Topics Map > Active Learning > Physically-Distanced Classroom Activities
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Using Google Docs Chat Feature to Collaborate in Classrooms
How to collaborate with others using the chat feature in a Google Docs document.
In many of the active learning activities identified for use in physically-distanced spaces, there is a need for students to work collaboratively on a document and carry on some kind of conversation in ways that are not possible given the physical restrictions of classrooms as part of the COVID-19 response. Instead of working closely in small groups, students may be physically-distanced in a room and not be able to participate in a verbal conversation. Students can, however, work on a Google Docs document and use the Chat feature available to have a text-based conversation — allowing them to work together collaboratively, but as a distance.
Chat Feature - Browser
- On your computer, open a document, spreadsheet, or presentation via the link provided by the instructor, or create a new document.
- If necessary, grant the other students in the group access to the document by selecting Share and adding their UW-Madison Google Apps account names.
- The Chat feature will not be available if you are the only one in the file.
- Enter your message in the Chat box.
- When you are finished, at the top right of the chat window, select Close.
- Note: All chats in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides include anyone viewing the file. The chats are not saved.
Chat Feature - Mobile Devices
The Chat feature for documents is not available on mobile devices. Students will need a computer to collaborate via the Chat features.
Direction for Sharing a Google Doc
Log in to UW-Madison G Suite with your NetID and password using the following URL:
If you have multiple UW-Madison G Suite accounts, select your desired account from the list provided.
If you only have one UW-Madison G Suite account, you will be logged into your account automatically.
Don't see the account you are looking for? You may need to link your Office 365 service account to your NetID.
- Right-click on the file you would like to share, then select Share. Then from the Share menu, select Share again.
- On the Sharing settings menu, you will see a list of everyone who currently has access to your file. At the top of this list is your visibility level. If you haven't yet changed your share settings for this particular file, the only individual listed here will be you and your visibility level will be set to Private. Click the Change... link next to your visibility level to view all potential options.
- Select your desired visibility level from the list. If you want more information about the available options, click the link provided.
- Next, set the access level for this group by choosing Can view, Can comment, or Can edit from the drop down menu. Then hit the Save button.
- You also have the ability to decide whether people with Can edit access will be able to change the share settings for this file. By default, editors will be able to change the visibility of your file and add/remove access for other people. Click the Change link to edit this setting.
- Select your desired setting for editors, then click Save
- Next, you can add permissions for individuals. Below the list of people who currently have access to your file, you will see a text box labeled Invite People.
- As you begin typing the name or email address of the contact you would like to share with, the list below will auto populate with any UW-Madison G Suite account matching your criteria. **If a user has privacy flagged any of their user information under FERPA, their personal information will be omitted from UW-Madison G Suite contact list. Note: You can share files with people who are unaffiliated with the university, however, there are a few issues to consider. First, only UW-Madison G Suite accounts will be returned in the search results, so you must know the full email address of the person you want to share with. Additionally, the share link will still require that the recipient log into Google Apps, so that person will still need to have a Google account in order for the file to be accessible.
- After you select the person you want to share with, you will need to choose the level of access to give them. From the drop down menu, select Can edit, Can comment, or Can view.
- Select your desired settings for email notifications. Depending on the type of file you are sharing, the option to Paste the item itself into the email may not be available
- Hit the Send button to share your file and send out any notifications you have selected
- Once you have added all the people you want to share with, hit Done. You can come back to this menu to change the share settings for a file at any time.