Officially we are closed until May, but we'll see if that is extended.

Thanks, Jennifer


Hi All, I have been using the free google classroom account for the past month with my adult students.  I have found it easy to learn and deliver for the purposes of posting work/resources for my students.  I am still working on how to assign that work (through google docs/forms) in a way that allows me to view it easily.  One thing I've learned is that individual assignments should always start with "what is your name?" or "what is your email?" otherwise you won't know whose work is whose.  Anyway, overall I'm pleased with the fact that the platform allowed me to get it up and running quickly.   

One comment I wanted to make regarding the free v. educator account question.  I am using the free account linked to my personal gmail because my students were unable to access the google classroom that I originally tried to establish under the google suites account that my employer has.   We have discovered as adult ed staff, that in order for our students to access google classrooms that have been established under our domain, they would have to have permissions under that domain.   So, unless you have a domain that actually allows students to establish an email account in that domain (like K-12 school districts do), then I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to build a google classroom using the educator suite.  This is probably a unique problem that some adult ed teachers will have. Just, FYI.  

Hello Jennifer and others,

I have asked Zoom for clarification on its policy of waiving during the pandemic the 40-minute time limit on sessions for teachers with free accounts. The policy applies to K-12 teachers in public school districts. In some cases adult education teachers in programs sponsored by school districts appear to have had their 40-minute limits waived. I have asked if the policy could also apply to adult basic skills teachers in programs sponsored by community-based/not-for-profit organizations and by community colleges. I hope to get a reply. If I do, I'll let you know.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group




I facilitated a discussion on Google Classroom a couple of months ago on LINCS.  As an adult ed program, you can apply for a Google Suite account.  In my experience, it is difficult to get the G Suite account approved by Google because they have strict guideline on how programs are funded.  Many adult ed programs use a diversity of funding and not all are approved by Google.   The free account is effective and can be used on a phone in the event a student(s) doesn't have a personal computer at his or her home.   I go a bit deeper into the Google Classroom within the discussion.  Here is the link to the full discussion:


Hope that helps!  Let me know if there are any questions!  


With the free version of Zoom, you only get 40 minutes.   If your program is unable to pay for monthly subscription, there is a a workaround to facilitate a class longer than 40 minutes.  Within the free version of Zoom you create the meeting and have the ability to use the same code every time for that meeting.   When you email the meeting to the students ask them to either flag, bookmark, or copy and paste the link into a word document.   When you structure your class plan on taking breaks every 35 minutes.   At the 35 minute mark of the class, you can instruct all students to leave the meeting and, as the facilitator, you will "end" the meeting.   Before they leave, ask the students to go to the saved meeting link and then "rejoin" the class using the same code.  In your Zoom settings, you can adjust to have students "join before the host" so they can quickly rejoin with little confusion.   It's not perfect, but I could allow you to facilitate a class longer then 40 minutes while also building in breaks.  

Hi Geoffrey,

Thank  you so much for this information. I read through your discussion thread and it was very helpful. I think we may run into the funding problems you describe in our department. My IT contact said he applied for the educator account for us, so we'll see what happens. I think it's likely we won't get approved. 

I am going to try to your suggestion of linking two meetings back to back. I tried something like that in one meeting last week because the 40 minutes just goes by so fast. I did lose some students though who I guess didn't want to do another session. I am going to work on getting familiar with setting up 2 meetings in a row, and helping students feel comfortable leaving and returning to the class.



Thank you Geoffrey for your helpful information. I've been regularly hosting two Zoom classes back to back with the 10 minute break you suggested and it's working really well now. We've all gotten used to the break and everyone is mostly continuing with me for the second half of class. It really helps to have more time each evening. 

I have a tech issues, which I'm wondering if you or anyone here might now the answer to. It might be just a simple problem with one of my settings, but I'm having trouble when I share screen, to get my audio to work. I want to connect to a website or play a youtube video and I can hear it fine, but my students can't hear it. Any ideas? I've been researching and playing around with settings, but nothing is working yet. Thanks for any advice you might have.

Jennifer Kluempen

ESL Instructor

Hi Jennifer, I have been using video on Zoom, too. Here's how you optimize for sound. When you click on SHARE, you'll see two choices at the very bottom on the left hand side of the SHARE screen. You can then choose  "share computer sound" and "optimize screen sharing for video clip." 

Good luck!

Stay safe, everyone!

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Thank you, Susan! I really appreciate it. I think I had done this a few weeks ago successfully and somehow forgot in the meantime. 

Thanks again, Jennifer