June 30, 2020

Google Sites as Online Teaching Aids

By: Jenna Dufour, Research Librarian for Visual Arts, University of California, Irvine

What are Google Sites and Why Use Them?
Google Sites are a web page creation tool offered by Google with a goal of allowing anyone to create simple websites that support collaboration between editors. I started to use Google Sites before the days of COVID-19 when I needed to compile resources, links, and information for MFA students looking for grant and residency opportunities. The Art Research Guide did not work for the kind of information architecture I had in mind, so I wanted to try something new! Feedback on the site I created was so enthusiastic that I have continued to use them as alternatives to traditional course guides while working remotely. Google Sites are also a wonderful tool to provide asynchronous instructional content as they have the ability to embed interactive elements, such as quizzes and video tutorials. For students in art and humanities, visual content is always appealing, and Google Sites also offers more flexibility in terms of images and visuality than traditional LibGuide pages.

Examples:

Faculty Feedback:
I was delighted to receive positive feedback from faculty, from one saying the website was “an incredible tool chockfull of excellent information” to another professor indicating that students wanted the website link right away after I gave a presentation using it. A visiting artist even said: “Geez, I wish I would’ve had resources like this when I was in art school!” I think the biggest advantage is that Google Sites are meeting students where they are in that they are already familiar with their Google accounts, working with shared Google docs, and other Google products. It may seem more accessible to them to create a fun and easy website for their research skills rather than using a traditional library website/LibGuide.

Assessment/Analytics:
Setting up analytics with Google Sites is a bit of a headache, but it is possible to do if you want to get a sense of how much traffic went to your site as well as how many page views each part of the website gets. To learn more about how to connect a Google Analytics tracking ID with your Google Site, visit this page.

Some Final Tips:

  • Skill Share Resources
    Interested in learning more? Watch this Skill Share recording from 03/2020 led by Stacy Brinkman, Head of Education & Outreach, UCI Libraries (see end of post or click here).
  • Design Takes Time
    The templates and text font offerings in Google Sites are quite limited, so it can take a good chunk of time to design something that is aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t have the extra time, just keep it simple!
  • Log Out
    When you present your site (in person or on Zoom), if you are still logged into your Google Account in the same window/browser, the website may look a bit differently. Be sure to log out or use an incognito window!
  • Embed into an Existing Research/LibGuide
    Most faculty have just asked for the Google Site link to put into their Learning Management System (LMS), but if a student uses virtual chat or other kinds of reference help and asks about the site, colleagues should be able to find it. It is a good idea to still link out from your main Research Guide so that others can discover it. For example: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/art/S20ahmethods.
Example of embedding/linking a Google Site for a course into an Art/Art History LibGuide.

Skill Share Video:

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