A Better Way to Submit Google Drive Docs & SpeedGrade Them

Learner II
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What's Wrong with the Built-in Google Doc Submissions?

If you've been using Canvas for a while you probably know that students can connect their Google Drive to it. This allows them to turn in or submit files directly from their Google Drive without ever leaving Canvas. Sounds good right? The concept is great and it is pretty easy. All the student has to do is select the file in their Google Drive and then click on the "Submit Assignment" Button. When they do, they get the following notification:

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What appears to be happening behind the scenes here is that Canvas sends an API command to Google that tells it to convert the doc, slides or sheet to a (.docx .pptx or .xlsx) file. Sometimes it takes Google too long to do this and the Canvas/Google connection is timed-out which stops this process. When this happens students don't know if their work was submitted successfully or not. In the words of one high schooler "Nothing happened. It just wouldn't work." This seems to occur most frequently when students are submitting Google Slide Presentations, but even plain old docs and sheets can be plagued by this problem. To make matters worse, most of the time the assignment is due late at night and students get really stressed out when they have stayed up late working hard to get everything done only to be foiled by a faulty Google Drive submission.

I've also noticed that the formatting and pagination is sometimes degregated during this process, especially if you have tables in your Google Doc. Google Spreadsheets that are submitted this way usually have this issue as well. They also take a long time to load in SpeedGrader, the cell height & widths get truncated and pagination is applied which breaks tables across several different screens and makes it really hard to work with.

One last reason why using the built in Google Docs submission tab is not desirable. When a teacher views the work that students have submitted using this in SpeedGrader they can use Crocodoc tools to comment on it and give feedback but wouldn't it be nice to use the native communication and commenting tools built right into the Google Docs to do this? That way students can see the corrections and make their edits in one place!

To date, we've had 76 documented help cases due to this problem, and I've even officially made a help case on all the help cases to report this problem to Instructure. From what I've been told, there is no short term fix for this issue on the horizon, so it's time to consider a workaround and a better way for students and teachers to leverage the power of both Canvas and Google Docs.

How Students Can Submit Native Google Docs

Since all Google Docs are really webpages and they all have a unique URL that can be shared, I recommend enabling only "Website URL" assignment submission type.

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Doing this turns off the built in Google Docs Tab in the Canvas assignment submission window so students can only submit a URL.  This allows you to view the actual Google Doc/Sheet/Presentation/Drawing in SpeedGrader and use the native Google commenting tools to provide feedback and comments. And of course you can use all the Canvas tools (except for Crocodoc annotations) like media comments, rubrics and text comments. BOOM!

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Student Submission Instructions

The first time I have students do this, I walk them through it. After that they are usually pros at it. I made a slide guide to share with the Canvas Community and you all are welcome to put a link to it in your assignment instructions.

See: How to Submit Your Google Drive Files in Canvas (for students)

10 Comments
Community Member

This was very helpful. We have been experiencing problems with google sheets and it displaying properly when students submitted. Looking forward to having students complete this new style.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

I do have a question, when they submit the link do you see the original submission, or the current one? Meaning if an assignment is due Friday, and the student submits it on Friday, but changes it over the weekend. When the teacher grades on Sunday, will they see the original version that was turned in on Friday, or the doc as it is now?

Community Coach
Community Coach

mjoaquin@leisd.ws, pretty sure you see the most current version, not what was there when it was originally submitted.

Learner II

mjoaquin@leisd.ws​you (the teacher) will see a picture of what it looked like when they turned it in on Friday and if you click on one of the links you will see the current version.

I should also point out that you can view changes made in the Google Doc. And if you have the student's add you as editor or do it yourself by adding in the following script in the document, then you will be able to see the full revision history and revert back to a prior version (if desired).

To automatically add yourself as editor, in your template doc open up the Script Editor (under Tools Menu) and paste this in (just be sure to change the email address) 

Here’s the code:

function onOpen() {

var doc = DocumentApp.getActiveDocument().addEditor('youremail@xyz.edu');

}

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

clong@hbuhsd.edu  We actually had a similar convo not that long ago! I guess the struggle I am having is that we have been a GAFE district for 5 years, so the teachers and I are very familiar with Google Drive, and Docs, and they got a taste of Google Classroom over the last two years. The concern from teachers--at least those who are big Google Classroom fanst--is the ability to see the document in each version. The original, the updated, etc. Basically to see each submission, without having to go in and check the revision history. Having to check revision history for 197 students is very time consuming, and I know that my reluctant teachers who already want to continue with Google Classroom rather than switching to Canvas will find this to be a negative. If an image is taken from the original submission, this may make them happy, I just wish it was integrated to the point of showing each time an updated doc was submitted, the way it would with separate Word or image submissions. Thank you for your feedback though. I will work with my teachers on figuring out the best submission option to fit their needs.

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

@kona@richland.edu That is part of the major concern for teachers that used Google Classroom previously. One of the features was that the assignment "closed" at the due date, so teachers could track late submissions. It is not something I would be overly concerned with if I was still in the classroom, but I have a lot of teachers who do feel strongly about deadlines and academic timeline honesty so to speak. They want to know what was submitted at the due date, not what was submitted and them tweaked over the weekend. I know about revision history, but as I mentioned to Chris, it will be a hard sell for them just based on numbers. We may find that the conversion process is the best option, but I will continue to read here, research, and practice. Thank you for your comment.

Learner II

Thanks for explaining your situation mjoaquin@leisd.ws​ I too hope the integration between Canvas and Google improves. Maybe we will hear something about this next week from InstructureCon 2016​ news.

I guess the question I have would be why does it have to be Canvas or Google Classroom? Use the tool that works best for what you are trying to accomplish. Since Google Classroom is free, why not take advantage of the benefits it brings? Smiley Wink

Community Member

I would like to be a voice in strong favor of the live google doc. Having used an LMS that gave us a frozen snapshot of the doc at the time of submission truncated other steps and made things more time-consuming, with the only plus being a quicker "gotcha" on deadlines. Here is what students & teachers do not like about Google Classroom's locked for grading "feature"... students no longer have access to the document! The beauty of digital over paper is that a student can submit a document and still have it, too. I could have a conversation with a student in the courtyard, we could think of a new solution for something, the student could pull out laptop or cellphone or whatever and implement on the spot, text others involved in collaboration, etc., by the time I am grading, scoring, this work has already gone through feedback and revision any number of times... Canvas please keep your ideas up in these higher levels of SAMR. Keep it open. live, and interactive.

Here is what we love about the live google doc in Canvas: multiple students can collaborate on a doc, the instructor can make suggestions, students can implement revisions, instructor can make new suggestions, students make further revisions, and this flow easily travels across devices and students throughout the useable life of the document. Students have full live-editing access, later, to all the versions, in one chronologically organized doc. If an assignment was due by midnight Tues., and the student submitted but then scrambled to fix it up more before the instructor got a chance to see it the next morning, we have a better document to look at... and "deadlines" are not the lesson being taught with most students. However the back and forth updating and collaboration on a document happens with every student, every submission and is ongoing. Having access to all of the google tools, word & character counts, and revision history within SpeedGrader is extremely powerful. Not having them would take us back to: it's a digital copy of a paper. Just not as useful. Bottom of the SAMR scale. Please, even if Canvas changes to something that will let people snapshot a frozen version of the document, please make that optional, not the default.

Instructure
Instructure

Hi Misty, Quick question about your comment "I just wish it was integrated to the point of showing each time an updated doc was submitted." Are you saying you'd like it if each time the student updated the document that it re-submitted the doc to Canvas? 

Community Advocate
Community Advocate

Hi Kate, 

Yes, originally this is what the hope was--with Google Docs specifically. So that when they shared the link, the teachers got an idea of what was truly submitted each time. The nice thing is with the new Google integration, some of this has been addressed. 

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