Using GoogleDrive in Higher Education

Original Post date: 03-Jul-2013

I've been using Google Drive over the last year and increasingly finding myself evangelising about the ease with which it can be used and the number of possibilities that it presents in the pursuit of more effective teaching and administration. I thought it was about time I committed some of these thoughts to a blog so here is a brief explanation of what Google drive has to offer and a few ways in which I have used it. If you have more ideas or want to get in touch then please do at or @benjanefitness.

What is Google Drive?

Google Drive is the home of google docs and is somewhere that you can store documents online and then access them from any computer that has an internet connection. This is similar to Dropbox and just as you can in Dropbox, you can also share documents by copying the URL of the document, customising the access settings and passing this on to others. The significant differences between Drive and Dropbox are that you can create documents from within Drive, just as you would with any Office software (Word, Powerpoint etc) and you can have a number of people collaborating on the same document, at the same time within Drive. It is this combination of features that makes Google Drive a fantastic tool for learning.

Using Google Drive for teaching & learning.

Here are some examples of how I have used Drive with my students.

Collaborative revision session

When taking a final revision session for an upcoming exam, I took a blank Google Document (like Word) and created 4 pages, each titled with one of the four areas of the exam. I put students into small groups and tasked them with looking through the lecture notes and adding any relevant revision points to the document under the area that they had been asked to focus on. The result…a revision document created by 8 student sub-groups at the same, and already posted on LearningSpace for them to access after the session

Collaborative Conference Notes

I recently attended a great conference at Cardiff University Medical School. On returning home I wanted to do something with my notes so I created another Google Document with my notes on it and embedded links to the journals that were discussed and profiles for the presenters. I also added a colour coding adding some of my thoughts in one colour and the opportunity for others to reply to my thoughts in another colour. I then tweeted and emailed the URL for the notes, and made them available for editing by anyone. This opened the potential for extending the conversations beyond the conference in terms of both time and people. The notes can be found here.

Lab Data collection

When leading an exercise physiology lab I will often set up a Google Spreadsheet so that student sub-groups can populate the data collection table simultaneously. The graphs can be set up prior to data input, the URL posted to LearningSpace prior to the lab and students can access this between labs and in any future labs that progress with similar procedures. All of which saves me time in posting and re-posting collected data.

Collaborative Presentations

A colleague and I were asked to present at a Coaching Conference on the topic of technology in coaching. We created a presentation in Google Slides which I would accept is not quite as fancy as Prezi, or even PowerPoint in some ways, but the ability to share and open the slides for collaboration makes up for this. We posted the URL on twitter straight after the conference and those that were present on the day or those that accessed the presentation from further afield could add their own contributions to the slides. The slides can be found, and edited by following this link.

Using Google Drive for administrative tasks

Here are some examples of how I have used Drive in the administrative tasks that are a joyful part of my job.

Creating Forms

There is a great form creator in Google Drive that I have used for taking expressions of interest, gathering information prior to departmental meetings and data collection for research projects. They are really quick to create, have a range of question type options and can be shared easily via a URL. They can also look professional and have images added to them if required. I have created a flowery, yet brief example here and if you fill it out you can see the results here. Access to the results spreadsheet can be managed so it can be shared with no-one, invited guests only or anyone with a link.

Project/Data Management

If I am working with a number of people and it is beneficial for me to have them all update various information for a spreadsheet then Google Drive presents an opportunity for me to create a spreadsheet as I might in Excel but by sharing the URL and allowing the team to edit the spreadsheet themselves, simultaneously if needed, then I prevent the need for them all to email me with information that I then have to add to the single updated version of the document. Once again, time saved.

Final Thoughts

In my experience, the two most common barriers to people using technology are that it is too complicated or takes too long to create. If you have used any of the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Powerpoint, Excel) then you will be able to use Google Drive. Looking through the examples I have posted above, there are not only examples that are beneficial to student learning but in almost all of them the net gain in terms of time invested compared to time gained for me is in my favour. As with all technology the best advice I have for anyone is to get on with it and have a play and I would love to hear from you if you have any other examples of good practice that can be shared.

Further Links