Faculty and staff to use Google Docs

Allison Smith

Switch follows move to Gmail last year

Starting today, faculty and staff can collaborate with students through Google Docs and Sites, a program that’s been available to students since the university switched to Gmail in 2008.

After changing students’ e-mail to Gmail accounts last year, Information Services is adding Google Docs and Sites for faculty and staff to use, said Christa Skiles, editorial communication manager for Information Services.

“We’re making those available to the faculty and staff who have Exchange for their e-mail and calendaring,” she said.

Exchange is the Microsoft e-mail program students used before the university switched to Gmail.

Skiles said acquiring Google Docs and Sites allows faculty and staff to have access to the same tools students have had access to for a year.

“It makes it much easier to share documents when we’re all in the same Kent State domain,” Skiles said.

Google Docs lets the user create documents like Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel and then put them online to share with others and edits in real time.

“It provides a lot of functionality that we don’t currently have through some of our other programs,” Skiles said. “So it’s not replacing anything. We still have all of the same tools that we currently have, but it just adds another suite of collaboration and teaching tools on top of them.”

Kristie Pretti-Frontczak is an assistant professor in special education and the director of the Early Childhood Intervention Specialist Program at Kent State. She’s been using Google Docs as a teaching and collaborative tool for two years.

“We like to use Google Docs in a couple of main ways,” Pretti-Frontczak said. “If we’re collaborating on a paper, myself and some colleagues who might be anywhere around the country or the world – we can work collaboratively in a Google Doc and edit things.”

She said it’s very easy to copy and paste from a Microsoft Word document into a Google Doc, so her and her colleagues can get a manuscript going or brainstorm.

“Google Docs really lets people collaborate on a joint written product,” Pretti-Frontczak said. “Which, in our field of early childhood intervention, there’s a great need to be able to produce written products.”

Eve Dalton, lead educational technology designer, said using Google Docs is better for students because it’s cheaper than buying Microsoft Office. In fact, it’s free.

“Some students don’t have enough money to buy, sometimes, their dinner,” Dalton said. “In this case, they can create these documents and share them with their faculty members without having to worry about purchasing that Office suite.”

Skiles said Google Docs is also good for students because it allows them to edit one document online from any computer instead of having to e-mail a Microsoft Word document back and forth and keeping track of who’s changed what.

“You and I can both be in the same Google document editing it at exactly the same time,” Skiles said, “and I will see that you’re in there making changes, and you’ll see that I’m in there making changes.”

Skiles said Google Sites does essentially the same thing but with a Web site. Students could create a Web site for a project and edit it in real time with other group members.

Faculty will be able to use Google Docs and Sites as an educational tool, Dalton said.

“I think faculty will feel a little more comfortable in maybe using Google Docs when they’re assigning a group project where they want you to work on a single spreadsheet or a single presentation as a group,” Dalton said. “They’ll find it easier to say, ‘Go use Google Docs, and share it with me so I can see your progress.’ Then the faculty member can give feedback as you go along.”

To access their Docs and Sites accounts, Skiles said faculty and staff can click on an icon next to the e-mail icon in FlashLine.

While students’ e-mail accounts have been moved to Gmail, faculty and staff will continue to use Microsoft Exchange for e-mail and scheduling, she said.

“The university has said that Exchange is the e-mail system for faculty and staff right now because that makes it much easier for e-mailing and calendaring across the university,” Skiles said.

Dalton said Exchange is better for business-type atmosphere. Calendaring is the bigger of the two because faculty and staff can schedule meetings in a much easier way than what Google offers.

“The Google functionality for calendaring is not quite as robust as the Exchange functionality,” Skiles said. “And there are still some issues when people are on different systems and having those systems talk to each other well.”

Skiles said for faculty and staff who are interested in learning more about Google Docs and other educational tools by Google, they can attend training sessions this week and next. There will also be an Educational Technology Conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday in the Moulton Hall Ballroom.

Contact technology reporter Allison Smith [email protected]