Google Forms

Large courses present some distinct challenges to teachers and students. How, for example, can hundreds of students practice challenging concepts simultaneously? And how can instructors in large courses gain insights about the learning of all of their many students? 

CRLT has sponsored several faculty learning communities focused on effective strategies for teaching in large courses. Faculty members learn together about pedagogical tools and technologies that facilitate student learning and then develop concrete applications for them in their specific courses. In this 6-minute video, one participant, psychology professor Pamela Davis-Kean, highlights her use of Google Forms to provide students practice with key skills and difficult concepts in an upper-level course of 150 students. She recommends it as a flexible, easy-to-learn technology that can enhance student interaction and engagement in a large course setting.

For more details about Davis-Kean's use of Google Forms, see this page. You can find more examples of U-M instructors creatively using online tools to enhance student collaboration and learning in our searchable list. And you can click on the "large course" tab below for more examples and resources specifically related to such classes. Read more »

Brief Description: 

Almost any college course will involve some form of testing and grading. Technologies like online testing and gradebooks can make testing and grading more effective and more efficient for instructors and for students. Some tools designed to be used for surveys are included in this category because they can be effectively used for online testing as well.

Tips for Using Testing and Grading Tools

  • Align practice with your course goals Online quizzes should reflect the important understandings and skills you want students to derive from your course, rather than trivia questions designed only to show they did (or at least skimmed) the readings.
  • Make an investment in question banks that you can reuse over time. Many instructors note that students save copies of the online quiz questions for later studying. Often, these study resources are shared a within study groups and among friends. If this is a concern for you, consider creating multiple versions of a question that test the same basic idea, so that a student is unlikely to encounter a questions he/she has seen before. This is a time-intensive task, but question pools can often be re-used from one year to the next, and even shared among instructors.
  • Clearly communicate to students what resources (if any) they can use while taking an online quiz. Are the quizzes open book? open note? open to all resources on the net?
  • Provide accommodations or alternatives for students with disabilities. Canvas has simple options to extend time for individual students who need it, for example. If screen readers or other assistive technology do not adequately render your quiz content (e.g. images), another option may be necessary.
Brief Description: 

Personal response system (PRS), Classroom Performance System (CPS), and Audience Response System (ARS) refer to technology tools that provide a way for students to interact with the instructor during instruction. Through small remote devices ("clickers") or through laptops, tablet devices and/or smart phones accesssing online tools, instructors can poll their students, ensure key points are understood, give low-stakes quizzes to assess student learning, and receive immediate classroom feedback on teaching.

Tips for Using Personal Response Systems (PRS)

  • Examine your own teaching style and establish clear goals for using a PRS in the class.
  • Know how the PRS works before bringing it into the classroom. If you are not well prepared technologically or pedagogically for using a PRS, it is recommended that you postpone using it until you are ready.
  • Explain to students why a PRS is being used in the course and clarify how the PRS can help students achieve the learning objective(s). Be sure to use the PRS regularly and consistently.
  • Clearly articulate your expectations of students and also establish rules and student responsibilities (e.g., it is the students' responsibility to bring clickers or other device to lecture every time).
  • Develop a pool of thoughtful and effective questions for each lecture. Questions that ask for conceptual thinking in technical courses or critical thinking in any class are particularly effective.
  • Use a PRS in conjunction with teaching strategies such as "Peer Instruction" and "Think-Pair-Share" to improve students' conceptual understanding of the content, as well as their critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Professor Jeff RingenbergFollow this link to a short video describing these teaching strategies.

Jeff Ringenberg, School of Engineering, teaches Engineering 101 which has 675 students and an instructional team of approximately 25 GSIs, graders, etc. Due to the scale of the course, Ringenberg has employed a variety of Google Apps efficiently manage this large number of students and instructors.

ENGIN101 uses Google Docs to (1) create and update course policies for the instructional team, and (2) create and edit instructions for student projects and labs. The ability to collaborate asynchronously on the same document has been a particularly useful feature so GSIs can create the instructions, but Ringenberg can give feedback.

ENGIN101 uses Google Spreadsheets to track grading. Multiple users can edit the spreadsheet simultaneously, which minimizes the time and file management required for data entry. The spreadsheet for this courses has multiple tabs, one for each assignment, which are referenced by the master gradesheet to calculate the students' final grades. In addition, Ringenberg has written numerous formulas that allow for question-by-question analysis of students' performance on assignments. Read more »


Photo of Mika LaVaque-MantyMika LaVaque-Manty,  Political Science, teaches lecture courses with 100-300 students and several GSIs. He has used Google Docs to foster and monitor small group discussions during class. Students are divided into groups that are either pre-assigned or based simply on where they happen to sit.

Depending on the number of groups and the purpose of the assignment, they may work on a single Google Document or generate one for each group. In either case, only one student in a group serves as a “scribe,” although other students may view the shared document. This way, a student’s lack of a laptop is not a problem, and the number of documents remains manageable. In cases where the entire class works on a single document, the instructors create it, share it with the students, and divide it into sections so that a manageable number of groups (3-5) works on each section. They can then project the collectively produced document so that the class can debrief it together. Read more »