Using Dropbox as a course management tool

Setting up Dropbox to disseminate information

1.    Download and install the Dropbox software. Send an eMail invitation to students inviting them to download and install the software.

2.    Save any information you’d like to share with students in the Dropbox “Public” folder or a sub-folder therein. Right click the public folder and select “Get Shareable Link.” Files in the “Public” folder cannot be edited by students.

An illustration of Step Number 2.


3.    eMail the link to your students for future use. If you have an existing course website, simply create a clickable link that points to the Dropbox-generated http:// page.

That is it. It is that simple, and any time you open and edit a file or add a file, all the changes are automatically and seamlessly populated to the internet.  You can easily organize all your course handouts into traditional file folders on your local computer under the Dropbox “Public” folder and the students will see them in the same order.

Setting up Dropbox to collect student work for grading and editing

1.    Download and install the Dropbox software ( Send an eMail invitation to students inviting them to download and install the software.

2.    Create a file folder under the Dropbox directory for each course section. Under each course section create a file folder for each student. To automate this and quickly create a folder with each student’s name, use the small utility “Text 2 Folders” by Skywire. This program will take the names listed in a text file and generate folders in any version of Windows. The program is free.

3.    Log in to your account on the Dropbox website. You will see the list of file folders you just created each with a student’s name. Click on the down arrow to the right of the file folder and select “Invite to folder.” Enter the student’s eMail address.  Complete this for each student. This is a time-consuming process, but only needs to be completed once at the start of the school year, and you will never need to log in or use the web interface again.

Collecting student work for grading and editing.


Now you and your student will each have a file folder with the student’s name on your respective local computers.  Any files placed in the folder will automatically and seamlessly update and populate among both computers and the internet.  Students can turn work in by saving to the folder; you can open, edit or grade, and simply save as always – no uploading, downloading, logging in, loading webpages, etc.  Dropbox offers a truly amazing way to collect and grade student work electronically.

Should you need any additional assistance, feel free to contact Michael McLaughlin at

Over the past 10 years, Michael McLaughlin has taught in both public and private schools at nearly every level: General Chemistry Laboratory (Columbia University), Physical Science (Ocean View Junior High), General & AP Chemistry (San Marcos High School, King’s Academy, Phillips Exeter Academy). A Japan-Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholar, McLaughlin spent the summer of 2008 studying the Japanese education system while traveling throughout Tokyo and the outlying provinces. He recently completed a year teaching at the only boarding school in the entire Middle East, the King’s Academy.  He now teaches chemistry at the Phillips Exeter Academy.

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