Over the past year, I have used a range of Google Apps to support my courses at Virginia Tech. While these Apps have transformed the way I approach the delivery of my courses, I believe there is room to further improve the Apps to help faculty/teachers create a flexible and integrated course platform.
In this post, I list the Apps I currently use and provide my wish list of features that I’d like Google Apps developers to consider creating.
Google Drive: I share course-related material with students enrolled in my courses via Google Drive. Each course folder typically consists of Syllabus, Readings, Slides, and Sharing subfolders. The files saved in the first three subfolders are ‘read only’ to protect the integrity of the information/data. Students have full editing rights for the Sharing subfolder, which is where new material, Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc. are saved.
- Feature Request: I would like students who officially enroll in one of my courses to be ‘automatically’ added to the course folder on Google Drive. The development of this feature would require close collaboration with VT’s Computing and Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS) groups.
- Feature Request: I would like to have one interface where I could assign all the viewing/editing rights to each folder/subfolder for all of my students. This would save me from having to assign these permissions when viewing each folder/sub-folder.
Google+ Community: I use both public and private Google+ Communities to share information and support course-related discussions/exchanges (both inside and outside of the classroom). The decision to make a community public or private is primarily based on the subject matter. However, I have found that private communities enable me to consolidate all of the Google Apps in use in one location, which is more difficult in a public setting since non-VT students frequently request access to course resources that are linked to a community.
- Feature Request: The Google+ Community is the epicenter of my courses. Right now I link other Apps – such as a Google Drive folder and Google Classroom – to each community by adding a URL link to the description of the community (see the image below). It would be useful if I could connect these Apps in a more explicit way – i.e., have a dedicated area/space near the top of the community where all related Apps can be more clearly shown. The same ‘connections’ area/space should be added to Google Drive, Google Classroom, etc. to enable a seamless transition between Apps. This feature grows in importance as the number of Apps being used to support a course increases.
Google Classroom: Used as an assignment management tool. This App streamlines the sharing of files and enables me to privately send grades to the students. This App is also the most underdeveloped.
- Feature Request: I would like to be able to ‘add’ other instructors to a course that I have created in Google Classroom. When adding an instructor, I would like to be able to assign this person to all or a section of the students enrolled in the class. If an instructor is assigned to a section of the class, then this individual should only be able to view assignments (in the ‘Classroom’ folder in Google Drive) that are submitted by their students. The primary instructor should be able to view all of the assignments.
- Feature Request: As with the Google Drive course folder, all students who officially enroll in one of my courses should be ‘automatically’ enrolled in the class in Google Classroom. The self-enrollment feature should be maintained for students who would like to audit a class.
- Feature Request: As discussed above, there needs to be a ‘connections’ area/space in Google Classroom that enables faculty to link the App to all other Apps being used – especially to a Google Drive folder and Google+ Community.
Google+ Circle: Used to share course-related announcements with students. Each announcement is sent to a student’s email and his/her private Google+ stream.
- Feature Request: I would like to be able to send announcements/messages to a Google+ Circle or Community directly from my VT email. This feature should mirror the dropdown sharing menu shown in Google+ and YouTube (see the image below).
YouTube: Used to privately share assignment-feedback videos with students. The videos appear in each student’s Google+ stream. I currently record assignment-feedback videos using Snagit and upload these directly to YouTube, making sure all videos are set to private.
- Feature Request: Given the volume of feedback videos I manage for each course, it would be helpful if the ‘Video Manager’ icon had a much more prominent position in YouTube so it can be accessed from any page/view.
- Feature Request: When viewing the “Video Manager” screen (where all the videos are listed), it would be helpful see the name of the individual who was sent a private assignment-feedback video. Currently, the only way view these names is to “Edit” each video, which adds additional time to the process.
Google Docs: Used during class sessions to co-create material and capture student responses to assigned tasks.
Google Sheets: Used during class sessions to co-create spreadsheets and for homework assignments.
Google Slides: Used to manage and develop lecture material.
- Feature Request: It would be useful if a Participoll add-on could be developed for Google Slides.
While I have not yet used Google Groups, Google Forms, or Google Sites as part of a course, it would be useful if these Apps could be included in any ‘connections’ area/space that is developed.
I would welcome the opportunity to speak with any Google Apps developers who are interested in working on any of the above features.