G Suite for Education in Canada

I recently came across a post from Spark, a Radio-Canada program discussing an upcoming project that would be “looking into how Google is marketing itself to schools, affecting how classrooms work, impacting students’ privacy, and how it’s shaping the way children think about technology.”  While I work in a U.S. district that uses Microsoft, Google and Apple products, much of my writing has been on the analysis of G Suite for Education, so I thought I would take the opportunity to add to this conversation.

First here are three important concepts for anyone writing about G Suite for Education

  1. Understand the key Privacy Differences between Consumer Gmail and G Suite for Education
  2. Understand the role that the District’s Responsibility for direct control, notice and consent for “non-Core” Google Services
  3. To understand if or how a system as large and complex as G Suite complies with a given set of country/state/province laws you will need to look at all of the privacy policies and terms(including the privacy notice). A good example of such an analysis is seen here, for the state of California.

Second, I thought I would take a look at G Suite adoption in Canadian school districts. In late 2016, I did some research on the adoption of G Suite vs Microsoft O365 in K12 school districts.  This is a relatively easy thing to determine via automated DNS lookups, as both systems require changes to a domain’s DNS records which are publicly visible.  To  provide a comparison, I conducted similar research for all public school districts in the provinces British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan as well as 284 Canadian Universities.

As with the previous study of U.S. School Districts and Universities, the analysis was based on examination of DNS (primarily TXT and MX records) of the email domains listed in the province’s Department of Education. It is important to note that because this analysis was based on the “domain of record” and districts, and even individual schools may have have set up one or more of these systems on domains other than their primary domain. Additionally this looks at districts only and does not attempt to estimate the total number of users of either system by extrapolating District student and staff counts.



The results were significantly higher than the 15% for O365 and significantly lower than the 47.91% for Google’s G Suite from my December 2016 study of U.S. School Districts. It is much closer to the University results of   18.31% for Google and 40.84% for Microsoft. This may indicate a lower adoption of G Suite OR it may be an indicator that Canadian schools are using G Suite on a domain other than the official school district domain.

As with the U.S. study,  some of the sites returned DNS markers that were indicative of a domain that had started the process of verifying domain ownership with Google . This could mean that the domain started testing Google and did not proceed, or it could mean that the domain is routing email via O365, and is also using G Suite for non-email collaboration.