Google Apps: A Word to IT Designers

With a new year comes a new quarter (and soon a new semester).  After one quarter under my belt, I decide to use the built-in features of the Google Apps hosted by the university.  However, after two weeks of non-stop problems, I have had to migrate back to my own, personal Google account due to some seriously flawed application issues, either due to Google but more likely my school’s internal policy Google App access.

While many people have their own gmail address of sorts, universities, businesses, and city governments are looking more and more towards the flexible, easy to deploy Google Apps suite of email, website development, and collaborative document creation and management.  Its familiarity, its ease all contribute to this advancement.  However, how you choose to deploy these features becomes a whole other issue in the IT-selected app setting.

Issue #1: Google Sites

Teaching a hybrid, ten-week course, I wanted to use Google Sites to create and share a course page containing all of the essential features: syllabus, project instructions, weekly videos, etc.  Last quarter, I didn’t have access to anything until the first day of class so I had to develop the Fall site on my own Google Site.  Based on some complaints regarding access, etc., I thought it would be easier to have a site built under the school’s Google App Sites setting.  Heck, I could even share it with the whole community of the campus!  Well, except for 1 thing.  The students were not setup to access Google Sites; only faculty and staff have that feature activated on Google app setting.  Although I can see the use of Google Sites for committee work and departmental issues, leaving students out of the loop is missing the boat on your largest potential user population, as well as cutting off the technological arms for hybrid teachers like myself.  Perhaps the IT department did not consider this possible application and consider the de-arming “just a flesh wound.”

Issue #2: Google Calendar

As part of my own workflow, I plot out all key due dates, holidays, etc on a new course-only Google Calendar before creating any other assignments so I can have an overview of the course’s timeline.  Well, with a Google Site at a school with Google Apps, I should be able to just embed my calendar and share these same dates with my students in the course page, right?  Wrong.  Unless the students can login as me, they can’t see the calendar and there are no options to make the calendar public.  Ideally, the students ought to be able to see the calendar on the site and even be able to import that calendar to their own personal Google calendar so they can already see the assignment due dates plotted out for them.

Issue #3 Google Docs (particularly Forms)

After grading nearly 150 papers in about 2 weeks last December, I realized something has to change about my teaching workflow.  Most of the questions for these assignments are multiple choice or fill-in the blank, but require downloading, saving to a folder, renaming the file since some students never remember to include their name, converting it to PDF so it can go back to them with comments in an easily accessible file format, grading and commenting on it, resaving, locking the file, and sending back the graded file.  Even writing my methods makes my headspin.  Instead, I wanted to test out Google Forms as a new way to manage short-quiz based assignments; some of the quizzes could even be setup to self-grade!  But, the iron curtain between student and faculty access made the embedded forms not accessible without faculty login.  Even when emailing the forms to the students, they could see the forms, but not email them back without faculty login despite having been asked specifically to complete the form.  And back to the personal account I go….Even with that, I could not transfer ownership of the form from one Gmail account to another so I had to recreate the entire quiz and answer key under the personal account.  If there was a comical, graphical way to depict this, I would so submit these scenarios to FAIL Blog.  Perhaps the Oatmeal can help me out with this….(If you don’t know this site, you really ought to check it out, at least the 10 Things You Need to Stop Misspelling)

Now, presumably, I’m the first to hit these roadblocks so I hope my comments can help prevent co-workers from losing the same time and energy I did and and advise institutions considering these changes to voice your needs early before the banging your head against a wall begins.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s