Why You Should Not Force Install Apps on Chromebooks

We use the “block all apps and extensions except the ones I allow” option for all students. Only apps and extensions approved at the district or school level can be installed by students.


The Problem with Force Installed Apps

Another option Google gives us is to “Manage Force-installed Apps” which brings me to the point of this post. You can force all users to have an app or extension installed when they sign in to a Chromebook and when they sign into Chrome on another device. This makes sense for some apps (I’ll come back to this), but let’s look at a scenario.

Student Scenario

Let’s say your middle school wants all of the students to have XYZ app. To accomplish this you force install the XYZ app to all the students in the school.

Jane is in the 6th grade and begins using the app. Jane uses it all the time. She uses the app when she is on her school owned Chromebook and on the Chrome browser on her home computer which she has signed into using her school email address.

She continues using XYZ in 7th and 8th grade. Jane has now moved to high school and so has her Google account. Her new school isn’t forcing the XYZ app. When her Google account is moved to her new school, the XYZ app is removed from her account.

Jane gets a new Chromebook from her High School (yes Jane is a lucky gal) but the XYZ app is not installed on the new Chromebook or the Chrome browser at home anymore. 

Do you see the problem??? Her new school isn’t forcing the app install. Worst of all, Jane never learned how to install an app. It was always just there so she doesn’t know how to get it back.

This scenario isn’t the end of the world, but it brings me to my point. I believe its better to have students install apps themselves for two reasons. One, students will learn how to do it. Second, apps will remain tied to the students’ accounts regardless of where in the Google domain their account is moved too (assuming the app is still allowed.)

How to Share an App with Your Students

Now, I know what your thinking. It will be very time consuming to have students manually install the apps. Well, here’s a way you can speed up the process.

  1. Open the Chrome Web Store
  2. Search for the app you want students to use. In this case, we’ll search for Google Forms.webstore
  3. Click on the name of the app (not Add to Chrome) and a window with screenshots and a description of the app will open.form
  4. Look at the URL bar in the image above and your browser. That is a direct link to the page for this app.
  5. Copy the URL
  6. Paste the URL into something you are sharing with students. For example a Google doc, Google Site, Google Classroom.
  7. When students click the link they will be taken to the app install page and they should click “Add To Chrome”

This should make the process much faster than telling the students to search for an app, yet does allow them to become familiar with the process of installing apps.

Certain Apps Should Be Forced

Now, back to apps that make sense to force. We have an app that we install for all staff and students that tells our Internet filter who the user is. Without the app, everyone is given the most restricted filtering option.

So, we do force that, but we do it at the top of our domain level. That way regardless of what school a student or staff member is at, the app will install.

Dave Carty

K12 district technology administrator, Google domain admin, Certified Google Trainer.

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