Google Drive for Real Time Collaborative Learning


Digital tools have given us an exponential number of ways to collaborate with our students, colleagues, peers and community. Collaboration that can help us build, communicate and learn together. But there are few tools available that take collaboration to the amazingly natural, intuitive and effective level as Google Drive Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides). Whether it’s watching the colored cursor of your co-collaborators, using chat to start a conversation, or leaving comments and notes, Google Drive offers a collaborative learning environment that is the closest you can get to working face to face.

TypeformNameGoogle Drive
Pricing: Free – Google Apps for Education
Compatibility: Desktop/Tablet/Mobile
Access: Google account
Privacy: Customizable (Privacy and policies)


A Quick Look


In Practice

1. Group projects

If your students are working together on a single project or document, the simple act of keeping all their work in sync can be unbearably difficult. Whether it’s the wrong version being emailed, a lost USB key or even just bringing the final product together, Google Drive can save a heap of time and digital agony. Have your students create a single Google Docs/Sheets/Slides file and have them share and collaborate in real time. This will not only make life easier, it will also provide them with the opportunity to work together in class, at home, or anywhere else they choose to be.

2. Class microtasking

Microtasking is the process of splitting a large job into its smallest components and distributing the work over the Internet. This concept can be used with your students to take on projects that could not be completed individually as well as introduce them to the concept of microwork. This could be used to collaboratively edit large datasets or spreadsheets, edit or annotate large works of text or even something as creative as writing a collaborative story.

3. Collaborative problem solving

This is a brilliant idea from UK educator Elani McDonald where her class worked together using Google Sheets to answer the question: “Would an even number always have an equal number of factors?”. By having her students collaboratively traverse a list of numbers, students were tasked with finding factors and highlighting exceptions. Not only were her students able to answer the original question, they were also enthusiastic participants in inquiry based learning while developing their confidence in mathematics.

4. Staff resource collection

While Google Drive can be used in many forms for student collaborative learning, don’t overlook the tools for your own collaborative professional development. Try setting up a shared Google Sheet to collect and archive links and sites of interest. Use a shared Doc to take collaborative notes at a conference. Even consider using Google Drive as your collaborative lesson plan repository.

5. Feedback and peer assessment

Once your students are comfortable using Google Drive Apps collaboratively, try having them review, edit and assess each others work. Google Drive tracks each and every change so that every interaction is marked against a student’s name. This can be of particularly value to give transparency and prevent inappropriate comments or any forms of online bullying.


Links and Next Steps


Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, ginaleekim.


  1. Hi Lisa,
    I’m a huge fan of GAFE and use them on a daily basis, both for individual assignments and group projects. Besides the Google Drive Apps themselves we also use a number of other apps that integrate with Drive. My favorites are MindMeister (very simple and intuitive mind mapping app, perfect for brainstorming and group projects as students can work together on maps in real-time) and Pear Deck (for interactive presentations where students can participate).

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