Schoology Enterprise and Google Drive Assignments LTI beginnings

The college having adopted Schoology Enterprise as the systemwide LMS, the option to use the Google Drive Assignments app to distribute data in Google Sheets is a new option for this Schoology Basic user.

In the edit assignment box a new item appears after the app is authorized into one's courses (done during the installation process initiated from the screen above).

The Google Drive assignments app allows one to distribute a copy of an assignment to every student. In Schoology Basic students had to be taught to use a link to a Shared view only copy and then use "File: Make a Copy" to obtain a copy that could be edited and then submitted using the Google Drive Resources app.

Note that once changes are saved, copies are distributed to each student. Because of this, the Google Drive Assignment which was assigned cannot be deleted from the Edit Assignment dialog box. The copies are already available to the students.

In this case a template was distributed for a science lab report.

Students do have to then connect Schoology to their Google account.

While not all students have a Google account, in my physical science class every student either had a Google account or created one using a borrowed smartphone. The key hurdle is that at the verification step select a voice message, not SMS. Google will happily call 92x numbers. If one has a direct line, Google will also call 320 numbers. The line does have to be a direct line.

Note the open button to the right of the Submit Assignment button on the right side of the screen. If one clicks on the open button, the document will open in Google Docs without the Schoology framework making editing easier.

Each student does receive their own copy of the template/homework provided by the instructor. The student has the option of saving the file to their Google drive. The student submits, when finished, using the Submit button at the top of the screen. Work is automatically saved during the "In Progress" stage.

The instructor has the ability to see the student's work in progress, in real time. The instructor can make comments as the work progresses if the instructor chooses to do so. Schoology also lets an instructor know when a student has not started an assignment.

Once submitted the marking screen is different from Schoology Basic. The rubric is available at the top, the faint grid in the upper right corner of the document sub-window.

The instructor can make comments using the tools of Google Docs including the Comment/Resolve comment system built into Google Docs.

Here the rubric can be seen opened for marking - this screen is also different in layout and structure from that seen in the Basic version.

The Enterprise version, when used with the Google Drive Assignments LTI, provides an instructor with the ability to make inline comments, to highlight problematic passages, and, through Docs chat, provide real-time or near real-time support to students.

The student papers are actually shared documents between the instructor and the student. The documents actually exist outside of Schoology in a folder in one's Google Drive. Because Google Docs do not count against the storage quota in Drive, there is no storage impact of student assignments.

An upside to this is that an instructor could access and comment on a submitted assignment from mobile technology, something that was not fully possible without the Google Drive Assignments LTI app. GDA LTI is available only in Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology noted that as long one neither renames nor moves the document, edits and comments can be done from within Google Drive/Google Docs. Note that if a student wants to edit a file from Google Docs without first accessing Schoology, the student must save the file to their drive. Although the assignment is being stored in the Google Drive, the document is not visible in the student's Google Drive unless they save the file to that drive. The save to drive icon appears in the student screen for the desktop version near the middle of the screen in the title bar of the document as a Google Drive triangular icon with a plus sign.

Working from mobile technology one would use the Google Drive app and then the Google Docs app.

In Google Drive the three line "hamburger" menu in the top left provides access to Shared with me documents. Each document has a three dot "hot dog" menu that includes an Add to My Drive menu item.

If an instructor is working with multiple sections and using the "Copy to Course" option to copy an assignment to another course, the GDA LTI document distribution does not occur automatically with the copy action. The instructor has to edit the assignment over in the destination section to attach a Google Docs document for distribution to the students in that section.

If one has multiple folders and many documents in Google Drive, the dynamic search is useful.

Google Drive will search as one types in the search box. Files are listed in chronological order with the most recent at the top.

After a student submits an assignment, the sharing automatically changes to "Comment only." The student cannot further edit the document. A notification is then sent to the instructor that the assignment needs grading. The student can still access, see, and comment on the document, but no editing can occur.

A marked assignment in MS 150 Statistics

If the instructor wants the student to do further work on the document, the instructor must explicitly "Unsubmit" the document. Note that unsubmitting does NOT erase the grading mark if the instructor has gone ahead and graded the submission. Thus the instructor can grade the submission and then unsubmit to permit the student to do a second draft.

Unsubmit on the right side of the above screen in Schoology

This ability to individually control resubmission is another powerful aspect of Schoology Institutional. In the past I could set a lock date, but the lock date applied to all students. I had no way to make an exception for extenuating circumstances. The Unsubmit system means that I will not have to set lock dates per se, other than to display to students the date after which submissions are not accepted. I have the capability at the individual student level to control whether or not a resubmission is permitted.

Marked assignments that are unsubmitted reappear in the "In Progress" screen, with the mark showing. Thus in my In Progress screen I can see which students are working a first draft and which are working on a resubmission.

When a student resubmits a Google Docs assignment, an icon in the document menubar, "See new changes," can be activated.

When activated, the changes since the previous draft are automatically highlighted in the document.

Clicking on "See new changes" activates the version tracking baked into every Google Doc. One can also access Version history from the File menu to see the changes made across all versions of the document. 

When working with Google Sheets, I am able to see the formula used by the student. In the above instance the formula is incorrect. In that past this was not possible, the PDF viewer was only a static image of the file. To access the formula I had to download the file and then open the file in native software.

Not only can I see the formula, but I can use Google Sheets comment feature to make a specific recommendation at that location in the spreadsheet. I can make similar comments at specific locations in Google Docs.

And this is occurring inside the Schoology interface.

Because the comments are part of the Google ecosystem, comment resolution sends a notification to my updates folder of my inbox, thus I can monitor student progress on revision of the their work.

In the above screen a student has resolved the issue I cited. This level of interaction provides far stronger individualized attention for the student and improves my ability to facilitate learning. Obviously more interactions potentially means more load, but the reality is that online marking and interaction is far faster and more efficient than moving hard copies back and forth between us. 

There are other capabilities that the Google Drive Assignments LTI brings to Schoology. Although not necessarily an optimally efficient marking platform, GDA LTI permits the use of a smartphone to mark assignments.

After accessing an assignment that employs the GDA LTI, one can select Submissions to see a list of students who have submitted the assignment. After selecting a student, the marking screen appears. The above assignment is marked with a rubric that has 73 possible points. Selecting the document icon asks whether one wants to launch Google Docs app. Note in the middle screenshot above that the instructor Unsubmit the assignment. This returns editing authority to the student, effectively returning the document to the student. If done before marking, then the instructor would be returning the document without marking. If done after marking, then the student can see their grade and work on a subsequent draft of the document. If the instructor does not Unsubmit the document, then the student can do no further work on the document.

Once in the Google Docs app, selecting the edit icon (pencil) allows one to edit the submission. The submission displays tables and graphs as well as text. Comments can be added using the Google Docs comment system. Closing the document takes one back to the marking screen.

Selecting the rubric icon opens the marking rubric that the instructor must have previously prepared for that assignment. Tapping on a score is all that is required to enter marks. At the bottom of the rubric is a save button to save the score to the grading book. Note that 4.0 Communications skills is actually a learning objective, a student learning outcome, that is being marked in the rubric. Learning objectives inform the Mastery screen in Schoology. Thus this criteria impacts the grade via points and whether the student has mastered the outcome.

If a student submits ahead of a due date, then the student retains the ability to Unsubmit their own assignment and continue to work on the assignment. Once the due date passes, the student can no longer unsubmit the assignment. Students can still submit, provided the assignment is not locked. After the due date, only the instructor has unsubmit authority.

Discussions about a submission are facilitated by the Google Docs comment functionality.

The discussion will remain active until one of the participants selects the Resolve button.

In the third week of using the GDA LTI interface I have become aware that this system is less prone to having one student do a homework in my statistics class and then share that file to friend to upload. Because the assignments are individually distributed to individual Google accounts and are not uploaded from outside Schoology, plagiarism is not prevented but would take more work than simply doing the statistics calculations.

With one student I encountered a problem wherein the student had to request access to his own Google Drive Assignments. I would determine that the problem was that the student had two Google logins and was using both in alternation. This means that some assignments distributed under a different login than whatever one he was using, and he had to get sharing permission from me to access the document. Simply switching logins did not seem to resolve the issue once he had tripped the access issue with his dual accounts.

There are some formatting differences between the Schoology assignment edit dialog box and what the GDA LTI assignment description can display. The GDA description removes, strips out, bulleted and numbered lists, displaying the text in a larger size without bulleting nor list numbers
commands are stripped out. The GDA description has stripped out all formatting except bold and a hard paragraph return.

20 February 2018: I occasionally see an access request from one student to access another student's file. This is puzzling at first because my first reaction is that this has nothing to do with me, why am I being notified. The reason is that I am the "first owner" of the GDA assignment, I am the top administrator of permissions, the document is ultimately mine and then shared to the students. So I get notified on an attempted access by someone other than the targeted student. This occurs when a student forgets to log out of their Google account and another student uses the same computer without switching accounts.

Note that on 20 January 2018 a temporary technical issue "disconnected" the student assignments from the Schoology document interface for Google Drive Assignments via the LTI app. What impressed me most was that during this "disconnect" the assignments could still be accessed via the above procedures. This is far more robust than the Schoology Basic PDF viewer assignment structure, and much lower bandwidth - an important consideration out in the islands I live on. When the PDF viewer goes down, documents cannot be accessed nor marked. With the GDA LTI interface, documents are intact in Google and marking can still be accomplished in Schoology. All using far less bandwidth than the rather clunky PDF viewer assignment display in Schoology. This issue was resolved in a matter of hours with no loss of student work.


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