Google Drive Workflows to Use with Students

driveOne of the most common questions teachers have had lately is regarding the best way to have students share work with them and vice-versa via Google Drive. In my opinion this is the best feature of Google Apps for Education; the ease of sharing and collaborating with your fellow teachers and students.  It really simplifies your workflow and we aren’t confined to emailing attachments back and forth or accessing items via a network drive that’s only accessible at school.

When you’re wanting to use Google Docs/Drive with students, figuring out which workflow works best for you is one of the biggest challenges. How to access something I want students to turn in to me? How do I put a file out there for my students to have access to? I wanted to share a couple ways that teachers in my district have been doing that. I know they aren’t the only ways it can be done but teachers have had a lot of success with them.

“Out of the box” Sharing

Teacher creates the folder and manages the sharing – The sharing features that are already built in to Google Drive are very handy. I’ve had some teachers that have found it useful to create a folder and then share that entire folder with their students. This gives students access to the folder, they can then move it to their “My Drive” work space, and can then place any necessary documents in that folder that they need to have access to. If you’re going to go this route I would recommend creating a class folder and then creating a folder for each student inside of that.  This brings up an important digital citizenship conversation at this point that needs to happen. At this point your students will be able to access each others’ folders. If this were to become an issue you would need to go to the sharing settings for each individual folder and take each student off except for the student whose folder it is. Then your students will see the class folder, and inside that they will only see their folder. This option can take a while depending on how many students you have but it’s a one-time setup at the start of a school year or each semester.

Student creates the folder and shares with you – This is the option that I usually suggest for students in grades 3 through 12. I would have the student create a folder and they share the folder with you. I would strongly encourage to create a standard naming convention you’d like all your students to use when they create the folder (ex. Name followed by 2013-14, hour 2, American History etc.). The teacher could even take it a step further and ask students to create more folders inside that folder (ex. subject folders or a folder called ‘work to turn in”, etc.). This option puts the student as the owner of the folder and it can easily become a digital portfolio of their work for that school year.

Google Scripts

Google Scripts is a part of Google Apps that I can always find something new to learn about. If you don’t know what Google Scripts are, they are additions you install on a Google Spreadsheet to create various automated functions.  One of those scripts is called gClassFolders; which is one of the most popular scripts out there for teachers to use.

Like I said before, a script is something you install on a Google Spreadsheet. So what a teacher would do is set up a normal Google Spreadsheet with all of their students’ information on it. This would be their email address, Name, class, hour, etc. Whatever identifying information you’d like to have for each student.  Then you will need to run the gClassFolders script. If you go to this spot on their site you can make a copy of their Google Spreadsheet that’s already ready to go or you can watch their video tutorial that explains how to install the script yourself.

So once you set up the spreadsheet and run the script, it automatically creates folders for you and all of your students with the appropriate sharing permissions applied. It looks something like this:

folders-with per
gClassFolders example from

As you can see above it automatically makes a folder for the subject, and inside that folder there are assignment folders for each student to turn in their work (private only to you and them), a place to put documents that the whole class can edit and a place to put documents that the whole class can view. There’s also a teacher folder that’s just for you. All the sharing and folder creation is done from one place (Google Spreadsheet) that you manage.

While I know these are the only ways to have a successful workflow in Google Drive, these have been very beneficial to many teachers. The first couple are usually what teachers start with once they have a good grasp on using Google Docs and then move to something like gClassFolders that’s a bit more advanced.

If you have any other favorite ways to manage student work please share them in the comments section!

25 thoughts on “Google Drive Workflows to Use with Students”

    1. Hi Lyn! Yes I have heard many good things about Doctopus too and it works in a similar way. gClassFolders and Flubaroo are the two scripts I learned about first so that’s why gClassFolders stuck for me. 🙂

  1. You should also look into Doctopus. It is another google script that has more features than gClassFolders. It will create the same folder structure AND includes some very powerful rubric and feedback feature through the sister-script Goobric.

  2. I’ve been using google drive with my students (I tutor extra curricular English and maths in the UK) and the lights go on when I introduce it. They mostly already have YouTube/gmail accounts so access is not an issue. Collaboration, note taking and security are all benefits the students immediately see.

    I’m going to use the shared folder and student sub folder idea from this post and develop the citizenship idea. Many thanks!

  3. Other posts I have read also emphasize the use of good naming conventions. Ex. Period/Hour (space), Name (Student)(space), Assignment Name…3 Hervieux Lincoln essay. When searching for assignments, it’s a snap to find them in Google Drive or from Google Mail using the Apps Search (Google Labs). I personally like your method #2 for most teachers and then #3 for those that want the challenge of trying out scripts. Thanks for sharing the different methods in a clear, easy to understand way.

  4. great article

    I use Doctopus to create an individual file for each student for them to put their work in, and then share the files I want them to complete (in view mode) – similar to copying and pasting into an exercise book.

    the files are shared as a folder so they can always access them (and any old ones they may have missed).

    liked the look of gclassfolders, and if it integrates with Doctopus will definitely give it a look.

  5. Nice article, thanks Kyle! I wish we were a GAFE district. I think I will be creating one classroom account for each class and then create a folder for each student, all manually of course arrggghhh and hope they don’t delete each other’s folders! I need to create workflow for work produced on a small number of IPADS that will be shared…

  6. For sharing documents out a class folder, or simply sharing via a link work wonderfully well.

    However, my favorite way to handle student workflow back to the teacher is to have a Google Form and have students submit their work by first sharing the document to the teacher, unchecking the send email box, then copying the link. By having a drop down box in the Google Form for assignment name, period name, the student just enters their name, selects assignment, class period and pastes in the link.

    For me as a teacher I can then avoid the whole hassle of having to sort through a zillion folders. I can work from my spreadsheet, turn on filters, and grade either one type of assignment at a time, grade one student’s work, or filter for a specific class period. Rather than searching for documents, I just click on the links directly into the student work submission. Of course all work submissions are also timestamped automatically.

    To use the templates: FILE / MAKE A COPY in order to view or edit the form. Once you have made a copy for yourself you can edit the form to add the appropriate class periods and student assignment names. Copy the link to the live form and create a shortened link to share with your students when they need to submit links to their Google assignments.

    Sample templates that you can FILE/MAKE A COPY of are here:

    Elementary Sample:

    Secondary Sample:

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