This is a special guest blog post by Eve Naia Tupper, ENG 100 Lecturer at Leeward CC.
“Google Docs was a great benefit especially for an online class. I found it useful that others (peers and/or professor) can add comments and that changes can be tracked on Google Docs.” – ENG 100 Student
How I Started
I was hired in spring 2014 to teach online English 100 classes at Leeward CC. I originally began teaching English Composition in the late 1980’s for the Virginia Tech English department, and have lots of teaching experience, but this was the first time I’d be teaching online. I was especially interested in learning how to interact with my online students to help them revise their essay drafts.
I made many summertime visits to Leeward’s Educational Media Center (EMC) for assistance. I had previously met Rachael Inake, Educational Technologist at the EMC, when I took her Google Docs workshop at Windward CC during the HSI Gone Wild conference on March 7, 2014. I learned a bit about how Google Docs inspired cooperative writing, and wanted to know more about how I could use Google Docs in my ENG 100 online classes.
The Magic of Google Docs, Doctopus, and Goobric
Rachael used her expertise in Google Docs and Doctopus, a Google Sheets add-on app, to help me create an intensively interactive, highly-organized and efficient way to implement and manage essay assignments. I was intrigued by the potential to have a high level of student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction using Google Docs for my ENG 100 essay assignments. I loved the concept that students’ drafts in Google Docs could be shared with me and the class, changes could be tracked, students could simultaneously provide evaluation feedback on each other’s drafts to use for revisions, I could comment on the students’ drafts, text chat with students online about their drafts, and grade and leave feedback on their docs using the assignment rubric via Goobric, a Google Chrome extension that works with Doctopus.
I learned, with Rachael’s kind and patient help and her excellent video tutorials, how to setup and use Doctopus. Doctopus is a free Google Sheets add-on that allows the instructor to mass-copy/create docs for each student (from a starter template Google Document the instructor creates), share docs automatically, monitor student progress, and manage grading and feedback for student projects. When I ran the Doctopus add-on, it made copies of my template doc I created for students’ essay draft assignment with necessary sharing permissions I chose in Doctopus (i.e. students can comment on each other’s), labeled each with the student’s name, course number, and assignment title, so that I would never again receive a “mystery essay” with missing information on top. It even created an organized folder structure in my Google Drive (see screenshot below) with necessary sharing permissions applied. The automated creation and sharing process saved a lot of time and prevented mistakes from having to do it manually for 40 students (two classes).
For students’ final essay assignment, I created a similar template doc (like the draft doc), but this time I specified sharing permissions in Doctopus so that each student’s doc wasn’t shared with the entire class, but with just me and each student so I could give private feedback and his/her final grade for the essay. After I ran Doctopus to generate the assignment docs for each student, students copied and pasted the text from their draft doc into their final doc and made necessary edits for their final version. Doctopus has an “embargo” feature that allowed me to “lock” the students’ docs (which changes the sharing permission for them from “edit” to “view”) so no further edits could be made after the due date while I’m grading them. To grade, I used a free Google Chrome extension called “Goobric” to input my grading rubric that works together with Doctopus. It allowed me to input scores for each criterion and paste the completed rubric directly into each student’s doc.
Additionally, I shared the class’ drafts folder in Google Drive with the Leeward CC Writing Center, so that when online students call the Writing Center for help, the tutor and student can open the Google Document and chat on the phone and/or in the doc and edit the essay with ease.
Although I’ve used Google Docs, Doctopus, and Goobric for my online classes, it can definitely work well in face-to-face classes. Plus, students don’t need to have MS Word to do their assignments; Google Docs is free!
I can say that my fall semester with Google Docs has been a success, and my fall 2014 students had these comments:
“Google drive is very useful; especially it allows students to edit their drafts very easily.”
“I particularly enjoyed writing and getting feedback. I find myself writing reports, emails, letters daily at work- so it’s always nice to practice. Not just grammar, spelling and all those things but practice- how you write…Also, I have never used Google Docs, it’s a useful and effective program. It’s better than attaching a document to an email (which takes too much time). I would definitely use it again.”
“Another useful tool implemented in this course was the google docs. It was extremely helpful to have a designated template for each step of each assignment in one easy to access spot. This was the first time I had ever used Google docs as a part of an educational course, and I must admit that I did not immediately recognize the benefits of this tool. It wasn’t long, however, before I came to appreciate the organization the Google docs provided. Having drafts, peer evaluation results, and instructor feedback in one location was helpful when writing my final drafts as all of the information I needed to reference was located in one place”.
“Mastering Google Docs was a benefit for sure and a new skill I can add to my list. I did not know Google Docs existed before I was required to use it for this course. I even let my husband in on it and let’s just say we are both users of Google Docs. I never faced any problems with Google Docs. Everything worked just fine, thankfully.”
“Learning how to use Google documents is also a skill I have now acquired because of this course. In future courses it will help me if I need to use the Google documents.”
Collaboration with the Leeward CC Library
This spring, I am continuing with Doctopus and Google Docs, and am building on last semester’s work. This semester, the supportive and amazing Leeward CC Librarians Leah Gazan and Junie Hayashi are sharing a Google Doc in the Doctopus “Class Edit” folder (which gives students “edit” access to type on the doc) called Ask an LCC Librarian a Question!. This single document is shared by all of the ENG 100 students, myself, and the librarians. At any time, a student can type a question for the librarians on this Google Doc, and within 48 hours, the librarian can type the answer for all class members to see. This is a wonderful resource for ENG 100 students, who need to take the Library Information Literacy Exam and use the Leeward CC library databases to research and document their research findings MLA style in their papers.
If you’re looking to get started with Google Docs, register for the “Google Docs Challenge” workshop on March 16 or 17, 2015. For help with Google Docs or Doctopus, contact Rachael at firstname.lastname@example.org.