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Google Apps for course management

Posted by phourigan on June 1, 2010

My school is committed to Moodle for course management, but I’m going to try something different for next year.  Google Apps for Education seems to offer enough features to not only act as a Moodle replacement, but to give more functionality than what Moodle can offer.  My CEC class will be the guinea pigs.

Here’s a run-down of how I’m planning on using the Google App features:

Gmail – obviously for e-mail communication.  Students will create custom contact lists and learn how to explore Google Labs for additional functionality.  We’ll create labels and filters and I’ll show them how to keep track of their messages while keeping their Inbox manageable.  We will also use the chat functionality, perhaps as a back channel in class.  I’m still not sure how that will go.

Google Calendar – Assignment book / planner.  We don’t take full advantage of the Google Calendar.  Being able to set reminders is huge, as is being able to invite attendees and even see their schedules, if the permissions are set up to do so.  I can imagine using Calendar to manage long-term assignments.  Also, you can also attach any file to any calendar event – it’s all integrated with Google Docs.

Google Docs – file management, sharing.  Shared folders will allow me to assign work with just a click.  For those who don’t know, you can upload a document or file to a shared folder and anyone with access to the folder automatically has access to the file.  Pair that with an e-mail or calendar reminder, and one of Moodle’s drawbacks is addressed (in Moodle, students don’t necessarily know that a course page has been updated unless they check the actual page).  Students will submit work using a shared folder as a drop box.  There’s no fear of messing up another students’ files because the Revision History lets you go back in time and revert to any previous version.  Even if a student erases all the text on a document and saves it, you can still get back to an earlier version (and see who the vandal was!).

Google Groups – because I’ve been disappointed with Google Sites, I’m envisioning using the Groups as my course’s home page.  From there, I can put links to outside resources, upload my syllabus, and have a home base for students to check in.  It seems like Google is paying more attention to their Groups lately, so hopefully they’ll continue to add features.

Google Forms – a largely unexplored frontier in our domain – I’ve used it for faculty surveys, but I want to use it on a daily basis to gauge whether or not students are ready to move on.  We don’t need to spend money on instant response hardware when I can just shoot out a Google Form and collect the results at almost real-time (something Google will probably improve on).

Looking forward, I’m hoping to take a look at Google Wave and and see how we can utilize them.  I want each of my students to keep a blog and I’ll need to check out how well integrates with the rest of Google’s functions.

If you have any suggestions or better yet, any experience using these functions wholesale, please let me know.


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