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Your collaborators can ruin your shared folders

Shared folders (which used to be called collections) in Google Drive (which used to be called Docs) rocks. I preferred the term collections over folders because the metaphor worked better. In the real world you cannot put one document into two separate folders, but in Drive you can. I'll get over it. I'm more concerned with how destructive collaborators could be in shared folders.

Last year I had all of my students submit their work to me in a shared folder. One folder for each assignment. It was great. They had the responsibility of "turning it in," and I could see all of the docs in one place. This is SO much better than having students email you their work, and it keeps everything organized. When I tell people I do this, their first comment is, "don't all students have access to other student work?" My answer is, "Yes, and that's great." Their concern is (A) they might steal other student writing and (B) they might vandalize other student writing. I'm not worried about (A) because I'll recognize it when I'm grading. (B) is not a problem either because the revision history is tracked. Therefore, if someone writes, "Billy smells" all over someone's essay, I can intervene, turn it into the dreaded "learning moment," and revert the document to its original state. 

Last week as I was working with some teachers, transferring files from one Drive account to another using shared folders, I noticed something strange. 

Sam shares a folder with Jim. Sam creates a document in this shared folder. Jim removes that document from the folder (puts it in the trash). Sam loses document. He cannot find it in his Drive list anywhere. He can search for it, but he cannot find it unless he clicks "All Items." 

Unless I'm missing something, I might no longer use shared folders to have my students submit their work, because students could delete other student work, and it would look like they never turned in their assignments. Am I missing something here? 

Some folks in my PLC have recommended that I have students create their own shared folders with me. This is not ideal for me because I always assess student work by assignment, not student, so I would have to click through different folders for each student when I sit down to grade papers. This solution also undermines the POSITIVE aspect of shared folders. I WANT my students to read (and comment) on their peers' writing. 

Susan in my PLC has contacted Google about the issue, and they replied that it's a "known issue." By issue, I wonder if they think it is a problem or a feature. The problem is solved if only the owner of a folder could remove other people's documents from that folder. Or am I missing an unintended consequence of that restriction?

Until then, I'm going to have to think hard about how to move forward next year. Perhaps I can have my students share their docs with the setting "Anyone in the domain with the link can edit this document," then paste that link into a separate form for each assignment. I could then allow my class to view the populated spreadsheet. They would still be able to access other student documents but they wouldn't be able to remove links (papers) from the spreadsheet. 


I shared with with some other Google Apps for EDU Certified Trainers and Eric Curts had a great response. 

Using a form to collect the links for the submitted documents is a great idea.  However, you wouldn't have to use a different form for each assignment.  Just make one of the question in the Google Form be "Assignment" and then have that be a "Choose from a list" type question.  You can type in the current list of assignments that can be submitted, and the students can pick the assignment from the drop down list.  What is so nice about this is that you can filter by the assignment when in the spreadsheet view (if you want), and see all of the submissions for one assignment at a time.  You can go back and edit the assignment list in the form whenever you need to, without having to create a new form each time and share that link. And you can delete or hide rows for old assignments that no longer need to be accessed.

I have a few more details in this section of the "Paperless Classroom" Google Doc:

 Thanks, Eric. This may be my new workflow. 

Hank Thiele adds ...

One rule you must establish with your students: assignments "turned in" must be either shared with you, or anyone with the link, or they are not accepted. Otherwise smart students will submit blank or incomplete unshared work - thus buying more time to finish.Not shared = not turned in.


  1. Thanks again- I've never tried the form idea, I have students create a folder (their own folder) that they share only with me. Then I just go through the folders one by one for grading. By the way, I also have 1 shared folder that I share with the entire class using Google Groups- they have a discussion group and I have an easy way to share documents with the entire class. What do you think?

    1. Your solution should work. I am discouraged by all the clicking that would be involved. Your shared folder is great. Do you set it so that anyone in the folder can view or edit? I wonder if setting it as view-only privileges would prevent them from being able to remove files from the folder.

    2. I set it as view only-- students may NOT edit the syllabus, course homework assignments, etc. But the permissions for a single document can be easily changed-- for example, if I want them to sign up for something. There are (+) and (-) for my system-- I get a good sense of their progression-- their folder is like a portfolio-- but it's not as easy to see everyone's work on the same assignment. I'm actually trying to decide between the form submit and my usual system now...

  2. I think I'm going to go with the form solution. One form for all of the assignments. I don't know all of the assignments I'm going to give for the whole year, so I'll probably just create a drop down option with generic labels: "Assignment 1, Assignment 2, Assignment 3." Then as I actually assign the papers etc, I will associate the assignment with one of those labels. I like the idea of having links to all of the student assignments in one place.

  3. Last year I had all of my students submit their work to me in a shared folder. One folder for each grade level, from elementary to high school. I would like to share custom coursework help a few of the things I learned from this. First, it is important that students know that their work is being collected and evaluated as they are working on it. Second, it is important for them to know that their work will be used for instruction purposes only. Finally, it is important for them to know that their work will be saved.


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