Distribute a Google Doc Template via Canvas

16 21 24K

This is one of the most useful tricks that I've learned about using Google docs and Canvas. This is especially useful for distributing documents that you want students to turn back into you. Be aware that in order for you to have access to each student's version of the document, students will have to share it with you.

1. Open the Google Doc up in Google Drive


2. Share the Document so Students will be able to view it


3. Copy Link and Open up an Assignment in Canvas


4. Type "Click Here to make a Copy of the Worksheet" in the RCE


5. Highlight Text and Click "Link to URL Icon" 


6. Paste Google Doc Share URL and change the end of the URL from /edit to /copy


7. Adjust remainder of Assignment Settings and Save the Assignment

When students click on the link, it will take them to the following page where they can make a copy of the worksheet for themselves! You may want to follow these instructions if you want your students to turn their google docs back into you.


Community Member

Thank you jperkins@instructure.com, this is a great little tip for Google/Canvas users!

I'd like to add another tip that might be helpful if you plan on using this strategy for Doc distribution. On the Google Doc template you are wanting to distribute, navigate to the Tools menu, then choose "Script Editor." Delete the placeholder code and add the following:


Change the email within the single quotes to your own and click the save button. Now, as soon as the student makes a copy of your worksheet, you'll be automatically added as an editor! You can easily dump all of these shared files into a new folder within your Google Drive through the "Shared with Me" section on the left hand panel of the Drive UI.

Community Member

This is a great tip, jperkins@instructure.com​. I think it will help move many of our instructors to leave Google Classroom behind and dive into the richness that Canvas has to offer in instructional tools.

Because it's relatively complicated for many of our instructors, I created a Google Doc Distribution Assignment template and shared it to our institution's Commons. Now I just have to figure out a way to advertise that. :smileyconfused:

Learner II

Super Cool tip Brian!

Learner II

Great idea Joe, I searched Commons and wasn't able to find this. Is it public to all users? I'd love to have a look.

Learner II

jperkins@instructure.com​ to many, worksheet has a very negative connotation and this tip is too good for that. I'd suggest renaming this to "Distribute a Google Doc Template via Canvas"


Thanks for the feed back Chris!

Community Member

Hi Chris, I'm sorry to say that our district chose to limit our Commons usage to within the district. But it's a pretty easy set-up. Key things to remember are

  • Change the ending of the Google Doc/Sheet/Slides Share link to /copy. 
  • Create the link to the Google doc within the assignment's Rich Content Editor (see the blue highlighted text in the screenshot below).
  • Set the assignment submission to Online/Website URL.

Here's a screenshot of the template. Hope this is helpful!


Learner II

That's great Joe. I've also created instructions for students on how to do this. See: How to Submit Your Google Drive Files in Canvas (for students)

and I've addressed why teachers should really consider using the HTML share method in https://community.canvaslms.com/blog/update-post.jspa?ID=1632&draftID=87087

Community Member

These are excellent resources, Chris. Thank you!

Adventurer III

Brian, do you find that using this is still necessary after the Google LTI has been added? I'm losing my Language Arts teachers left and right because we can't find an easy way for kids to submit their Google Doc through Canvas, have the teacher make comments/edits and have the student see those comments and edits on the editable Google doc. Your solution sounds like it would work for that purpose, but for reluctant Canvas users, I'm afraid I'll steer them right back to their Google Classroom atmosphere instead!


Learner II

We have the Google LTI tool enabled and it seems to be creating a lot of problems when students try and use it to submit assignments. Often times they have to authorize their Google accounts multiple times and when submitting a file form their Google Drive they frequently have problems where it hangs up or takes up to 5 minutes.

Seriously considering disabling the Google LTI tool because of all the frustrations our students experience. We have several support cases on this but there seems to be a bit of a Canvas vs Google blame shifting game going on here. 

Adventurer III

We have found that having students clear their cache helps with the authorization issues. We are 1:1 Chromebook - Google is our world. Have to keep it on and keep crossing our fingers.

Community Member

Investigating Canvas before jumping in (& promoting to teachers) and need clarification. Can I make assignment through Google Classroom and then open student documents inside of Canvas to review, Comment on, Edit, or Suggest (using Google Docs capabilities), and use Canvas SpeedGrader Rubric for actual grade assignment? It seems to me that this would be efficient and flexible but reviewing some of these tutorials, seems as if Canvas users do not use Classroom and instead employ a variety of rather complicated and cumbersome work-arounds.

Please clarify! Thanks!! clong@hbuhsd.edugoogledocs#google classroom#integrating google docs‌ 


Greg! If you set up the assignment as a URL submission, then you can do what you are talking about. https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-6468?sr=search&searchId=274695d6-ec92-4281-877c-45ace6afd9a...

Community Member

Grade a Google Doc using SpeedGrader --  "This document will show you how to let student turn in an Google doc assignment (so you can annotate) without having to download the Google Doc as a Word Document before uploading. Be aware that if a individual user has registered Google Docs with their account this will happen in the backend" 

So does quoted text above mean that once I (& each of my students??) have gone through process to link Google with Canvas, the functions I described in question above will be available without any other maneuverings or workarounds?   

I will try to develop a model to test tomorrow but trying to get a handle on how it is supposed to work. Thanks again! jperkins@instructure.com

Adventurer III

Nice to know, Greg!! My other question would be in regards to the distribution of the document. Many teachers have a "worksheet" or "template" that they wanted to send out to students - that has to be turned in. Besides the change from "EDIT" to "COPY," do you have any ideas?

Community Member

Hi rislis@holmen.k12.wi.us‌, I'm sorry I can't help you on this one. We haven't gone "all in" with the Google LTI at this point, so I don't have enough data to give you a good answer!

Community Member

This allows each student to get his/her own copy.

Is there a way to get each group one copy of the document so that they can collaborate on the template?

Community Member

Hi Brian, I've tried to retype your code over and over again... but I keep getting an error message.  Can you please help me?

This is what I have: 

function onOpen() {
var doc = DocumentApp.getActiveDocument().addEditor(shirota@punahou.edu);

The error message says:

Missing ) after argument list. (line 2, file "Code")


Thank you!

Community Member

Hi Shauna,

Sorry for the late response. I don't get into the Community here as much as I should!

Be sure to put your email address in quotes to designate it as a string. --> .addEditor('shirota@punahou.edu');


Adventurer III

The Google LTI does this seamlessly. I'd highly recommend it for making sure kids have their own copy of the Google doc or slide or sheet.