Using Dropbox as a course management tool

From the perspective of an individual classroom teacher, Dropbox offers several advantages over typical approaches:

  • It is free!  Dropbox offers 2Gb of free internet storage space (“space in the cloud” for those in the know). If students accept invitation offers to join the service, this quickly jumps to 8GB of free space.
  • No uploading is required.  Finally, a teacher can leave the days of logging into websites, clicking upload, and attaching files behind them. Once installed, Dropbox creates a file folder on your local computer. Any file stored in the Dropbox folder or lower sub-folder can be made accessible to students. Simply save the file in Word as you always do and your students will have immediate access. Imagine updating a file, assignment, photo, or movie and merely saving as always to provide the update to all your students.
  • No downloading is required.  When using BlackBoard or Moodle, a student wishing to submit an electronic paper first uploads the file to a website. The teacher then downloads the file, edits or grades as necessary, and again uploads back to the website. Finally, the student downloads the graded or edited file. With Dropbox, the student simply saves the paper in Word on their local computer.  The file automatically and seamlessly populates to the internet and to the teacher’s computer. The teacher simply opens the file, edits or grades, and saves. Again, the file automatically and seamlessly updates on the internet and the student’s computer. There are no extra clicks, logins, or downloads required. Dropbox brings the efficiency of e-grading in line with that of a traditional stack of papers.  With a tablet computer and active digitizer pen, a teacher can use Dropbox to eliminate the need for paper copies entirely.
Note the Dropbox file folders.










  •  A constant internet connection is not required.  Both students and teachers can edit files while disconnected from the internet.  Once the computer is back in range of an internet connection, the files are automatically updated.
  • Student work is automatically backed up.  With an internet back up, a copy on the student’s local computer, and a copy on the teacher’s local computer, the “my computer went down” excuse no longer merits any extension by the teacher. The teacher also has a log of all student work in one file folder which can be used to look back and view progress over an entire term.

To get started using Dropbox as a standalone course-management tool or to add the functionality to an existing system, a short tutorial follows.  The tutorial includes first setting up Dropbox solely to disseminate information to students (for those merely wishing to test the waters) and then includes steps to use Dropbox to collect student work for grading and editing.

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