In several of my courses, students have to work in groups and prepare weekly PowerPoint presentations as well as a final report for their project. When I first heard of GoogleDOCS, I immediately though these students would greatly benefit from using this application in their collaborative tasks. Very briefly, GoogleDOCS allows collaborators to work on a single, live document, which is stored at Google’s site. Any member of a group can modify the document and the changes are traceable. Since this is a shared document, all members can work on it simultaneously and see the changes real time.
Google has created a Google Apps for Wentworth at: www.google.com/a/wit.edu WIT users create an account using their WIT username and their choice of a password. In my courses, typically the group leader uploads a blank or partially completed document and invites collaborators to share the document. Every document has its own list of invitees and these could be either viewers or collaborators, however, only the originator can delete a document. Upon completion of the document, any member can download it for use. Through Google Apps for WIT, Google has access to WIT usernames, so it is not necessary for the originator of the document to know the username for each member of the group. Instead, all he/she needs to do is key in a few letters of a member’s name and Google shows all matching usernames.
I have been using GoogleDOCS for the last two semesters and although it has eliminated the need for students to email their contributions to the group leader, not all groups took full advantage of the collaborative nature of this application. For example, in my freshman classes some groups were uploading their work as separate files which eventually were assembled into the final report. This defeats the purpose of having a single, live file at any given time shared by all members. So next time I teach this course, I plan to upload a blank document for each group and invite the members to share it with me. This way, they will be forced to work on a single document and I will be able to track each collaborator’s contribution.