Adventures in Google Classroom

Our institutional email is Gmail which gives us access to all sorts of Google goodies for teaching including Google Classroom. I dabbled with it a little last year, contemplating using it but I couldn’t quite get it straight in my head. This coming academic year I am planning to use it for my Industrial Chemistry module, largely because the majority of assignments for that module are submitted through GoogleForms.

About the module:

Students attend sessions on a range of industrially relevant topics in chemistry, take part in several workshops on skills, complete a reflective diary on the skills development, and work in groups to develop a product idea.  We have:

– a mock application form

– a mock aptitude test

– reflective diary entries

– presentation submissions (group and individual)

These are all submitted through GoogleForms, some used as tests to enable marking and return of feedback by email to the students. Presentations are normally submitted into a shared folder to facilitate upload to the PC in the presentation room.

I write my teaching documents using GoogleDocs and Slides so that I can link directly to them and enable downloading as a PDF when I’m on the VLE. I can roll over content and update it without the hassle of having to upload fresh files. I like being able to share my teaching content easily with other teaching staff and I love having everything in one folder, accessible on any computer I want to work on.

The plan for GoogleClassroom is to take advantage of several features:

Stream will allow objects to be viewed in a chronological order so that students see the most immediately relevant stuff for the week ahead first.

Topics will allow students to view all objects for a specific ‘thing’ (workshops, reflective diary, group project) in one place.

About will allow module reference material to be located in one place – my module guide, assessment guidelines etc.

I will be able to add questions into the stream so that I can collect feedback from students or deal with questions on assignments without email. I think I’ll use this mainly to collect feedback on how the course is going.

I’ve been experimenting with linking to the key documents so far and scheduling the release of things. I would like to get a lot of the course pre-scheduled so I save a little time during semester. Of course, that means I need to get a lot of the course revised and ready!

I’m also planning how I will get feedback from the students on how they found GoogleClassroom. Unless it is specifically requested, I’m not going to provide the course materials through the VLE as well, but I will clearly signpost the course on the VLE. I should also be clear, I’m not trying to replace the VLE, I’m trying to take advantage of the easier integration of Google tools in a module where I deliver 80% of the content and assessment and already use it extensively. I’m sticking with the VLE for everything else. I also think there are some advantages to asking the students to adapt to a different way of ordering content, an additional learning outcome if you like, and one relevant to a module that emphasises skills development.

The next challenge is to work out how best to facilitate group projects through this interface. It will be easy to create Google Team drives  or shared google drives for each group to enable them to share and work collaboratively (another module requirement), I just need to work out the best way do that. I believe it is possible to personalise posts in Classroom so I think I’ll be able to link to the shared folder for each group. I expect around 10 groups so that isn’t too much work. We’ll see…


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