Collecting Student Assignments with Google Drive

All students at William & Mary have WMApps accounts, the cluster of Google apps which is now housed in Google Drive.  After I tested out Google Drive for commenting on text documents a couple of weeks ago, I thought that it could offer an alternative way for me to handle student writing assignments.  I’ve been looking for methods that would streamline my current system (students hand in via Blackboard, I download them, comment on them electronically with a PDF reader, and upload them back to Blackboard), and with Google Drive I should be able to collect assignments electronically, comment on papers, and hand them back.  But how to go about it?

Uploading a document with Google Drive

How Would I Have Students Hand in Assignments with Google Drive?

Here is what I would do, but I’m sure there are any number of ways to do this:

I would give students the assignment sheet with instructions for handing in the document via Google Drive. I’d also save these instructions so that I could send an email to the class with the instructions a day or two before the assignment is due.  Here’s roughly what those instructions would say:

If you use Google Drive to write your paper:

Open the document and click on the blue share button in the upper right corner of the screen.  A window will pop up — enter my email address, leave the “can edit” option selected, and unclick the box that says “Notify people via email.” Click the green “Share & Save” button.

If you use Microsoft Word or another word processing application to write and save your assignment:

Log into your Google Drive.  On the left-hand side of your window, you should see two buttons “Create” and one with a picture of an arrow.  Click on the arrow — this is the upload button, and select to upload “files.”  A window will open, asking you to choose your file to upload.  Find your paper on your hard drive, and select it.  An upload window will pop up and your document should appear on the list.  Click on “settings” at the top of the window and select “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs format.”  Then follow the sharing instructions above to share your newly uploaded assignment with me.

I’d probably include some screen shots in these instructions when I’d give them to students, since there’s a lot of windows and “clicking.”  You could also choose to have Google Drive email you when a student shares a document with you, just make sure that they do have that box checked when they share it.

When someone has shared a document with you using Google Drive, you may get an email like this.

“Collecting” and Commenting on Their Assignments

After giving students these instructions, they hopefully would hand in their assignments by sharing them with you in Google Drive.  Once they’re all handed in, I would make unshared copies of them by moving them all into a folder, then copying the folder.  Working with an unshared copy of student assignments would be important so that the student 1) doesn’t have access to it after the due date, and 2) so that students can’t access their paper while you are writing comments on it.  It’s very important to me to write comments on papers and be able to go back and look at all of them on all of the papers before handing them back.  It wouldn’t do to have students reading comments that were not “finished” as it were.

Commenting on the assignments with Google Drive would be easy — Google Docs has the great commenting function available which I wrote about here.  After commenting on student papers, I would share them back to students when I was ready to hand them back.  I would probably hand back their actual letter/number grade in Blackboard so that the grade itself isn’t in their commented-on paper.

Like using any new technology in the classroom, it will take some trial and error to figure out a system that works, but the tools that Google Drive offers are worth experimenting with to streamline the process of electronically receiving and commenting on student papers.

Have you used Google Drive in your teaching?  Please share thoughts or suggestions in the comments!

If you’re interested in reading more about how you might use Google Drive, you may want to take a look at these posts: Three Ways to Use Google Drive for Student AssignmentsFrom Word to Dropbox and Back Again — Sharing Comments on Text DocumentsWMApps: What’s That?, and Collaborating on a Conference Panel with Google Drive.

About Kim Mann

Kim Mann is the editor and a writer for the Academic Technology Blog. She earned her BA in English from the University of Minnesota in 2003 and her MA in American Studies from William & Mary in 2009, and her PhD in American Studies at the College in 2014. Her research is on technology, the interface, and the body in mid-twentieth century science fiction.