Getting To Know Google Drive Assignments in Schoology


When Google Drive Assignments first came out in Schoology, I really thought it was going to change the way instruction happens in many classrooms. Gone were the days of “Untitled Documents” and hundreds of email notifications when my students share files with me.

If you’re not already familiar with Google Drive Assignments feature of Schoology, this tutorial video offers you a quick explanation and how-to. In short, Google Drive Assignments allows you to create an assignment for your students AND attach a Google Doc/Slide/Sheet file to the assignment. The beauty of this feature is that a copy of the template file is created for each student in your class, and that file is shared back with the teacher.

So What Makes This Feature Awesome?

Simplified workflow for students and teachers

Before Google Drive Assignments in Schoology:

“Sharing files through Google Drive makes things easier in your class.  All you have to do is create the file, hit share, make the link sharable, set the sharing permissions to view only, copy that link, paste it in your Schoology course.  Then your students follow that link, click on File, then click make a copy, rename the file, and share it back with you. If you want to have students turn the file in via Schoology the students need to click the ‘Submit’ button, then click resources, then click apps, then click ‘Google Drive’ then find the file they want to attach.”

Easy right? Riiiiiiight…..Not to mention I can’t tell you how many times I heard students confused because all the work they did yesterday was “gone”.  In most cases, the students were not aware they made a new copy of the file (since they followed the same steps from yesterday), as opposed to accessing their file in Google Drive.

Google Drive Assignments takes a lot of that work out of the equation:

  • Teachers create a file in Google Drive and attach it to an assignment in Schoology
  • A copy of the file is made for each student and shared back with the teacher in Schoology (no email notifications)
  • If the teacher or student wants to access the file, they can go right back to Schoology and find it
  • The process is the same whether you are accessing the file for the first time or the fiftieth time.

No more sharing

Prior to Google Drive Assignments, it was necessary for students to share work back with a teacher. This was fine, and it worked for years, but as we know there is no way to organize the Shared with Me space within Google Drive… so things got really ugly very quickly. Sure, you could click “Add to My Drive” and organize the files that way … but still, not the best use of time … and as mentioned before you would receive a flood of emails every time you gave your students an assignment.

Google Drive Assignments takes out the need for students to share back files; it’s done on the back end. Better yet, teachers no longer have to sift through countless documents and try to organize them. Now, as shown in the picture below, the teacher can simply go to the assignment and click on a student name on the left side of the screen and see his/her/their file on the right hand side of the screen. Best yet, the view on the right side is a live look at the Google Doc, which means you get the most recent version of the file!


Did I share that file with the correct permission?

I can’t count how many times I shared a file from Google with different sharing permissions than I had intended. Again, not the end of the world, but it could be trouble. Thanks to the fact that Google Drive Assignments makes a copy for each of your students, you no longer have to worry about someone “accidentally” making changes to your template file; the changes made to a student’s file do not affect your copy of the document.

Speaking of permission settings…

I don’t want to geek out on you too much here, but alas…

When you create an assignment with Google Drive Assignments, in terms of Google Drive the teacher is the “owner” of the file, and the file is “shared” with the student (more on that later). When the file is shared with the student, the student is given edit access to the file; meaning he/she/they can modify the document at the highest level. When the student clicks the “Submit” button, the file is moved within the Schoology course from the “In Progress” tab to the “Submitted” tab.  This also changes the student’s access to comment only. If you are not familiar with comment access, it allows for users to make suggestions for changes (in a different coloured font) and attaches a side comment to the change, but does not actually change the document.

This change of permission makes it easy to see if a student makes changes to the document after he/she/they submitted the assignment. Both the teacher and student can “un-submit” (see picture below) the assignment before the due date, which will change the student’s permission level back to edit (as it started).


Gone are the days of “Untitled Document”

We can teach file management until we are blue in the face, but there are always students who fail to name a file, or use some totally unique naming convention, that makes perfect sense to them … and only them.

When Google Drive Assignment makes a copy of the file for your students it also automatically renames the copy using the following convention:

Studentfirstname Studentlastname – Assignment Title – #####

The number at the end is a unique number designated to that particular assignment in Schoology (making it easier to find in Google Drive if necessary). There have been countless instances where students can’t find a file thanks to the myriad of Untitled Documents in his/her/their Google Drive. Again, we can search by modification date, but with Google Drive Assignments students can click on the assignment in Schoology and directly access his/her/their file.

Built in accountability

In the past, I had to trust that my students were working on assignments. Perhaps they turned in work early, perhaps they shared the file with me, either way, unless the student shared his/her/their work with me I had no way of knowing what was being done other than asking “So how’s the work going? Anything I can help with?”

With Google Drive Assignments, I can peek in to see how a student is progressing. If a student has yet to open the file, the system tells me that too. Some may see it as micromanaging, I see it as (next section) …

Immediate opportunities for feedback

Thanks to the file being shared with the teacher at the start of the process, Google Drive Assignments allows the teacher to offer feedback throughout the process. The teacher can address any missteps or misconceptions early on, and help guide the student back on the right path.

In some traditional workflows where the assignment is given to the teacher upon the due date, the student is given feedback on work after it has been turned in, and graded. In some cases, the student can see what he/she/they did wrong, however they have little to no opportunities to apply that feedback to that particular assignment. A colleague likes to refer to this style of feedback as an “autopsy”… morbid, but very accurate. Google Drive Assignments instead, gives the teacher access to the file at the start of the process. This access gives the teacher the opportunity to provide effective and valuable feedback to the student (via comments, suggestions, questioning strategies, etc.) to help guide the student early on in the process, especially if the purpose of the assignment is the learning.

What Are Some Things To Look Out For (in my experience so far)?

What is your purpose for sharing the file?

There are plenty of cases where you want your students to work together, collaboratively, on a document. If that is your goal, this is not the work flow for you. Instead, I might suggest adding a link to the file in your Schoology course. The Google Drive Assignments work flow discussed in this post is for when you are looking to have students work independently on a file.

Make a copy vs Live updates

If you are familiar with sharing files in Google, you know that any updates made to a file will be seen in the shared file. After all, that’s one of the awesome reasons to collaborate in that space! It is important to be mindful that Google Drive Assignments makes a copy of your file with your students; it doesn’t “share” the file with your students.

When your student clicks “My Document” within the assignment, a copy of the file is created as it currently exists. This means any changes you make to the template file will NOT be reflected in the student’s copy (assuming they have opened the document within Schoology). One solution to this may be to keep the assignment unpublished until you are ready for your students to access it.

In Progress vs Submitted

As mentioned previously, when a student submits the assignment it moves from the “In Progress” tab to the “Submitted” tab of the Schoology Assignment. This sounds logical, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked for a student’s paper only to not see his/her/their name on the list. What?! Why isn’t your name here?!

When you are accustomed to looking at student work in the “In Progress” tab, it’s easy to forget that the “Submitted” tab exists, so be mindful that it’s there.

Co-taught classes are tricky

There are plenty of cases where a Schoology course has more than one administrator, and this can cause some trouble with Google Drive Assignments. As mentioned earlier, the administrator is the owner of the file, and it is shared directly with each student. The integration does not identify people as “course admins”, consequently in the case of multiple course admins, whoever creates the assignment will be able to see the files and other admins will get a sharing error message when they try to view the student work. We have come up with a work around that seems to solve this problem (this 2,5 minute video explains how), but hopefully a more permanent solution can be found soon.

Limited viewing space

We heard early on from teachers and students alike that the viewing space of the document was somewhat limited due to the Schoology frame (and in the case of teachers, the student list also takes up screen real estate). Initially, our solution was to access the file via Google Drive (teachers can find a folder titled “Schoology Google Drive Assignments” and students can look in “Shared with me”), but frankly that took away some of the ease of use associated with this feature. Fortunately, about a week later an “Open” button (shown in the picture below) appeared for both students and teachers that opens the file in a new tab. Clicking this open button is the same as if you were to access the file directly via Google Drive.


Ownership rights

As we look to have students curate their work into portfolios, it is important that the students have access to his/her/their work.  As mentioned above, the workflow of Google Drive Assignments sets the course admin as the owner of the file, and it is shared with the individual students. To help ensure access to files in a portfolio, it may be advantageous to have students make a copy of his/her/their completed work and curate that copy into a portfolio.

What Have I Learned?

Submission changes at due date

It was mentioned earlier that a student’s permission level changes from edit to comment upon submitting an assignment, and this allows for any changes made by the student to be more visible to the teacher.

It was also discussed that both teachers and students can un-submit an assignment, which will change the students permission setting from comment back to edit. This begs us to ask the question:

“What stops a student from submitting an assignment, seeing feedback from the teacher, un-submit the assignment to make the necessary changes, and then resubmit the assignment with the intent of fooling the teacher it was correct all along?”

I know it’s complicated, but it’s not outside the realm of possibilities. Also, let’s just set aside the pedagogical discussion around effective feedback for learners. While it’s possible for the teacher to look at the version history of the document, that is something teachers may not be familiar with based on their personal comfort with technology and even if they are familiar with that process, it is an additional step/time requirement.

Assignment due dates can help. If a due date is listed for an assignment, a student can not un-submit an assignment once the due date has passed… meaning they can’t kick the file out of comment mode.

A few other things to note:

  • A student can still submit the file after the due date has passed
  • Due dates can be changed, and Google Drive Assignments is responsive to that change. This means if a teacher sets an initial due date, submitted work becomes “locked in” after the due date has passed. If the teacher edits the assignment to extend the due date, that submitted work becomes unlocked (able to be un-submitted) until after the new due date passes

Where Would I Like To See It Go Next?

Copy the assignment, copy the template

One of my favorite parts of Schoology is the ability to copy materials seamlessly to all your courses, but it appears this feature was left off in this case. It appears you can copy the assignment to multiple courses, however, the attached file does NOT come over with the copy. This means after copying the file you still have to go into each course, edit the assignment and attach the file to the assignment. Seems to defeat the purpose of copying. If I’m missing the solution, I would love to hear your suggestions. Otherwise, I (and many teachers) hope Schoology finds a way to resolve this.

Group assignments

I have heard rumors about this, and look forward to it with great antici…pation. In many cases students work collaboratively on a single piece of work.  Right now, Google Drive Assignments does not directly support this environment. It would be great to see it have the ability to group students onto a single file, and have those students all access the same file, comments/feedback, and all be issued the same grade (if applicable).


All in all, I still think Google Drive Assignments within Schoology is an awesome feature that has the potential to drastically improve the work flow in any classroom.  If you have any questions regarding Google Drive Assignments, I would suggest searching the Schoology Help Center website, and/or reaching out to the Schoology Activators in your school who can pass your idea or query onto the team at – or you could post directly into the Schoology Educators Down Under support group. If you are not a part of this group here’s the join code: C6NHF-758WW

Richard Bray

Instructional Technology Professional Development Specialist