Collaborative Research using Google Drive

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The importance of peer collaboration keeps rising, for students, business, and research. Fortunately, the tools for collaboration keep improving, too.

One great tool, available to all AU community members through Google Apps for Education, is Google Drive. If you think you know Google Drive, but haven’t used it for a few months or a year, you should check it out again – Google is continually adding features to Drive products.

google drive

Google Drive is a cloud-based software and storage system that allows users to create, upload, and save documents online in multiple formats. That means you can either use it just as a storage drive, by uploading your Word documents, pictures, or many other formats, or you can create new documents using several native software formats. These include Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms, and others. Users at American University can access Google Drive through their american.edu email account. All you need to do to collaborate using the Drive is to share your document or folder with other users and set their level of permission. If all shared users can edit, you can all work on your research at once, with no need to email multiple copies back and forth.

Here are a few of the newer features that unique to online software systems like Google Drive, rendering them great collaboration tools:

1. Research in Documents

One of the previous shortcomings of Google Docs/Drive was that it did not allow for footnotes or connection with citation programs, like EndNote. Now, using the “Research” tool located under the “Tools” menu in a Document, Google Drive allows users to search for their sources directly from the web, or from Google Scholar, and then insert that source directly as a citation. You can even select the citation format, including APA, MLA, or Chicago. It’s really one of the easiest ways to cite sources around. Plus, it allows for you to conduct and save online research directly in the document, which means that multiple users can work together in both the researching and writing stages.

research tool

2. Comments in Documents

Writing is a part of the research process, and one that’s especially hard to perform collaboratively. Microsoft Word has some useful collaborative tools such as Track Changes and Comments, but usually only one user at a time can work on the document and you have to keep track of multiple versions. In Google Documents, multiple users can make edits at the same time, and inserting comments can be a great way to communicate about the edits. If the issue in the comment has been dealt with by everyone, then the comment can be marked as “Resolved.”

Comments

3. Creating Lists in Google Spreadsheets

This is a cool feature that really takes advantage of the fact that the software is online. If you type in two related items in adjacent cells in the Spreadsheet, highlight both cells, Click on the small box in the corner of the highlighted cells, and then press CTRL while dragging the box down to later cells, Google spreadsheets will pull information from the internet to auto-fill a list based on the items you’ve entered. Excel can do this with certain items, like numeric patterns or common entries like days of the week. But Google will pull lists from Wikipedia or the CIA World Factbook, too. (Maybe it’s not as much a collaboration tool as it’s just pretty cool.)

anigif_enhanced-buzz-27983-1362612794-16(gif from http://www.buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock/a-glimpse-into-googles-brain-hidden-in-a-spreadsheet-app)

4. Google Forms

This software allows you to create custom surveys, set your fellow researchers as editors, and then email the link to your survey respondents. Once you get all of your results in, you can convert the data to spreadsheet format or export them to your preferred data analysis software. The respondents you send the survey to don’t have to be Google users, and you and your research partners get to share and save all of the results in Google Drive. The tool is meant more as a planning tool, like Doodle, but it can be used for data collection, like Survey Monkey – the advantage over these programs is that you don’t have to create and keep track of separate accounts.

form

 

That’s all we’ll cover in this post, but please, share with us what your favorite features of Google Drive are in a comment, or let us know about other online tools for collaboration!

How to Keep your Students Engaged during the Snowquester?

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cramingstudy

The American University Be Prepared site (http://www.american.edu/ctrl/preparation.cfm) gives us a few tips to keep your classes going and your students focused on the class material while campus is closed.

We invite you to view the above site and to comment to this post if you need any special support from us.  Here we summarize a few of the most handy tips:

1.  Use Blackboard to e-mail students and post announcements on readings, discussion boards or any tool you want to use to keep the class going.

2.  Meet with your students using Blackboard Collaborate tool.  You can have several students in session and do a compact class meeting.  Alternatively you can hold your office hours using Collaborate and just meet with one student at a time.  You will need a camera and a microphone if you want to have a video session with your students.  But you could simply chat with them, share your screen or use the “white board” in Collaborate to write equations or draw graphs.

Links to learning material on Collaborate can be found at the library site: http://www.american.edu/library/technology/blackboard/collaborate.cfm

3.  Film your class session using Panopto and post it in Blackboard.  We recommend making a couple of short videos (up to 15 minutes) with the key topics you want emphasized.  Remember that Spring break is next week, so the Panopto tool can help you not stay disconnected from your students for 2 weeks.  You can use Panopto to film your power point slides, your screen view and/or yourself so it can be as interactive as you want it.

Links to instructional handouts including how to get started with your first recording are available online at: http://www.american.edu/ctrl/techinclass.cfm, or through the Library’s Panopto support site: http://www.american.edu/library/technology/lecture_capture.cfm.

4.  Post your class Power Point slides in Blackboard with narration.  This is an alternative to Panopto recording for those that find it easier (we recommend Panopto though).  You can create your slides and add narration to them (remember to check your microphone settings so that the voice comes as optimal as possible).   As with Panopto recording we recommend making a couple of videos of up to 15 minutes long to optimize attention levels.

Microsoft offers step by step guides on how to add narrations to your slides: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/powerpoint-help/record-a-voice-narration-HP005195027.aspx

Please feel free to e-mail us with questions at rsg@american.edu or to post your comments here.  We would like to know if any of these tips are useful to keep your classes going while the university remains closed.

The Snow Storm is Here…and So Are We

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snowy trees

The CTRL Lab team is online ready to support you accessing the Virtual Computing Lab.  We can also help you with questions regarding SPSS and Stata.

Remember to friend us on Skype (our user name is “ctrl_research“) and send us an e-mail to rsg@american.edu if you have any questions.

For useful tips during the storm please see our post “Getting Ready for the Storm” in this link:

http://ctrlresearch.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/getting-ready-for-the-storm-how-to-stay-connected-if-au-is-closed-on-wednesday-march-6th-2013/

And remember to keep yourselves warm!

Getting ready for the storm: How to Stay Connected if AU is closed on Wednesday March 6th, 2013

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polar-bear-pup

NOT TO WORRY, if the Saturn snowstorm (aka Snowquester) hits us we will be ready to support our “snowed in” AU community with Stata, SPSS and general questions.  So if we have to be closed tomorrow this is what we recommend for those wanting to connect to these and other important tools, as well as for those wishing to receive remote assistance:

1.  If you need to have a one on one consultation: Please friend us in skype (our user name is ctrl_research) or send us an e-mail to rsg@american.edu to book a skype appointment.  We can also use the Blackboard tool called “Collaborate” if we need additional ways to help you.

2.  If you need to use Stata or SPSS remotely:  Don’t let the storm stop you from finishing your project. Simply go to http://www.american.edu/vcl/ and download the Virtual Computing client (recommended option) or use it over the internet (option just recommended if for some reason you cannot download the client).  For instructions on how to use Virtual Computing go to http://www.american.edu/vcl/connect.cfm.  Please e-mail us at vcl@american.edu or rsg@american.edu if you need assistance with your Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) connection.

3.  If you need to access the J drive or your personal G drive: Go to myau.american.edu portal under the Technology option and select “Access my network drives”

4.  If you are a faculty wishing to record your class in the event the University is closed: You can use Panopto to record a session that can be uploaded to Blackboard and viewed by your students.  Links to instructional handouts including how to get started with your first recording are available online at: http://www.american.edu/ctrl/techinclass.cfm, or through the Library’s Panopto support site: http://www.american.edu/library/technology/lecture_capture.cfm.

For any questions, please add your comments to this post or e-mail us directly.

Spring 2013 Drop-in Consultation Schedule

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If you can’t get the help you’re needing from our website, we’re always glad to help you in person. The CTRL Lab in Hurst 203 is open from 9:30 AM to 8:30 PM Monday – Thursday, 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM on Friday, and 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM on Saturday. All of our consultants are knowledgeable, but of course some are more familiar with certain programs than with others. Follow the schedule posted below to plan your visit so that you can be sure someone will be able to help you with your specific questions.

S2013 drop in tutorials

 

Get a head start on your research projects this semester, and come on down to the CTRL Lab for research support, early and often.

 

Spring 2013 Workshop Schedule

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Once again, the Research Support Group has a full slate of events scheduled for this semester.  Our Skills Workshops can help you learn new software programs or methods to aid your research, or take your current skills to the next level. And this semester, we’ve got an expanded workshops menu that includes more introductory classes than ever.

RSGSpring2013Events

RSGSpring2013Events (pdf file)

Stay tuned for more information on our drop-in consultation hours, Research Methods Seminar series, and more.

Keep Learning over Winter Break

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Finals week is almost over! Congratulations on making it through another semester (students and professors!).

Enjoy your much-deserved break, but don’t let your brain atrophy and résumé stagnate. Cruising Tumblr and Facebook can only get you so far – there are plenty of ways to improve your research skills and stimulate your critical thinking skills while browsing online. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Lynda.com

lynda

Access this learning website through your myAU portal, under the “Technology” tab. AU has paid the subscription for this fee-based service, so it’s completely free to members of the AU community. You can access thousands of videos covering hundreds of software programs. The videos are professional quality and take you step-by-step through either basic or advanced procedures in programs from Picasa to Python. By the time you complete a course, you’ll have a new resume bullet.

2. MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT

From the project’s own description: “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” – Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering. You can access the full course materials that MIT students pay big buck to take, totally free. Most classes include video lectures, syllabus, reading list, and lecture notes. Either fill in a gap in your knowledge or just pursue curiosity.

3. TED 

TED

Many of you will have already heard of this site, for good reason. The “Technology, Entertainment, Design” series of conferences invites well-known and dynamic researchers to “give the presentation of their lifetimes”. The result is often a 20-minute mind-blowing video. It’s hard to go wrong picking a TED talk. There’s also a new portion of the site called TED-Ed, which are mini-lessons prepared by educators and animated by professional animators, complete with quizzes and further resources. It’s a great way to learn without feeling like you’re learning.

4. Information is Beautiful

info

This is David McCandless’s website, filled with great examples of creative ways to display data. In our world of academic research, we see far too many ineffective and boring graphs and charts. One way to make your paper stand out is with an eye-catching and intuitive data visualization. In addition to “Information is Beautiful,” check out these tutorials from UC Berkeley’s journalism school to learn more about creating unique and effective designs.

Have a great Winter Break, and stay posted for information about CTRL’s workshops and research seminars for Spring 2013

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