Your Google Apps account is a great tool for working in groups. You can begin a web site, document, presentation, or spreadsheet and allow others in your group to help build it. You can control who can view and who can edit it. You can even view a list of the changes made and who made them. I’ll use a Google Docs word processing document as an example to tell you how; the procedures are similar for Google sites, presentations, and spreadsheets.
To allow others to participate in writing and editing a document, start a Google Docs document and open it for editing. Click the Share button and choose Share with others in the drop-down menu. Type the email addresses of your teammates in the text box (separated by commas). Be sure to use their VCCS email addresses; otherwise, they may have to create a new Google Docs account to access your document. Now click the Invite Collaborators button. An email form pops up. You can choose to send or not send the email, which will give your teammates a link that takes them directly to the document. If you don’t send the email, your teammates can still access your document from their list of documents when they log into Google Docs.
You and your invited teammates can now access and edit the document from anywhere that you have access to Google Apps. If two or more of you try to edit at the same time, Google will allow the first person who opens it to edit the document; everyone else may view, but not edit, until the first person has saved or exited. Everyone can see what edits were made, who made them, and when they were made, by clicking Revision History in the Tools menu.
When your group’s document is finished, you can allow your instructor and others in the class to view it. Go back to the Share with others function and click the box next to Anyone at Virginia’s Community Colleges may view this document. (Make sure the dropdown box says view, not edit.) Notice the document URL below this line. Copy the URL and send it to the class or post it in a discussion forum. Anyone who clicks the link will be prompted for their VCCS username and password and then be shown your document.
Anyone who has experienced the confusion of editing with multiple files from different people will like this way of working collaboratively. Give it a try the next time you have a group assignment in one of your ELI courses.