Google Document sharing can get very messy if you have a lot of students. This semester, I have 45 students enrolled in the two sections of “Technology 4 Teachers” which I’m teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma. One week when I was absent, my substitute instructor discussed the “sample unit plan” assignment with students and told them all to share their Google Documents directly with me, using my personal email address. While this method DOES work for document sharing, for class assignment purposes this may NOT be a “best practice” (depending on how you, as an instructor, what to provide feedback to students) and can easily get messy if you have a LOT of students.
There are several reasons I do not like having students directly share Google Docs with me using my Google Account. First of all, I have not and did not want to share my direct Gmail address with my students. I have specific instructions in my course syllabus and course outline that students are ONLY to communicate electronically with me via our BlackBoard/WebCT messaging system. This is critical to avoid information overload and confusion with email messages. I have worked with NUMEROUS online instructors over the years, as well as face-to-face instructors / professors, who became overwhelmed with the quantity of email they received from students. This is a training issue, for both instructors and students. Personally, I think the “best practice” is to train and condition students to NEVER contact you as an instructor through your “regular” email. In an emergency students are welcome to call me directly on the phone, but for all “normal” communications our learning management system messaging service works well and is preferred. That way I know which course and section a student is in when they ask a question, and I can look up a grade or other information as required by their question. When you teach multiple sections of a course in the same term, students often don’t provide their section information in every email they send to you, and this can be confusing to the instructor. If students message you through your learning management system, however, it’s immediately clear which course/section they’re in since messages are organized by course section.
I also maintain a “Frequently Asked Questions” blog for my class, where students can (and are encouraged) to submit questions and view answers to other questions. I really do want students to ask LOTS of questions during the course of our semester together, but for my own information processing and survival purposes (and to provide timely responses to students) it’s critical students understand “the right ways” to ask questions electronically.
The following four minute screencast explains how students can embed a Google Document on a page of their Google Site, and then turn in the URL / direct link to that page when they “submit” an assignment to me via BlackBoard/WebCT.
I’m finding the method of setting up quizzes in Blackboard/WebCT in which students submit a direct link to a post on their reflection blog (created with Blogger) or in this case a specific page of their Google Site is working very well. It’s efficient for me as their instructor evaluating their work, and it’s helped them develop their skills of not only blogging and creating wiki pages, but also sharing direct links to specific websites. These are all great skills to cultivate as 21st century teachers!
The biggest drawback of the method I’m describing above is I do NOT have access to edit and directly add comments to students’ documents. There IS a lot of benefit in doing that, but if we were using that collaboration option it would be vital for students to use a standard file naming syntax / protocol so I could readily identify their name, section, and the assignment title. If students do NOT directly share a Google Doc with me via my email address, they also have to be sure and PUBLISH their document for the world to see, using the SHARING options in the upper right corner of the Google Doc. If they don’t do this, the document isn’t visible to me.
What have your experiences been when students share Google Docs with you for evaluation purposes? Do you have any good tips or suggestions to share which might help others?
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