My Upcoming Semester with Doctopus

Doctopus is a wonderful extension of Google Drive which is likely a dream come true for many teachers. Doctopus is an addon for Google Sheets which distributes files or folders to students. You can set the different permissions (view, comment, edit), change ownership, embargo documents for grading, and even leave feedback with a Chrome extension called Goobric. In addition, you can create dropboxes for individual students in order to better organize their work. In other words, Doctopus streamlines assignment distribution, submission, and in many cases feedback.

All it requires is a roster with names and email addresses. It is relatively easy to use, but does require some practice. Although one could use templates, that still requires students to find the template, rename the template to the correct title (not always easy), and then share the template. You would be surpised to find that many university students cannot manage a task like this.

So, how will I use Doctopus in my university writing classes next semester?

I will have many writing assignments. Several shorter ones (sentence- or paragraph-level writing assignments) will be completed using Google Forms. I will give feedback on individual sentences or paragraphs, use a mail merge script called Autocrat to send this feedback to students, then I will remove names and student numbers and make the whole spreadsheet available for student reference (if applicable).

Doctopus will be used with major and longer assignments. I have decided against creating dropboxes for my writing courses, as I want to organize submissions by assignment, not by student.

  1. After learning how to use Google Drive, I will assign use Doctopus to distribute an assignment to students, making sure to give them full editor rights so they can share it with a partner for peer editing. 
  2. I will then embargo the document after the due date so that I may grade them and give feedback. 
  3. I will use the comment tool of Google Drive to leave on-paper feedback. 
  4. I will also give them a rubric for their final grade. This will either be pasted in or given as a second document. If it is pasted in, I will remove the student’s peer editor from the file so that they do not see the final grade. If I give a separate document, I will share it with individual students via their email address. This takes no more than 5 minutes.
  5. I will also rename the document, appending ” – Feedback” to file names to indicate they have feedback.
  6. If it is an assignment that must be revised, I will make a copy of their document for my records and then change the editing rights one again. The drawback of this is that all my comments will be lost, however, I am working on a script that can copy document comments. In any event, it shouldn’t be a problem. I also have the ability to transfer ownership of the document to them, but right now I see no use for this. Maybe at the end of the semester I will use it, if I plan on deleting student work to save space.
That’s it! Pretty simple, eh? It beats killing trees and handling dozens or hundreds of papers. It beats getting individual emails and downloading hundreds of documents, all named differently. It also beats the hassles of Google templates and forgetting to share. Doctopus seems like a clear choice here.