The New Google Classroom
The recently released Google Classroom is a huge step forward – its tight integration with Google Docs and Drive makes it ideal for teachers who use Google regularly. It has been needed badly. Up until now, one had to rely on awkward work-arounds or pricey 3rd-party management programs in order to organize and distribute teacher files and collect students work. This cumbersome process has kept many teachers from utilizing the Google Apps for Education as a full-service platform.
Using Classroom, however, you simply create classes and either add students directly or provide a class code for students in your school to enter (it currently only is available for Google for Education domains). Creating assignments is easy – start an assignment with one click, give it a due date and then add materials for the students to access. As you add course material, you have the choice of allowing students to only view the item (e.g. supplemental materials, assignment instructions etc.), edit the document (for whole-class collaboration) or distribute the document to the students to complete and turn-in.
This last option is critical as it removes the often troublesome steps of requiring the students to copy your view-only document, rename it, save it where they can find in, and then turn it in with a meaningful student name in a location where you can access it.
With Classroom, the ‘Distribute to Students’ option makes the file immediately available to the students. When a student opens it from within his or her Google Classroom account, it is automatically placed in an folder created for that assignment inside the student's Google Drive. A nice touch is that the student’s name is properly appended to the document title, eliminating the all-to-frequent hunt for the owner of submitted homework. Students can return to it directly in their drive or from within the Classroom environment. Once completed, a single click turns it in with ownership rights set back to you, the teacher. You can then make comments or turn on the “Suggesting Mode” to make clearly-marked edits to the document before returning it to the student, again with only a single click.
A few student/assignment grading and tracking features complete the process, leaving you free from the hassles document management. What a relief!!!
Small issues ...
After hours exploring this creation / submission chain, I have noticed that this process only seems to work when I added documents during the initial creation of the assignment. If I submitted the assignment and then went back to edit it, I no longer had the option to distribute documents to students – either ones I had already attached or new ones that I wanted to add. When editing an assignment, “Students can View” and “Students can Edit” were consistently my only choices.
Obviously a teacher needs to be able to modify an assignment – perhaps this is a bug. But it make it inconvenient, as the only remedy is to delete the assignment and rebuild it from scratch.Hopefully this will be resolved very soon.