Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Regular Google Docs and the Campus Google Apps

The public part of my course site (I will use `Moodle for private communication with the students and to keep the class grade book) is based on Blogger.  I've been using Blogger for such a long time that I know quite a few little tricks with it.  Among those are the good sidebar gadgets to use.  One of those is for Google Calendar.  The Upcoming Class Activities item gives  the full text description for the five most proximate calendar items.  Unfortunately, Google Calendar doesn't allow hyperlinks in those text descriptions.  (I'd be in heaven if they did.)  You could then link to readings or other files that students need that way.   I have students do homework in Excel.  So I need a way for them to get at the file at the right time.  More about that in a moment.

While you can't do hyperlinking in the text, Google Calendar does allow insert of file attachments, if those attachments are in Google Docs (now Google Drive).  Further since Google Docs allows upload of any file type and leaving it in its native format, this seemed like not a bad solution.  You teach the students to right click on the entry in the sidebar and then open the full calendar entry in a new tab.  That gives access to the file attachment.   Since all the files I use for teaching I make available to the general public, anyone should be able to access my class content that way, or so I thought.

My experience this past week has shown otherwise.  I got an inordinate number of requests to my prof.arvan gmail account to share a homework file with students.  I sent email back to these students saying the file didn't need to be shared since it was publicly available.  These students then reported to me that they couldn't access it.

I was initially confused by this but now I surmise the following, though I'm still not 100% sure it's what is going on.  These students are logged into their campus email, which gives them access to Google Apps for the campus.  For some reason that creates a firewall with commercial Google Docs, even for files that are supposedly publicly available in the commercial version.  Why this is happening, I have no idea.  But that it is happening seems evident.

The immediate work around is to use the new Campus Box service for the files (and still use Google docs for those student who don't use campus email, which seems like a large fraction of them.)  Files made publicly available in Box, should be publicly available.  I can put the url into the calendar text description.  But they'll have to copy and paste it.  C'est la vie.

I'm less sure of the longer term solution.  The Campus now seems to be offering a WordPress blog service.  I could see using WordPress and Box in conjunction.  I'm not quite sure what would replace Google Calendar in this alternative.  I think some scheduling program is an absolute must.  Students are so driven by deadlines in their behavior that they need reminders of them quite regularly.

Blogger remains appealing to me in part because of how it interacts with Google Calendar.  (Also, this semester I'm having students blog with aliases that I've created and so far that seems to be working.  Go down the sidebar to the item on Student Blogs.  I'm less sure I can do that with a Campus service.)  These may seem like piddly little issues in themselves.  But resolving them is the difference between having this sort of approach work or not. 

So I'm more than a little crabby about the snafu I've had with students not being able to access my Google Docs.  I thought I had designed a scheme that worked.  Not quite.


Lanny Arvan said...

The hyperlinks seem to work in the published calendar entry. If that is true, then Box can be used as the file repository. Wunderbar!

Lanny Arvan said...

You have to go to the details view to have a clickable link. In the short view it is just text.