Sites

Sites > Chapter 7: Use Sites to manage your class

Table of contents

Overview

Embed a course calendar

Create an online course calendar

Add a small calendar to a page in your site

Create a calendar page with a full calendar

Edit how your calendar appears on a page

Notify students about course or site updates

RSS and e-mail notifications from an announcement page

Set-up email notifications of page changes

Deliver courses with presentations, videos, and notes

Create a page for a course lesson

Create an archive of lessons and lectures

Save a page template for a course lesson

Moderate class Q&A and discussion

Use Moderator for submitting and voting questions

Include a chat link to contact via IM on your site

Add a conversation or discussion element to lesson pages

Build a site template for student coursework

Collect and organize student course sites

Collect course sites using a form

Organize student course sites

Administer tests and quizzes using forms

Create quizzes and tests with Google Docs forms

Administer quizzes and tests on your site

Overview

With the easy integration of all the Google products and a simple site creation process, you can make Google Sites a simple, teacher-driven learning management system. Because Google Sites is available as part of the Google Apps suite, any teacher can manage a course website without needing to consult the IT director.

Additionally, since Google Apps Education Edition is free for schools, there is no cost for using Google Sites as a learning management system.

You could use your site to manage a in-person classroom course or or a distance learning course.

Here are some of benefits of using Google Sites as a basic learning management system:

In this chapter, we will cover how to completely create and manage a course in Sites.

Embed a course calendar

Create an online course calendar

You can create an online course calendar using Google Calendar with your school Apps account.

Review how to create and share a class or course calendar with your class »

Once you have created your course calendar with relevant dates for your course like homework assignments, project deadlines, tests, quizzes, or holidays - you can embed it on to your course website.

For your course calendar, you could choose to embed it on multiple pages within your site:

Please note: You'll need to make sure that your course calendar is shared with the members of your site in order to avoid an "Insufficient Privileges" error. If your site is shared with your students or other teachers, then the calendar must be shared with the same set of people or else they will see an error message where the calendar is supposed to be on your site.

Add a small calendar to a page in your site

To add a small sized calendar from your school apps account calendar list onto your homepage (or any other page in your site), follow these steps:

  1. Click on Edit page button to enter the page editor. If you do not see the Edit page button in the top right corner, you are already in editing mode.
  2. Click on Insert and select Calendar.
  3. Select the Calendar that you want from the list of your calendars.
  4. Click the Select button.
  5. Choose the customize options you want for your Calendar and click Save.  
  1. When you're finished editing your page, click the Save button and your Calendar will appear.

Please note: You'll need to make sure that your course calendar is shared with the members of your site in order to avoid an Insufficient Privileges error. If your site is shared with your students or other teachers, then the calendar must be shared with the same set of people or else they will see an error where the calendar is on your site.

Create a calendar page with a full calendar

To add a large calendar on a 'Calendar' page within your course site, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new page for your calendar by clicking the New page button in the top right corner. If you do not see the New page button, you are in editing mode for a page and need to click Save or Cancel to exit.
  2. Choose Web page as the page type and enter the name for your calendar page (e.g. 'Course calendar', 'Class calendar' or just 'Calendar').
  3. Click the Create button.
  4. Go to the Insert menu and select Calendar.
  5. Select your course calendar from the list of your school Apps account calendars.
  6. Click the Select button.
  7. On the calendar set-up page, enter a height for your calendar (600px is a full size) and leave the width field empty. This will allow your calendar gadget to take up the full page.
  8. Choose the other options to specify how you want your calendar to appear on your site and click Save.
  9. When you're finished editing your page, click the Save button and your Calendar will appear.

Please note: You'll need to make sure that your course calendar is shared with the members of your site in order to avoid an Insufficient Privileges error. If your site is shared with your students or other teachers, then the calendar must be shared with the same set of people or else they will see an error where the calendar is on your site.

Edit how your calendar appears on a page

At any time, you can change your calendar looks in your site.

About the calendar settings (you will see these when you first add a calendar to your site):

To edit the settings of how your calendar appears on your site, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Edit button to enter the page editor. If you do not see the Edit button in the top right corner, you are already in editing mode.
  2. Click on the calendar gadget box, then click the Properties link.
  3. Here you can make changes to how the calendar is displayed within the gadget including the size, the 'view' - month/day/agenda, the navigation controls, and the title.

Notify students about course or site updates

RSS and e-mail notifications from an announcement page

Whether you are teaching a distance learning class or teaching in a classroom, it is useful to send announcements about your course from your website instead of notifying everyone by email.

The announcement page type in Google Sites will allow you to quickly post updates and give visitors an option to subscribe to your announcements via RSS, or you can also set-up your RSS feed for email subscriptions using Feedburner (a Google product).

With the feed, students, parents, and teachers can stay up to date on the latest news and announcements for the class.

Review Chapter 3 to learn more about creating an announcement page, adding a quick view of recent announcements with the recent posts gadget, and subscribing to the RSS feed.

You can also set-up email notifications for any RSS feed, including one of your announcement page type in Google Sites, using Feedburner. That way, instead of using an RSS feed reader or reading the page on your site, visitors can receive email notifications every time a new announcement or post has been published. You can add the link on your announcement page or your home page to help visitors be notified of new announcements.

Please note: The following directions are for a product that is not a part of the Google Apps suite and may require you to have a Google (not a Google Apps) account. You can create a Google account using your school Apps email address which can be used to access non Apps products such as Blogger, Picasa, and this one: Feedburner.

To set-up your RSS announcement feed with an email subscription option using Google's Feedburner, follow these steps:

  1. Go to http://feedburner.google.com
  2. In the 'Burn a feed right this instant. Type your blog or feed address here:' box, enter in your RSS feed URL.
  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Enter in the title of your feed (Feedburner will automatically use the title of your page in Google Sites) and click the Next button.
  3. Feedburner has now set-up your feed. You can customize with analysis information by clicking Next, otherwise to set-up email notifications, click Skip directly to feed management.
  4. Click on the Publicize tab and select Email subscriptions from the list links on the left side.
  5. Click the Activate button to enable email subscriptions and notifications for your feed.
  6. Scroll down to the Preview Subscription Link section and copy the snippet of code. This is the HTML code for your email subscription link.
  7. Go back to your course site and go the page where you would like to have a link for your announcements email subscription (this could be your homepage, the announcements page, or both).
  8. Click the Edit page button in the top right corner. If you don't see the Edit page button, you are already in editing mode.
  9. Click the HTML button in the formatting toolbar - on the far right.
  10. Paste in the snippet of code you copied from Feedburner.
  11. Click the Update button.
  12. There should now be a link that says 'Subscribe to posts of <your announcement feed title> by email' somewhere on your page.
  13. To move the link to where you want it to go on the page, select the link, cut or copy. Place the cursor where you want the link to appear and paste the link.
  14. Click the Save button in the top right corner to save changes made to your page.
  15. Test out your email subscription link - there should be a pop-up window to verify that you want an email subscription.

You can move that link at any time by simply cutting the text and pasting as you would any other text on your page. You can use the above format to make any RSS feed into an email subscription.

Set-up email notifications of page changes

Site collaborators and owners can receive email notifications whenever changes are made to a page within the site, or within the entire site itself..  

For example, this could be useful if you are sharing the creation of a site with a team and want to be notified if someone makes changes.

As a learning management system, you could use this as a way to be notified when a student 'submits' a new homework assignment. A teacher could be a collaborator on the student 'course' site, and subscribe to changes made to the 'homework submission' page. Then the teacher would be noticed whenever a student makes changes to the page - most likely to submit an assignment.

To get informed whenever changes are made to a page, you only need to subscribe to it.

To subscribe to a the page, view the page and then click on the More Actions button. You will then receive an email whenever anyone makes a change to the page.

You can also be informed whenever changes are made to the site - this would be for any page within the site, or site settings.

To subscribe to site changes, click on the More button on any page within the site. Click Subscribe to site changes. You will then receive an email whenever anyone makes a change to the page.

If you wish to unsubscribe to the site or page, simply click on the More button again and choose Unsubscribe to site changes or Unsubscribe to site changes.

Deliver courses with presentations, videos, and notes

Create a page for a course lesson

With the seamless integration of the Google Apps tools, you can include all elements of your lessons on a web page in Google Sites.

On your lesson page, you could include:

To create a new lesson page, click the New page button and select the 'Web page' template type and name your page. Review how to create a page » and how to select a page layout ».

To add any of the Google Apps gadgets (Presentation, Document, video, Form), go to the Insert menu and under the 'Google' section, select the type of gadget you want to include.

Review how to add gadgets »

Create an archive of lessons and lectures

If you create a new page for each of your lessons, it may be useful to create a single page that lists all of the lessons and can be sorted by date or subject.

You can quickly create this lesson archive page using the 'list page' page type.

Review how to create a new list page and columns »

For your list page, you create columns which your students or visitors can sort by. Types of columns you could include on your archived lesson page:

You can include additional columns if you think the information is useful for students to have while looking for a particular lesson.

Save a page template for a course lesson

If you create a page for each lesson in your chapter/units, it can be useful to save the lesson page you create as a template. With a page template, you can quickly create a new page with the same format.

For example, your lesson page might use a 2 column format with the lesson content on the left side and additional lesson content - such as related videos, books, or links - on the right side. Instead of having to recreate this format each time with text and headers, you could save your lesson page as a template. Then, when you create a new page, you can select that lesson page as the page template and the formatting will already be complete.

Review how to create and save a page template »

Moderate class Q&A and discussion

Use Moderator for submitting and voting questions

The Moderator tool in Google Apps allows individuals to submit questions or ideas. Everyone can then see and vote the questions or ideas (within your school). The questions or ideas are then automatically ranked by those with the most votes.

For a course site or a distance learning course, Moderator allows you to have an interactive Q&A session without necessarily having everyone in the same room at the same time. Because anyone can submit questions at anytime, the owner of the Moderator page can set a deadline for submitting and voting on questions or issues.

For example, before a test, students could submit on questions or topics they would like to review. The entire class can vote on these topics to determine the review session.

Or you could have a moderator topic for each lesson to allow students to ask questions about a lesson topic and determine which points to cover in the next class.

Within Moderator, you can also 'post responses' to questions. In a distance learning environment, this means a teacher could go in and answer the top questions, and everyone can see the responses in the 'View responses' link next to the topic or question.

Review how to setup Moderator pages and other use cases for your school »

You can link to a moderator page by inserting a link, or you can embed a moderator page directly using an iframe gadget. The iframe gadget will essentially take the entire moderator webpage and fit it on your website.

To embed a moderator page using the iframe gadget, follow these steps:

  1. Create your moderator page. Review how to create a page »
  2. On your site, go to the page you want to include the moderator Q&A. Click Edit page to go into editing mode.
  3. Click Insert and select More gadgets at the bottom of the drop down menu.
  1. Select Featured from the list on the left of the gadget directory and scroll to click Include gadget (iframe).
  2. Enter in the URL for your moderator page that you created and dimensions for the gadget.
  1. Click Ok to add the moderator page to your page or Preview gadget to see how the gadget will look with the moderator page.
  2. To see the gadget on your page, click the Save button in the top right corner.

Within the gadget, your visitors can then see all the questions and add additional questions.

Only owners of the Moderator pages can post responses to questions or topic. If you are the owner, when you see the Moderator page you can click 'Post response.' Then all visitors to the moderator page can see your 'answer' to the question.

Learn more about creating and managing Moderator pages »

Include a chat link to contact via IM on your site

A Google Talk chatback badge allows others to chat with you even if they haven't signed up for Google Talk on their Google Account and even if they don't have a Google Account. You can put the badge on your website, and people who visit those pages can chat with you. The badge will display your online status (whether you're available to chat or not) and, optionally, your status message.

You can use the chat badge to hold office hours, answer student questions, and host informal parent conferences.

You can have multiple IM conversations going at one time, and if you are in Google Talk or your Apps mail page, you will have multiple chat windows open.

To include a chat badge that allows students or visitors to directly IM with you, follow these steps (this will use an iframe gadget):

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/talk/service/a/yourschool.org/badge/New where you replace yourschool.org with your school Apps domain.
  2. To show your status message, click 'Edit' and select 'Show your status message.' Then click 'Update badge.'
  3. To change the title of your badge or your nickname used when chatting with guests, click 'Edit' and enter a new title or nickname. Then click 'Update badge.' Note that your nickname is what guests see when chatting with you in their chat windows. Your title is what appears in your chatback badge. For example, guests will see 'Chat with [your nickname]' when they view your badge if you don't set a title.
  4. You'll see on the page a snippet of code that starts like this: <iframe src=...
  5. Copy the URL from after src=" to the end of the quotation mark that appears before 'frameborder='
  6. Go to the page in your site where you would would like to have the chatback badge appear.
  7. Click the Edit button in the top right corner. Position your cursor on the page where you would like your chatback badge to appear.
  8. Click Insert and select More gadgets from the bottom of the menu.
  9. Select Featured from the list on the left of the gadget directory and scroll to click Embed gadget.
  10. Paste in the URL from the chatback page - that which appeared between the quotations after src= and before frameborder= .
  11. For the size, enter 200 for the width and 60 for the height.
  12. Click Ok to add the badge to your page or Preview gadget to see how it would look.
  13. To see the badge gadget on the page, click the Save button in the top right corner.

Your page will now show your online status. Visitors to your course page can click on the 'Chat with...' link to open a chat window with you right from your website.

Add a conversation or discussion element to lesson pages

To use comments on a page, visitors must be collaborators of the site, which means they have the ability to change any page within the site. This may not be an ideal situation for a course website, where the instructor will want to have control over the site, but also want to include an element for discussion on pages within the site.

You can use the 'Conversation Element' by Google to add a 'chat box' within your site.

This can be useful to include on a 'Discussion' page where you want your visitors to be able to chat with one another or comment on the material. For example, you could include a conversation element on an 'Office Hours' page or a 'Discussion' page to encourage conversation in a virtual class.

Students can also reply to one another within the conversation element. Think of the conversation element as a mini discussion board that you can include anywhere on your page, on any page in your site.

Please note: Currently, there's no way to directly administrate or manage comments in the Conversation element.  However, you can report abuse by clicking the little flag next to the comment in question. Only the comment poster can remove a comment (e.g. you can only remove the comments that you post). You can flag comments for inappropriate use, but the site owner does not have control over removing comments. This may make the box inappropriate for certain ages of students. To implement the conversation element, you may need to include guidelines for posting on your page.

To add a conversation element to your lesson pages, follow these steps:

  1. On your site, go to the page you want to include the conversation element or 'discussion board'. Click Edit to go into editing mode.
  2. Click Insert and select More gadgets at the bottom of the drop down menu.
  3. Select Featured from the list on the left of the gadget directory and scroll to click Conversation Element.
  4. Click the Select button to go to the gadget settings.
  5. Type in the 'Topic' for the conversation (e.g. 'Unit 9 Discussion' or 'Unit 9 Test prep' etc).
  6. Select the scope of your conversation.
  1. Set the dimensions for the gadget:
  1. Choose gadget properties including a scrollbar, border, and gadget title.
  2. Click Ok to add the gadget to your page or Preview gadget to see how the gadget will look.
  3. To see the conversation element on your page, click the Save button in the top right corner.

Please note: A visitor must sign into Google Friend Connect in order to post any comment within the conversation element. A visitor can sign with a Google, Yahoo, Twitter, AOL, orkut, or Plaxo account.

Build a site template for student coursework

You can build a single site template that students can use to keep track of their projects and assignments. With a template, each student in your class can have the same basic site, making it easy for you to evaluate what's needed.

For the site you could include

Once you have created this sample site for student coursework, you can add it to the Template gallery. This way your students can use your template as a starting point for their coursework site.

Just keep in mind that anyone who uses Google Sites with your school Apps domain will see your template once you submit it to the gallery.

To publish your coursework site so that students can copy, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the site you want to add as a template.
  2. Click More at the top right of the page, then choose Manage Site (you'll need to be signed in to see this option).
  3. Click General at the left side of the page, scroll down, and click Publish this site as a template. (If this link isn't available, then templates have been disabled for your domain and you can't use this feature.)

  1. A form appears where you can name your template and add a description of what it might be used to achieve. Optionally place your template in up to two categories (if available). Just choose a category from each of the Select a category lists.
  2. Click Submit template.

The template appears in the gallery with the name and description you gave it.

Collect and organize student course sites

Collect course sites using a form

If each student in the course has their own 'course site' with all materials related to the course - any assignments including presentations, videos, documents, etc - it can be useful to link all of the students Sites form the master Site for easy reference.

For example, on the main course site, there is a page for 'Student coursework.' The page is a list of all the individual student course sites, with their names and URLs to their sites. Alternatively, if a course instructor does not want this page to be public, the course instructor could keep the individual student course sites in a spreadsheet that only the instructor can view or access.

In either case, the instructor will need a way to collect the information about the student course sites. The easiest way to do this is to create a form.

To collect the student site information, follow these steps:

  1. Create a form in Google Docs with your school Apps account.
  1. Create a page in your site for 'Student coursework' where you will embed the form to collect the student coursework site information. Review how to embed a form »
  2. Add your form to your student coursework page: Click Edit then Insert and select Spreadsheet form from the drop down menu.
  3. Browse and click on the form you just created, then click the Select button.
  4. Choose gadget settings including gadget dimensions, title and border. Then click Save.
  5. Click the Save button in the top right corner to save the page and see your form.

Any changes you make to the form while in Google Docs will change the form here. For example, if you add or remove questions, those changes will appear in your embedded form on your site.

To edit the form settings, click the Edit page button on your site, click anywhere on the form gadget you added, then click Properties. You can then change the gadget display settings, or select a different form to display from your Google Docs forms.

Organize student course sites

If you like, you can create a list page using the student information to have a master list to all the student coursework sites. This could be useful if you want students to be able to view other student work.

Otherwise, you can access the spreadsheet form in your Google Docs list to quickly find links to the individual student course sites for your course.

Administer tests and quizzes using forms

Create quizzes and tests with Google Docs forms

Forms in Google Docs allows you to quickly create a form with many types of questions including: multiple choice, short text, paragraph text, choose form a list, scale or matrix. These forms can be a useful way to create online quizzes and tests for your class.

With Apps set up for your school, you can automatically collect the username upon submission of the form, provided those filling out the form have accounts with your school Apps domain. This is a way to ensure that each user only completes or submits the form once. The time of the submission will also be automatically included in your final spreadsheet with form data.

Administer quizzes and tests on your site

While you can email forms or provide a link to the live form, perhaps the easiest way to administer a quiz or test created with a spreadsheet form is to embed it on your site. This way, the quiz or test doesn't get lost in an email inbox. Google Sites also lets you embed the entire form on your site, so the visitor can take the quiz or test right from the course website.

One option is to create a page on your site specifically for quizzes and tests. You could make this a list page, and use it as an archive of all quizzes and tests for your course, similar to how you would create an archive for all your lessons.

Another option is to add a quiz or test to the corresponding lesson page or unit section. Then a visitor could access the related quizzes or tests from within the lesson pages.

The benefit of embedding Google Docs into your site is that changes made in Google Docs will automatically change in Google Sites - you do not need to edit your information in multiple places. That means that if you make changes to your quiz or test form in Google Docs, the changes will happen on your site as well.

To embed your quiz or test form your school Apps account on your page, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you are in editing mode on your page (if you see the Save or Cancel buttons, you are in editing mode, otherwise, click the Edit page button).
  2. Place your cursor at the point on the page you want to insert your quiz or test.
  3. Click the Insert menu and select Spreadsheet form.
  4. The Insert window will display a list of all the forms you have created with your school Apps account.
  5. You can either click on the form you wish to insert, search for the form in the search box (and click Search) or paste in the web address of the form file.
  6. Click Select.
  7. You will then have some gadget display options to set:
  1. Click Save.
  2. The form gadget will appear as a blank 'box' on your page. To see your quiz or test form content, click the Save button in the top right.

Please note: Be sure that you're using the "Insert" function in order to embed objects. Cutting and pasting the embedding won't work as it will be stripped out.

You can change the settings of your Google Docs form gadget at anytime, just follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you are in editing mode on your page (if you see the Save or Cancel buttons, you are in editing mode, otherwise, click the Edit page button).
  2. Click anywhere on the gadget box.
  3. Click the Properties link that appears.

To remove a Google Docs form gadget, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you are in editing mode on your page (if you see the Save or Cancel buttons, you are in editing mode, otherwise, click the Edit page button).
  2. Click anywhere on the gadget box.
  3. Click the Remove link that appears.

Your quiz or test form gadget will now be removed from your page.