Keep Your Classes Organized With Google Groups

Google Groups is an integral part of the Google Apps For Education Suite. Groups are most commonly used as a mailing list for sending emails to multiple users, but can also be utilized to create web-based forums or to facilitate Q&A sessions between a specific group of users.

In this post, I’ll be outlining how to use Google Groups to create a mailing-list style group that will allow you both send email and assign access in Google Drive using a single email address.

I’ve created a brief instructional video that outlines the process that is explained in detail below.  I’d suggest watching it before diving into the details.

Remember those details I mentioned?  Here they are…

Section 1: Create a Group

  1. Go to http://google.com.
  2. If you aren’t signed in to Google already (your email address will show up near the top right corner), sign in.
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  3. Click Groups on the black navigation bar (across the top of the page).
  4. Click the red CREATE GROUP button to create a new group.
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  5. Give your group a name.
    1. Names should be granular enough to accurately specify the audience.
    2. Group names must be unique within the organization, so you’ll  need to put some thought into the name.  In our organization there are 4 high schools.  Calling the group “1st Period Art” wouldn’t be specific enough; that name could easily apply to a class at each of the 4 different buildings within the organization.
    3. While blank spaces are allowed in the “Group name” field, they will be replaced by dashes in the “Group email address”.  I’d suggest using dashes or underscores to separate items in your group name, allowing the group name and email prefix to be identical.
    4. For this example, I’ll be making a group containing all the students for my 1st period Biology class at Cary-Grove High School.  I’m going to use “CG-Blatti-1st for my group name.  It is easily identifiable as my 1st period class.  You’ll notice that I didn’t use “Biology” as part of the name.  Because I teach different classes, I may not be teaching Biology during 1st period next semester.  With the name I chose, I’ll be able to reuse this group with my 1st period class next semester regardless of which subject I’m teaching.
  6. The “Group email address” will be automatically populated based on the group name that I provided.  Make a mental note of this address; it is what you’ll be using to send emails and apply rights in Google Drive later on.
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  7. In this example, I’m creating a mailing list that will only be used by myself as the teacher.  We can leave the group description blank; it isn’t needed for this model.
  8. Set the group’s primary language.
  9. “Group type” should be set to the default, “Email list”.  To learn about the other options available, click here.
  10. In the “Basic permissions” section, you’ll find three drop-down boxes.
    1. “View Topics” – This specifies who is able to view topics in the group.  Because I am setting up communication between myself (the teacher) and the list members (a specific set of students), I’ll uncheck “All organization members”.  You’ll notice that to the right of the drop-down is a check-mark  followed by “All members of the group”.  This is an overall summary of who has access.
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    2. “Post” – because I’m creating one-way communication to my students, I should be the only user with the ability to post.  I’ll uncheck all options except for “Owners of the group”, which in this case is just me.
      googlegroup10b
    3. “Join the Group” – Since this group will be a static set of known individuals, I’ll set this to “Only invited users”.
      googlegroup10cFor complete details on basic permissions, click here.
  11. Double-check all of your settings.  If everything looks good, click the CREATE button at the top of the screen.
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  12. Assuming everything went well during the creation process, you’ll receive a confirmation message that the group has been created.
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  13. Click the My groups link in the left column to return to your groups list.

Section 2: Invite Members to the Group

Now that my group has been created, it is time to add members to the group.  If you have been following along, you should currently be viewing the “My groups” page, listing your newly created group (as well as any other groups you own or are a member of).  If you’d like to access this list (and manage your groups) at another time, just go to https://groups.google.com (or click the Groups link on the black bar), then click the “My groups” link in the left column (as seen below).
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star_smallTip: If you already have the email addresses corresponding to the students in your class in a comma delimited email list (see my previous post on exporting rosters from Skyward),  you could just paste that information into the “Enter email addresses of people to invite” text field instead of adding the members individually as instructed below.

  1. In the right column, Click the link matching the name of the group you’d like to work with.  For my example, I’ll click CG-Blatti-1st.
  2. Click the Manage button near the top right corner.
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  3. Click the Invite members link in the left column.
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  4. Click in the “Enter email addresses of people to invite” text field and begin typing the name or email address of a user you’d like to add to the group.  You can either click his or her name when it appears in the displayed list, or continue to type until there is only one name in the list, then press the Tab or Enter on the keyboard to add that name to the list.
  5. Repeat the previous step until all users that you would like to invite are listed.
  6. An invitation message is required, so type an applicable message in the “Write an invitation message” text field.
  7. Click Send invites to invite the listed users to the group.

Invitees will receive an email that looks similar to the one below.
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They will need to click the accept link in the email to join the group.  I’d suggest informing the members that they will be receiving this email and what to do with it (click the accept link) before sending the invitations.  After clicking the accept link, the members will receive a confirmation message, similar to the one seen below. (sidenote: Google – please fix the CSS for this page, seriously.)
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As the group owner, you can see and manage a list of all the group members and their roles at any time by clicking All members from the left column of the groups interface. Now that we’ve done all the setup legwork, now let’s discuss the easy part – using it.

Section 3: Email the Group

When I created the group above (section 1, step 6), an email address was automatically generated and assigned to the group.  In my example, that address was “cg-blatti-1st@d155.org”.  Simply send an email to the group email address, and the email will be delivered to all the members of the group.  You should be able to use Gmail or any other email client (in my case, Outlook).  I previously setup the group so that only the group owner (myself) has the ability to email the group; only email sent from my account will be delivered to the group.

Section 4: Assign Access to the Group for Items in Google Drive

Assigning access to folders or individual items in Google Drive is just as easy.

  1. Open Google Drive in your web browser (http://drive.google.com), or click the Drive link in the black bar at the top.
  2. Right-click the item or folder you want to share, hover over the Share… menu with your cursor, then left-click Share… from the resulting contextual sub-menu.
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  3. Click in the Add people text field, then begin typing the group name or email address.
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  4. Click on the desired group when it appears, or continue to type until it is the only option in the list, then hit the enter (or tab) key on the keyboard.
  5. Select the appropriate permission level by clicking the Can edit link to the right of the the group name.
  6. Apply your desired notification options, then click the Share & save button to complete the action.

Section 5: Manage the Group

You can access and manage all of your groups at any time from the Groups web page.

  1. Open Google Groups in your web browser (http://groups.google.com), or click the Groups link in the top black bar from any other Google page.
  2. Click My groups, then in the right column, click the link to the group you’d like to manage.
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  3. Click the manage button, then the applicable section in the left column.
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You can change settings, permissions, and manage membership from this single location.  Detailed information about all of the management options is available on Google’s Groups support page.

If you have any questions or comments about this post, please leave a reply below.

2 thoughts on “Keep Your Classes Organized With Google Groups

  1. There are still some limits. Free Google Apps account users are limited to a maximum of 10 groups, with each group having a maximum of 100 members. Google Apps for Business and Education (including the Nonprofit Edition) users can have as many groups as needed. The sending limit for Google Apps for Business and Education users is higher than the free editions, allowing up to 10,000 external recipients per day. Organizations with large numbers of users have even higher limits.

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