ITEC Workshop: Google Classroom

ITEC presented a workshop about Google Classroom ("Classroom") September 6 and 8. Thank you to all who attended. From Google, "Google Classroom is a blended learning platform for schools that aim to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way. It was introduced as a feature of Google Apps for Education following its public release on August 12, 2014. Its aim is to be a paperless educational system." Classroom is available through the Beloit College Google domain.

If you are interested in this tool, please contact ITEC.

Using Google Classroom

Classroom is a great tool for communicating with students, discussing topics, sharing assignments and staying on top of the course schedule. As we will see, Classroom integrates powerfully with Google Drive, making the document management related to the sharing and submission of assignments easy. The collaborative nature of the Drive apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Draw) make these tools especially suited for facilitating a feedback loop and conversation between teacher and student(s) while work is being done. Classroom lacks a grade book or grading mechanism, but Google Forms will allow the creation of quizzes (see this post about quizzing in Google Forms). There are also add-ons, like Flubaroo, that will facilitate the grading of assignments. A Google Sheet may be used to create a grade book. Apps are available for Classroom on Android and iOS for those that desire to access the course on a mobile.


Classroom is only available for Google Apps for Education. If you are teacher wanting to use Classroom, please make sure that you sign up as a teacher. If you sign up to Classroom as a student you will not be able to convert your role to "teacher" without assistance from the Google Administrator. As a teacher you can still join classes as a student (not your own). The Dashboard is what you will see the first time that you navigate to classroom.google.com. This page will list all of the courses you create and those you join as a student.

Creating a Course

Creating a course a course is simple. To create a course, click the "+" icon next to your username in the upper right corner, and then select "Create." A window will appear in which you can enter the course name, section, and subject (Fig. 1). Once you create your course you will be taken to the course stream page. This is the main course page which the teacher and students will visit most frequently. It is the place where materials and assignments will be posted and where online discussions will be displayed.

Note: Classroom discussions/commenting may be difficult to access and participate in for someone who makes use of screen reader software.

Fig. 1
The other two areas available in the course page are "Students" and "About." the students page is where the teacher may add students. Students are added by adding their email address. 

The "About" page is a static page where the teacher may post information about this course. This is a good place for a welcome message, syllabus, office hours - general course information which won't change throughout the semester.

Tip: Create a contact group for your class in Google Contacts. You can then add this group to the students page to add all the students at once!

Once the course is created the teacher may add students. Students are invited by email. A teacher may add the students directly (recommended) or send a link to the course with a special code to join. This may be seen in the image below. Creating a contact group makes it easy to add all the students at one go. When students are added the teacher may determine the level of action that a student may take within a course. A student may comment only, post and comment, or the teacher may only comment (image below).

Class Calendar

When you create a course a calendar is automatically created to go along with that course (Fig. 2). The class calendar is automatically added to the teacher's and students' Google calendars under the "My Calendars" section. Any assignments which are given a due date will appear on the calendar in the "all-day" section of the day on which they are due.

There is a calendar page in Classroom also. The default view is to show all class calendars (Fig. 3). It is possible to filter the visible calendars by class.


Integration with Google Drive

Part of the power of Classroom is the way it integrates with Google Drive and how it handles document organization and sharing/ownership for assignments. When you sign up for Classroom a "Classroom folder is created in your Drive (Fig. 4). A folder will be created inside this folder for any courses you create in Classroom. This means that all your materials can be organized in one place, by course. 

Classroom also handles the sharing and ownership of documents within assignments. The teacher may create template documents for the students to use if they wish. While the student works on the assignment The student owns the document. The teacher has edit privileges, allowing them to provide feedback via comment, view revision history, or edit the document.

Populating the Course Page

There are a number of items you may post in a course. The image to the left shows the options for what may be added. These include creating a question, creating an assignment, creating an announcement, or reusing a prior post.

To access this menu of items click the circle-+ icon located in the lower right corner. All of the item types allow the teacher to attach files, add files from Google Drive, add a video from YouTube, or add a link to another resource.

Tip: It is recommended that you create the assignments and quizzes in Google Drive first, and then add them to the specific course assignment, or quiz.

It is possible to set a due date for questions and assignments. When you do so, the item will tell the teacher how many assignments are complete. The item(s) will also be added to the class calendar. It is also possible to tag any items with a topic. These allow the students or teacher to filter the stream down into the materials for a specific topic.

Once an assignment has been created the teacher may look at the submission status for the assignment and/or grade the students by clicking on the "Student Work" tab (Fig. 5). The instructions tab will list any instructions for the assignment and discussion/comments made on the assignment.

Fig. 5

Archiving Courses, Re-Using courses

Once a course is complete it is possible to archive a course. This is recommended as it serves as a record of the work completed by students and allows the teacher to go back at review the course as a resource. The teacher and students won't be able to make changes. The teacher and students can view this class in "Archived Classes" in the Classroom menu and can find all class files in Drive.

While in some learning management systems it is possible to reuse courses, Classroom does not function in this manner. The only options available once a course is archived is to either restore the course to the same group of students or delete it. Once a course is deleted it cannot be recovered.

This is why the classroom folders on drive are so important. These allow a teacher to organize all the materials in one course. Building a course in Classroom is a manual process for each iteration of a course. This, however, may not be a bad thing as it provides an opportunity to evaluate the materials to determine if they are still germane to the course as a whole.

Further Reading & Resources

50 Things You can Do With Google Classroom, Alice Keeler & Libbi Miller - This is a link to the Beloit College catalog for this book. The book is a great primer for getting started with Google Classroom.

Alice Keeler Teacher Tech Blog  - Similar to the book above, the Teacher Tech blog provides recommendations, best practices, and tips for working with Google Classroom/

Google Training Extension - This extension works with many (if not all) Google tools. Related to Classroom, it will provide a number of tutorials for teachers and students to help them work in a course. The extension lives in the upper right corner of the browser window (image below).

Once you click the button (highlighted above), you will be presented with a menu of help topics and interactive tutorials (image below).

Google Classroom Support - This is a link to Google support pages for Google Classroom.


Styli Recommendations

If you are considering taking notes digitally, then the following list may be helpful. While the article is titled as "tablet styli," most, if not all, should work on any capacitive-touch enabled device.

Five Best Tablet Styli - Lifehacker

Image used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 NL license from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylus#/media/File:Stylus.jpg.


Moodle: Grades Over 100%

ITEC just made a small update to the settings in Moodle to allow grades over 100 (which is the default). Instructors may now give more than the maximum points allowed in a single activity. Now in a scenario where the maximum points possible on a paper is 100, an instructor may give the student more than 100 (up to 500). It has always been possible to create an extra credit grade item mark an activity as extra credit in the grade book, but this hopefully will provide some more flexibility to grading in Moodle.


Swivl Pilot

Instructional Technology (ITEC) would like to announce that we are currently running a pilot for a Swivl. "What is a Swivl?" you may ask. The Swivl is a system comprised of a robotic base, infrared marker and tablet that may be used to record a presentation. The benefit of the marker-base setup is that the base will track where the marker moves. The marker also contains an integrated microphone and uses the microphone to record the audio from the presenter. This provides much better quality audio than a traditional video camera setup would. Video is recorded locally to the paired iPad and also uploaded to a free Swivl Cloud account. From there the video may be trimmed, shared, or downloaded.

There are a number of applications for the Swivl, but a few main applications are:
  • an instructor recording material to present to a class in a "flipped" or "blended" model.
  • an instructor recording "in-time" material in response to 
  • recording student presentations for subsequent review.
Since opening the pilot this past summer we have seen the Swivl be mostly used for the latter of the three applications. ITEC is interested in seeing if this technology is something that may be helpful for teaching and learning on Beloit's campus. If this piece of tech interests you, please reach out to ITEC to request a demonstration. 


Google Sheets: Pivot Tables

In the video below, Jay Atwood shares about how and why to use pivot tables in Google Sheets. If you are curious about what pivot tables are and why you would want to use them, this video will be a help. This video demonstrates how you can manipulate data within a sheet to answer questions you have about the data.