Among the myriad of excellent apps that Google offers, Google Forms is one of the most useful for online teachers. Google Forms is designed as a simple system for collecting information from others. But its features allow for many more uses in online teaching.
We commonly deliver class content in large blocks, whether they be full articles or videos. But retention does not occur unless learners are able to stop every few minutes during the learning process to reflect on the content. This moves the information from the learners' working memory to their long-term memory. Thus, it is better to break up readings, videos, or other content into five- or 10-minute pieces with some sort of reflection activity thrown in after each segment.
Integrating content and engagement is hard to do in a traditional LMS, which is designed to sequester the engagement into discussion forums. But combining the two is easy with Google Forms. Just split your video into smaller clips, and ask students to answer a question after each clip. Questions can be multiple choice, short answer, or essay. First set up the question in Forms, and then load the video segment into the question as content. The student will need to answer the question after watching each segment before moving on. Forms can also host podcasts, links to websites, text, images, etc.
Once done with the form, student answers are stored in a spreadsheet automatically created in your Google Drive account. You can even use the free Flubaroo Google Drive extension to automatically grade the responses.
Google Forms is also an ideal way to deliver content in a blended classroom where you do not want all of the trappings of the LMS. Students reach the form directly through a dedicated link that you provide them, which can also be password protected. Plus, you can have the questions delivered one by one, set a time limit for each question, and have the system notify you by email when a submission has come in.
It is important to establish a teaching presence right at the beginning of an online course. Online students can easily feel disconnected, and so teachers should reach out to students early in order to start building rapport. One of the most powerful ways to develop rapport is to ask students about their background, interests, and educational goals. This demonstrates a sincere interest in the students and will go a long way toward cultivating a good class environment.
Forms are a good way to collect the information. Simply set up a survey on Google Forms, send students the link, and ask them to provide information on topics such as:
While you may not use all this information during your course, bits and pieces will be helpful in understanding students who are struggling, connecting topics to students' particular experiences, and getting a profile of the class as a whole. I always reply to each student's response with a welcome message that references some of the information that they provided in that survey.
Short, ungraded, formative assessments that demonstrate where students are in their learning can be one of the most powerful tools in the teacher's toolbox. Google Forms is an excellent mechanism for facilitating these assessments because they are independent of the course's graded assessments, and this will help put students at ease. Simple quizzes can be used at strategic points throughout the course. They can also include open-ended questions asking students to describe their struggles. These assessments can be anonymous, and the resulting spreadsheet can be used to get an aggregate picture of where the class stands. This can also be an excellent way to do in-class polling in a flipped or blended classroom.
Teachers in quantitative courses such as math or physics will be interested in the g(Math) add-on for Forms that turns the form into a whiteboard that students can draw on with a tablet or smartphone. This makes it much easier for students to do equations online than using a keyboard.
CheckItOut is a Forms add-on that can be used to create checkout lists. An instructor who wants to choose a topic for a group presentation but does not want more than one group covering the same topic can create a checkout list that strikes off topics as students pick them.
Look at this helpful tutorial by Richard Byrne to set up Google Forms, and consider ways to use Google Forms in your course: https://youtu.be/xUL9j30NYkc.