12 Days of Teaching, Day 3: Google It!

Our university email runs on Gmail and so brings a host of useful applications through GSuite for Education. Over the past few years they’ve become integrated in how I teach and were we to switch providers, I’d need a replacement for a lot of these (and time to convert…).

Appointments: I run my calendar through Google and so can create appointment for students. There is a link in my email signature, they can see where in any semester week I’ve blocked out appointment slots and they can book themselves in. This replaces back and forth email exchanges to sort out times (it still happens, but far less frequently) or the old ‘paper sign up sheet on my door’.

Diagnostic Tests: I run my diagnostic tests and indeed any electronic questionnaire through GoogleForms. While it has some limitations, I’m now familiar enough with it that I can do most of the things I’d like to do. I particularly like the feature where I convert the form to a test, engage auto-marking, and assign points to each question. I’d like a feature where, when giving feedback on an answer in a test, the feedback appears in the spreadsheet of answers given. I’d also like to be able to export questions and import them into different forms – I’ve worked around that by having master question banks and creating new forms by copying the master form and deleting what I don’t want. The spreadsheet of responses is generally good however and is definitely more useful for analysis than a stack of paper questionnaires.

Submission of work: I have three major problems with a well-known brand of plagiarism detection for educations. Firstly, I dislike the default assumption that all students are plagiarising (and it only detects a very crude form of it), secondly I dislike the idea that my students’ work is being retained in a database beyond my control (but I can turn that feature off), and thirdly I’d like to be able to customise the submission form. I want students to carry out a bit of self-assessment as they submit their work, write a few notes on why they’d give themselves that grade, and then select some key areas they’d like their feedback to focus on. Yes, this adds time to the submission step but it’s really useful to me to see what the students think of their work and the areas where feedback would be most useful to them. So it’s a GoogleForm for submission. I miss the features of the well-known brand in terms of speed of marking (using a pre-determined bank of comments that can be dragged onto the work) but there are other ways around that, and there were always issues with student’s being able to view those comments in a convenient manner.

Complex assessment regimes: not that complex really, but the screencast presentations (See PDF: http://www.kjhaxton.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Overton-Book-Haxton.pdf) was managed in the end through GoogleForms. In that case students self-assessed, then completed peer-assessment, then further self-assessment. Aggregating the comments wasn’t particularly pretty but it was achievable. In any case, I didn’t find a more reliable means of doing it so accepted the limitations of sorting out all the feedback.

Finally, I generally link to a read-only copy of my slides or documents (GoogleSlides or GoogleDocs) rather than upload the files each year. You can set it to download PDF versions of the documents which is useful if you want to copy the course from year to year. I also find the process of revising documents to be far easier – I make the changes and they automatically appear. Remember to include ‘last edited’ dates and version numbers so students know if they’ve got an older version. I used the following links to work out how to do this:

http://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/8106/link-to-view-pdf-version-of-a-google-doc

https://www.labnol.org/internet/direct-links-for-google-drive/28356/

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