How to Create an Open Online/Blended Course Using Google

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I have been challenged to rethink my online and blended course learning design – so I chose to examine what I could do (and any educator could do) in Google.

I added “open” because I have yet to figure out all the privacy features with these tools. Often within a district, the lead administrator can set these tools to public or private. Since I am not using Google Apps for education, and just using Google Apps, all of my suggestions are open (This also means that some Google+ Apps can only be used for participants aged 13+)

Google is still such a contentious topic in k12 due to FOIP regulations. The fact that it is a service offered in the cloud has prevented some districts from letting their teachers and students learn with Google Apps.

Based on the privacy regulation limitations, I still encourage all teachers to ensure that they are following the rules and policies within their district and always get a letter of permission for parents/guardians signed that describes what apps you will be using and why. I also advocate for parents to learn with their kids. Community and parent support creates a bigger learning community for everyone.

The rationale behind these opportunities is to create blended learning opportunities who are in f2f classrooms as well as authentic opportunities for online students who are often “stuck” in a Learning Management System (LMS – like moodle, canvas, D2L etc).

The  best resources that I found are:

Kern Kelley – Using Google Tools to Create and Manage Online Courses, Google Education Hangouts on Air

Kern Kelley – Google Site- Projects

Ultimate Google Apps Training Guide

K12 Guide to Going Google

EduTraining Google Apps


I think there are a few “stages” to building an online course. It will be up to the individual teacher to decide what stage they are comfortable with.


The Basics

Step 1: :Create and Choose a Google Site


A google site is like a wiki or blog page. It acts like an ePortfolio with limited interaction – you can only add comments to the page. You start with a home page, and have a list of all of your pages on one of the side columns. There are some great examples of how you  could use this app as you sign in.  (There are no discussion group features.)

I would use a classroom google site as my home base. I would use weekly pages to describe the weekly activities as “modules. I would not allow anyone to comment – instead I would use Google Communities for interaction, networking and chatting

Google sites would be used in TWO ways –

1) As the course platform and home

2) For individual student ePortfolios

A key addition to my site would include  a Google Calendar


Networking & Interactions

Step 2: Create a Google Community to Build a Digital Community, Connect and Chat


I have been playing and using google Communities for a few months. An example of  a google Community used for an online course is  Creating an open Classroom in February 2013.  What has impressed me most, is the design. They are clear and easy to manage. You will have to go in and set up a basic community with links as well as weekly discussion posts. You must do the setup before the students get into the course (knowing that you will make some changes) as the participants post all over the place and it gets confusing if you don’t. It is also still difficult to transfer posts and organize them if you are the moderator.

Step 3: Using Google Spreadsheets to:

1) Help Teacher “Redesign” Curriculum into Competencies and Inquiry Based Questions

2) Create Google ePortfolio Tracking Systems


Based on the current opportunities to “rethink how” we are teaching, Google Spreadsheets can be used in many ways. I really like the way Kern set up his course curriculum in a spreadsheet so he could  clearly connect curriculum. This is a great way to interconnect – competencies and common core competencies  (for those in the US).

What I liked about the Google ePortfolio Tracking System, was that individual students would add evidence of their learning. This “tracking” system can shared with teachers.

For those teachers who want to use the Google Spreadsheets for more summative assessment and feedback, please read this blog post by Martin Hawksey about how to create a student-teacher feedback system. If I could figure this script out myself (which I can’t), I would use this method for peer- peer feedback as well. This post and community by Michael J. Graham is also an excellent resource, especially for common core integration.

I could see a google Spreadsheet used in a similar way for project organization (process).

Step 4: Setting Up Google Hangouts

Google Hangout require an additional Google  plug in, so some set up is required. Here’s a great LiveBinder about Google Hangouts in k12. Google Hangouts are very similar to skype. You will need individual webcams and students will need to speak right into the microphone. However, you can connect with other learners, share screens and connect with others around the world.  I have only used Hangouts as places to discuss new ideas, but you could always teach through hangouts as well.

Additional information from common sense media about google Hangouts: More INFO

Step 5: Google Drive for Collaboration


Now that you have created a platform, with links to create an online course, you need to think about activities and learning opportunities. The perfect way to start collaborating and learning together is through Google Drive. Collaborating together is a way for students to start leading and learning.

More information about Google Drive can be found HERE.


Forever  Google

From now on,  the list goes on…and…on and is dependent on what you want and need.

Additional information from common sense media about google Hangouts: More INFO

Step 5: Using Google Forms for Data Collection/ Class Projects

One of the best videos to introduce using Google Drive for collaboration can be found HERE. In fact, at this point, the best place to learn about future Google Apps choices is in YouTube.

Quick Overview as a Google Educator: Click HERE

Good luck! Please reply or comment any examples of ways YOU have designed or created Google open courses in the comments below…..

Verena 🙂

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One Response to How to Create an Open Online/Blended Course Using Google

  1. Awesome resources, Verena! Thank you for creating this. So much to digest! I so appreciate your thoughtful info on so many open issues.

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