The New Google Sites

Educational Technology6 Comments

The new Google sites is available both on RMIT and private accounts. They are not replacing the classic sites – see the section on Migration below. There are a number of new features of this long overdue refresh providing a new ease and speed in creating content that also removes several complications. Due to the ease and speed with which web content can be created, it will remain a favourite for both learning experience creation as well as student portfolios.

Multiple Simultaneous Editors

What I like most about the new Sites, for education, is the multiple simultaneous editors. Collaborators can see with whom they are editing and see edits as they happen in real time. The shared editorship brings this function to content creation the same way we are familiar with in Google Docs. The student experience of shared editing is one of the best ways to enable ‘aha’ moments that encourage both collaboration and a furthering of web literacy. It is much easier than WordPress, while still scaffolding the skills required for transition to more sophisticated WordPress folios when desired, something our School of Art has encouraged over recent years.

The Google sites’ simultaneous editing function goes a step further than the shared editorship function of other platforms by enabling collaborative authorship. This could encourage and support indigenous web literacy and that of other communities. One learning coming out of indigenous projects run by The Australian Flexible Learning Framework, was that some indigenous people do not like to be seen to showing themselves off to the world. Rather there is more of a group or community consciousness requiring group eportfolios where a shared presence could be projected. Platforms such as Ning at the time enabled this shared presence. While shared editorship is of course available in other platforms such as WordPress, the capacity to have simultaneous editing is an indigenous accessibility winner here.

Other improvements

  • Mobile responsivity. The new one column, no sidebar design, means your Google Site now appears the same on any device, unlike Blackboard or Canvas.
  • Improved speed of content creation with double-click to insert a choice of text box, an URL, or other media upload.
  • You can also insert content via the double-click from Google Drive – including your docs, sheets, slides etc You can still insert calendars, maps and Youtube videos.
  • Embed external content. Content from other websites can be inserted to display within your site.
  • Content can be resized and moved around via drag and drop
  • Highlighting of content and auto-adjusting of backgrounds
  • You don’t need to select the Google Site name and URL first
  • New look themes
  • 2 permissions settings: everyone in your organisation or to the web. On the open web the settings are to those with the link or to the open web.

What’s still available

  • Google Analytics integration
  • Subpages
  • Horizontal and vertical navigation menus.
  • Custom header image

What’s missing – but may be re-added

  • Access and edit HTML
  • Adding gadgets and scripts
  • Page-level sharing permissions
  • Revision history
  • Embed content from Google+, Hangouts and Google Groups
  • Insert tables

An advantage of the old sites with an RMIT account, was that when made public, they are only visible within the organisation – a good way to scaffold an eportfolio into a mature web presence. Students, in learning about and experimenting with online presence, sometimes need practice in trying out different personas.  With the new Sites set up externally you get the choice as to whether it gets indexed in Google search or not. This means that it can be kept semi private as a way of doing the same scaffolding. So now there is every reason to begin with setting up Sites externally.


Classic sites for the time being will remain available on the open web with at least a year’s notice of closure, and migration tools are to be made available. Timelines and instructions regarding the gradual depreciation of classic Sites will be released in 2018. More here.

Our recommended Google Hack

There are numerous challenges with our internal Google setup that require a workaround.

The challenges are:

  • Internal Google Sites are not indexed and are therefore not searchable.
  • We cannot share content on internally created Google Sites easily with outsiders.
  • Site content needs to be exported to a private Google account otherwise the content will disappear once a student (or staff member) leaves.
  • A challenge specific to Google Communities is that once someone leaves the organisation their content disappears from the community.

The workaround:

  1. Go to your private google account and set up the Site (or Community). We recommend using the new Google Sites for this.
  2. In the sharing permissions give ownership/management or editing rights to your internal Google account
  3. With your internal RMIT Google account you can now invite collaborators from either inside or outside the organisation.

If you have already set something up with an RMIT account this is what to do.

  1. Share the Google Site with an outside Google account,
  2. copy it and make it public,
  3. then share management of it back with RMIT accounts.

Notably, this method will also improve the URL too.


Useful Links

photo credit: Wes Hardaker cc licence on Flickr

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Steve Bright
Steve Bright
4 years ago

Hi Howard,
Really like this piece – very clear and informative – and the site itself is also terrific. Thank you. I work in the Education Portfolio where we are starting to go down this path. Do you have any suggestions where we can get the help we need to develop something like this?
Cheers Steve

Leigh Blackall
4 years ago

Late last year, Sahra Stolz from the fashion school emailed me the following summary of her findings with the new Google Sites. Copied below with her permission: Hi all A couple of weeks ago when Google launched their redesigned sites utility, I decided to convert the FabShop site to the new version. There are some advantages and disadvantages to the new package, but the advantages won me over. ADVANTAGES well with other Google utilities (spreadsheets, forms, docs) 2. looks professionally designed, comes with preloaded themes 3. no more fussy columns and sidebars 4. renders better on mobile devices –… Read more »

Sahra Stolz
4 years ago

Thanks Howard and Leigh. A major issue I’ve had with students trying to access the new site is that google just gives an error message (and not a login prompt) if you try to access the site while not signed in OR if you’re signed in to multiple google accounts. This means I get a lot of emails from people complaining that the link I sent “doesn’t work”. The old sites was also pretty bad with this: if the access login conditions threw an error it would invite the visitor to ask for editing permission!


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