I have used Dropbox in the past to collect assignments and more so to make available for students class notes. But this year, especially in my English 4 class, I have committed to using Dropbox more and more to collect assignments. And I am loving it.

We use ItsLearning as our LMS but, as with many things with ItsLearning (and other LMSs I assume) Dropbox takes what is a multi-step process in ItsLearning and reduces it to a single (or at least significantly reduced) step process (and that is for both student and teacher).

The real advantage to Dropbox is the ease of grading. I should also say here that I use Dropbox only for quick / small assignments that require few to no comments; papers are still submitted through ITL (for a number of reasons). On my Mac I navigate the Finder in column view because I can navigate folders using the keyboard / arrow keys rather than the trackpad. Each assignment has a folder into which students save or drag their file. Once in the assignment folder, each document can be quickly and easily reviewed by me by using the arrows to get to each file and by using the quick preview function to see them. (The quick preview function uses the space bar to open up a preview of the document in the Finder without the rime it takes to open in an application.) Any short comments I need to make go in Engrade with the grade for the assignment.

I’m also experimenting this quarter with a new approach that hopefully will streamline make-up / late work (because without (more permanent, i.e. ones that don’t disappear after five seconds) notifications there is no way to know when a student has submitted something and so inevitably you’re checking repeatedly without any assurance that something new will be there): I’m now coloring my active assignment folders green; that signals to students that they can still submit there. Once I grade the submitted files, I will change the color of the folder to red. That signals to students that they should no longer submit there and email the assignment to me. I’ve not used they system yet but I’ll see how it goes.

So give Dropbox a try for collecting assignments (especially using column view). It’s a good tip for streamlining the process.

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