File sharing used to be, it seems to me, a more onerous / technical aspect of computing: FTP servers & clients, etc. These days, with the advent of the Cloud and devices and ones-to-ones it seems that it is really just e-handing in, i.e. file sharing is now the way that students do (or should) submit, well, everything to their teacher. This begs the question, though, of how best to do it. Here are some thoughts (inspired by this post here that outlines a number of different services / approaches).

One distinction to be drawn initially: assignments that will be annotated / edited by me (e.g. full-blown papers) and assignments that only require either summative comments at the end or little to no comments (classwork, homework, etc.). Each yields

The easiest and most obvious way to collect assignments is via your CMS (course management system). We use ItsLearning, which does a nice job with collecting things, especially with its plagiarism control (which isn’t flawless but sends up some good red flags). Here’s what I don’t like about it: the downloading. When I grade papers, I use Word’s track changes. When my students submit in ItsLearning, I have to navigate to the assignment page and download the file before grading it. This is an extra step I can do without. I don’t mind it because of the convenience that ItsLearning provides, i.e. my students are familiar with it and are used to going there, but it’s still an extra step.

I experimented this year with Dropbox shared folders (which I’ve blogged about before, as well as how much I dislike GoogleDocs for anything but collaboration; I’m intrigued by GoogleDrive but not holding out too much hope). I won’t rehash all of that, but Dropbox is a great way to collect things, especially the smaller assignments. Larger / more important ones (like papers) I don’t like to collect via Dropbox because the whole class has access to the folder. Not that I would expect them to tamper, but you never know; better safe than sorry. Dropbox for smaller assignments, however, is ideal because of its ease. If I’m collecting a half page reflection, the time it takes to download from ItsLearning is about the same time it would take me to read it. In addition, Dropbox on the iPad in landscape mode allows you to see the list of files at left and the files themselves at right, so no double clicking and opening everything; just tap, read, tap, read, etc. (This can be mimicked to some extent in the Mac’s Finder: highlight the first file, use the spacebar preview to open a quick version, and use the arrow keys to move to subsequent files.)

One option I liked from the blog post lined above was FileStork. Here’s the description from the blog above: “File Stork is a tool that works with Dropbox and allows you to collect files in two ways. You can make an individual file request by sending an email to someone. The other way, and the more practical way for teachers, is to create a “stand alone” request which will allow you to post an upload link on your blog or website. Visitors can then use that link to upload a file to your Dropbox where you can view it and download it if you like. File Stork allows you to specify an upload password and allows you to specify which types of files you will allow to be uploaded to your Dropbox. People uploading files to your Dropbox through File Stork do not have access to any of the files in your account.” Here’s the problem. It seems not to exist anymore. Filestork.com is a pay service whose logo is different from the one on the blog, and filestork.net seems to have been hacked or taken down (blank screen with Hi in the title bar); the link on the blog doesn’t open. And indeed it seems that as of June 15, 2012, Filestork is no more. (The link on the Tweet doesn’t work.) So if anyone wants to recreate it, I’d be all for it.

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