Home > Course Content > Web Collaboration Tools: February 16-23

Web Collaboration Tools: February 16-23

February 16th, 2009


Web office tools allow people to create, edit and share documents over the Internet.  This editing and sharing can by done synchronously, or asynchronously.  Documents that are created are stored on remote server as opposed to being store on your local drive.  The main advantage of using web office tools is that these documents are accessible anywhere that there is an Internet connection.  This is hugely helpful when you working with others to create a document.

We have mentioned documents, but in these web office tools can also create spreadsheets and presentations.  There are multiple services that offer these tools.  Some of them charge for access, some are free, and some let you do certain things for free but require you to pay for other things (usually to get more space to save files).

Here is a basic video explaining how Google Docs works:

As great as these web collaboration tools are, there are some drawbacks/concerns with using them.  There are often formatting oddities that can only be corrected by downloading the final version into a word processing program like Word to correct.  Another concern is that the documents created and saved in these applications are not stored on your hard drive or local server.  Instead they are saved to the application’s server.  This makes it harder for you to verify that your documents are secure, that backups are being done on a regular basis, and if you do have problems it is harder to reach someone to help you.

Since your access the tools over the Internet, how do you access your documents when you don’t have Internet access?  For some of the programs, you can install an open source browser extension on your computer that will give you access to your documents even when you are not connected to the Internet.  The extension does this by keeping the latest versions of your documents on your hard drive.  Once you are connected to the Internet again, your changes are synced with the remote servers.

Case Study 1

Members on a MLA Committee need to work on the goals and objectives for their committee.  Committee members are spread across the US.  The committee chair uploads a copy of last year’s document via Google Docs with her edits and proposed new goals.  The rest of the committee looks over the document and makes their comments.  The entire committee is always looking at the same document so there is only one version of it.  The committee completes the document without sending multiple files back and forth via e-mail.

Case Study 2

A library is offering a class on using RSS.  To customize the class for the participants, the instructor wants to create a quick survey to see how familiar participants are with the technology and what kinds of information they would find useful.  

Preliminary Setup

  • Go to http://docs.google.com
  • If you have a Gmail address or existing Google Account, you can log in with that information
  • If you don’t have a Google Account, you will need to create one.

Discovery Exercise 1

(Be sure to check the timeline below; meeting the deadlines will help the others in your group meet their deadlines, too!)

Practice using Google Docs to create a document and share it with others.

  1. Enter Google Docs at http://docs.google.com
  2. Start a new document by choosing File, then New, then Document
  3. Create and enter text
  4. Practice using the formatting options (font, bold, italics, bullets, etc.)
  5. Use Spellcheck
  6. Change the name of your document (you can click on the name to rename it)
  7. Share your document with your group.  Ask them to make changes to text and/or insert Comments. After your classmates have made some changes, check out the Revision History (under the Tools menu).

Discovery Exercise 2

Google’s version of Excel has a lot of the same capabilities with a few extra features.  In this exercise, you’ll use Google Spreadsheets to create an online survey, collect data, and analyze the results using graphs and charts.

  1. Enter Google Docs at http://docs.google.com
  2. From the New menu, choose Form.
  3. In the new form, you can create multiple types of question: multiple choice, text, scale, checkboxes, and more.  You can also choose to make questions require or optional.
  4. For this exercise, create a survey (form) with 5 questions.  So that you can create a graph or chart, you will need to include at least one non-text question.  Because the survey results will be published publicly, you will want to refrain from asking personally identifiable information. HINT: You will need to delete the “Name” question that is by default included.
  5. Once you’ve created 5 questions, save your form.
  6. To send your survey to your classmates, copy the URL on the bottom of the form and send it to the class Google Group (dig-deeper-with-social-media@googlegroups.com).  Your classmates’ responses will be entered into your form live. NOTE: You must send this email from the email address you used to register for the Google Group.
  7. Next time you log into Google Docs, your form will have the survey results in spreadsheet form.
  8. You can use the Form menu’s Show Summary option to see a summary and charts Google automatically creates based on your data.
  9. Create your own graph or chart on at least one answer.  The chart creation tool is available in the Insert menu. UPDATED 2/17: For chart help, see our updated instructions.
  10. Once your graph or chart is completed, save it.
  11. Click on the saved chart and select Publish.  Send the published form link to the course instructors (mlrethlefsen@gmail.com AND melissa.desantis@ucdenver.edu).  We will embed it on the course blog.
  12. UPDATED 2/17: Graphs and charts automatically updated as new information is entered into your spreadsheet.
  13. Complete a MINIMUM of 20 of your classmates’ surveys as they are sent to the Google Group mailing list.  If you have time, please complete as many as you can.  The more responses each survey receives, the better you can see how the charts and graphs work.
  14. Complete the progress form to get credit for the class.  The progress form is due Monday, Feb 23.

Optional Exercise

Try using the Offline tool in Google Docs to see how it works.

  1. While in Google Docs, click the Offline link in the upper right.
  2. Click the Get Gears button, and then Install Gears.
  3. After installing, go offline and then try accessing your documents.

Timeline for Exercises

Monday-Tuesday (Feb 16-17): Create and share document in Discovery Exercise 1 with your Group members.

Tuesday-Wednesday (Feb 17-18): Edit/Add comments to Google Docs that your Group members created and shared with you.

Thursday (Feb 19): Create and share an online survey with the class using Google Docs (Discovery Exercise 2).  Complete a minimum of 20 of your classmates’ surveys (this portion can be completed through Sunday, Feb 22).

Friday (Feb 20): Complete Discovery Exercise 2 by returning to Google Docs, looking at your survey results in the spreadsheet form, creating a graph/chart, and then sending it to the instructors (melissa.desantis@ucdenver.edu and mlrethlefsen@gmail.com)

Saturday-Sunday (Feb 21-22): Finish up any exercises that you haven’t completed.  Be sure to complete a minimum of 20 of your classmates’ surveys.

Monday (Feb 23): Last day to complete your progress form.


Additional web office tools:

Course Content

  1. NAncy O’Brien
    February 17th, 2009 at 09:41 | #1

    Please provide details for the progress report? Is it zoomerang?

  2. Christina L. Wissinger
    February 17th, 2009 at 13:28 | #2

    I’m having a hard time making the chart. It keeps saying “no data” can you post more detailed instructions?

  3. mlrethlefsen
    February 17th, 2009 at 13:50 | #3

    We’ve posted an update about the charts–thanks for noticing this!

  4. mlrethlefsen
    February 17th, 2009 at 13:50 | #4

    Nancy–it will be Zoomerang, and we will let everyone know by the end of the week.

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