About a year ago, I shifted my course syllabi to Google Docs as a strategy for more nimbly handling the inevitable hiccups and improvisational changes to scheduled meetings during the semester: snow days; opportunistic class visits by colleagues and other scholars; newly published research addressing course topics; etc.. As a result, any updates to syllabi are immediately available to students and other course participants. You can read more about this here.
For similar reasons, I’ve since shifted to using Google Docs for all of my lab and other assignment instructions. Whenever I correct a typo or tweak an assignment parameter, the changes are rendered in real time, and I don’t have to convert the doc into a PDF, upload to Moodle, and delete or replace the old version. Fewer steps, fewer keystrokes, fewer headaches. Huzzah.
I might even consider shifting my courses entirely to Google Drive – for example, check out Ari Rotramel’s approach – but I’m a huge fan of Moodle’s online submission tools, gradebook, and quickmail features; I find all indispensable to my pursuit of less paperwork, less email, and a streamlined workflow during the semester. But Google Drive and Moodle can happily play together. Links to Google Docs, Sheets, and Maps are easily curated on Moodle with other course content and, when properly framed, all of these apps facilitate and enhance student collaborations in ways that are seldom afforded by other software.
Recently, in a moment of glorious nerdiness, I figured out how to take this simpatico relationship one step further, or how to display the contents of a Google Doc in Moodle. My simple goal was to have my Google Doc syllabus display – not as a link but, rather, the actual contents – near the top of a course Moodle page. In effect, the syllabus becomes the digital center of all digital content and workflow while retaining its autonomy as a document that can be shared with colleagues or added to a tenure or promotion file.
The path to embedding the Google Doc into Moodle is not overly complicated, but it does require a dive into various menu commands and a minor tweak to some HTML code provided by Google. For those who take the plunge, here’s a brief video tutorial as well as some step-by-step instructions and notes:
- Open up your Google Doc in one tab of your browser and your course Moodle page in another.
- Make sure that your Google Doc is shared or, at minimum, viewable by anyone who has the link.
- In your Google Doc app, select “File” from the menu bar, and then select “Publish to the web”. (Make sure you’re selecting from the menu in the Google Docs app and not the upper menu bar that belongs to your browser.)
- Click on the “Embed” tab in the window that opens and copy the link. If no code is displayed, press the blue “Publish” button. Copy the code, and then close this window with the “X” in the upper right.
- In Moodle, turn editing on, and then select “Edit topic” for one of the major topic sections of your Moodle page.
- You might name this section “Syllabus”.
- In the Summary box below, select the “<>” button which allows you to edit the HTML source code.
- Paste the code you copied from Google.
Some tips and code for making more screen real estate, making the document editable in Moodle, and for loading up on bookmarked pages in the embedded Google Doc below.