Use Google Docs for Student Collaboration

How can students collaborate in Google docs?

When students work in groups for an activity, you’ll often want them to document their work. You can facilitate this by creating shared Google Docs for students to use.

There are two ways to identify each collaborator in a Google doc. One is to have students write in suggesting mode, which creates colored text and names each author in the margin. Edits are shown with strike-through text. This option is selected in the small menu with a pencil icon located in the upper right corner of the open Google Doc screen.

Another method is to have students use comments to annotate the main text. Comments are made by highlighting a portion of text. This creates an icon in the right margin, which becomes a text-entry field when you click it. Comments are identified by author, and others can reply. Comments that include @StudentUsername will also send an email of the comment to the person named, which is helpful for asynchronous collaboration.

Screenshot of Google Doc with numbered steps

Steps to set up docs and sharing permission

  1. Create and name a Google doc for each student group.
  2. For each doc, click the blue Share button in the top right corner.
  3. In the Get link area of the share pop-up, click View and change it to Edit.
  4. From the sharing menu, select Portland State…anyone in this group with this link can edit.
  5. Copy each document link and save them in your class prep notes, labeled with the group name/number.

You can now post the doc links for students in D2L, or share them in the chat of a Zoom meeting. Clarify for students whether you want them to identify each collaborator’s work, and whether they should use suggesting mode or comments for this. You can also share this tutorial with them. As owner of the docs, you can always change the sharing settings later to prevent further work in them.

Google Docs auto-saves regularly, and past versions can be viewed and restored. Nevertheless it’s good to remind students to save a local copy of any text they don’t want accidentally changed or deleted. For more information, check out Google’s Docs training materials here:

This article was last updated on Mar 30, 2021 @ 5:47 pm.