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The dreaded group projects — No, you can’t get away from them in college either. There is always the problem of allocating the work equally, keeping everyone accountable, putting everything together in the end, and sorting out technical difficulties on the day of presentation. I have discovered that using Google Docs is a great way to make group projects a lot easier.

Google Docs is free and you can use it to create and edit word documents, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, drawings, and forms.

Easy sharing
After you create your document, you can choose to make it totally public or share it with certain people via e-mail. This way, you can easily share it with your group project’s members and there is no excuse of someone not getting it or incompatibility issues (say, one person cannot open a .docx file or one person’s computer is a Mac while the other’s is a PC).

Editing and Accessibility
Anyone in your group who has access to the Google Doc link can add and edit. Everyone can access this document from any computer or smart phone. People can work on the document all at the same time from the comfort of their own home.

Accountability
While working on a Google Doc, the other people who are online and viewing it at the same time as you are shown on screen. Displayed on screen will be who is online and currently viewing the document, as well as who is currently typing. (As text is added, their name is displayed on the cursor.) Google Docs will also tell you when the document was last modified and by whom.

What are some ways to use Google Docs?

Working together on group projects: For example, in my Japanese class last semester, we all had to do some kind of final presentation on a short story we had written for the class. I got together with two classmates and we decided to write and perform a skit together. We used Google Docs to write out our own separate parts of the skit, which we later edited together for fluidity. Then, we sent that Google Doc to our teacher to check it. Google Docs helped us to expedite the process, allowing us to add to and edit our skit even when we could not get together in person, and allowed our teacher to give us direct feedback quickly.

Putting together slide shows: You don’t need Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint anymore, when you can use Google Doc to put together a presentation. There is no need for each person to create his slides, e-mail it to the next person and so on, or each person working on his part separately and everyone getting together to put it all together in the end. Instead, a slide show presentation on Google Docs can be started by one person then shared, and people can add and create slides from their own computer on their own time.

Meetings and keeping minutes: Another way to use Google Docs is for club meetings. As someone keeps the minutes, all the other club members can have the document open, keep track of the meeting’s agenda, and input their own thoughts as needed.

There is a lot you can do with Google Docs, whether it be for working on that next class presentation or planning a spring break road trip. Happy sharing and editing!

Photo courtesy of Lisa Vanovitch via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).