Image via WikipediaAt ETHS, we have had a system in place where teachers can place work for their classes to retrieve, and where students can drop work for their teachers to view. A limitation of this was that it was only accessible for both parties when they are inside the building. With Google Docs, we wanted to explore the idea of creating a similar system using folders, thus allowing teachers and students to access the files from anywhere in the world.
The Setup Part I - Teacher Folder
For a shared folder with the class, a teacher simply needs to create a new folder, and then share the folder with his or her class. Another recommendation for Google Apps setup is to create a class distribution group. This can be done by having students send you an email, then adding them to your Contacts list. From there, you can create a group for each class. To share the folder, you'll choose from contacts, select the group from the dropdown, select all, and the students are then added. You can adjust their view/edit permissions before or after sharing, and you can always remove a user. Is it the most convenient or elegant process? No, but it does get the job done, and it puts the power in the teacher's hands as opposed to relying on IT.
The Setup Part 2: Student Folders
With this shared class folder, all students have at least view permissions, so it is probably not the best solution for items that you only want one teacher and one student to access. To setup what was commonly called a "drop" folder for us, you'll need to start on the student end. Similar to above, each student will create a new folder. He or she will then share this folder with only the teacher. You now have a closed path between teacher and student. A couple of things to note: you'll want to have students name the folder with a system that works for you, as you will be receiving a folder from every student. Also, we found it useful to create a folder to include all of the students' folders. Thus, we set up a folder for the class (ex. Period 2) under "My Folders" and then moved (labeled) all Period 2 students into this umbrella folder.
Real Classroom Observations
We tested the above procedures with 2 classes today, and the experience was smooth and nearly flawless. The teacher now has class folders that contain a folder for each student. For new papers, students simply need to move the document into the shared folder, and the teacher will then be able to access. A few additional notes: we continued to have more problems with document editing with Internet Explorer as opposed to Mozilla Firefox. Even Chrome had an issue, though this might have had something to do with our server. Specifically, a smaller view window and cursor displacement were observed, and most issues were solved with a browser refresh, closing and returning.