How instructors and students share files

When an instructor creates an assignment, they can attach files such as Google Docs, PDFs, or other materials for students to work on. For example, they might include:

  • A Docs essay assignment
  • A PDF worksheet
  • A reference image

After an instructor publishes the assignment, students work on the files and can add their own materials. When students turn in their work, instructors can review and grade their work and files.

As files are exchanged between students and instructors, Assignments automatically manages Drive file permissions. When instructors receive student work, they automatically get edit access. 

The workflow when you grade in Google Assignments

Important:

  • Students can unsubmit their work:
    • Before an assignment’s due date
    • If an assignment doesn’t have a due date
  • Students can’t unsubmit their work:
    • After an assignment’s due date

Action: Instructor creates assignment, attaches files, and publishes assignment.

Result: Copies of attached files are made for each student. 

Action: Student adds and edits files and submits their work.

Result: File ownership transfers to the instructor. Student can’t edit their files, but can still view them.

Action: Instructor grades and returns the student's assignment.

Result: File ownership transfers back to the student. The student can edit their assignment.

Action: Student gets their grades and feedback.

Optional: Student can edit and resubmit their work.

1. Instructor attaches file and publishes assignment

File permissions after instructors publish an assignment:
  • Instructors:
    • Can view or edit student files before they turn in their assignments
    • Can’t remove assigned files from an assignment
    • Can find student files in the instructor's Assignments' course Drive folder
  • Students: 
    • Can add and edit files
    • Can find their files in their Assignments' course Drive folder

2. Student completes and turns in assignment

File permissions after a student turns in an assignment:
  • Instructors: 
    • Have full edit access to the student files
  • Students: 
    • Can't edit their files or view their instructor’s grading progress

A backup copy of every file saves to the student’s Assignments’ course Drive folder. The student owns the backup copy. It isn’t shared with the instructor.

3. Instructor grades and returns assignments

File permissions after the instructor returns the assignment:
  • Instructors: 
    • File ownership transfers back to the student 
    • Can still view and edit student files
  • Students: 
    • Own their files
    • Can review and revise their files

A backup of every graded file saves to the instructor's Assignments' course Drive folder. The instructor owns the backup copy. It isn't shared with the student and includes all comments or feedback in the original graded file.

4.Student gets their grade and can edit their assignment

When instructors return assignments, students regain ownership of their files and can edit them.

At the instructor’s discretion, students can make edits to their work and resubmit their files.  

The workflow when you grade in Canvas Speedgrader™

Important: Students can’t unsubmit files they upload. They can resubmit new versions.

Action: Instructor creates assignment, attaches files, and publishes assignment.

Result: Copies of attached files are made for and owned by each student.

Action: Student adds and edits files and submits their work.

Result: Files are uploaded to SpeedGrader™. Students can still edit their files and submit new versions.

Action: Instructor grades and returns the student's assignment in SpeedGrader™.

Result: Student gets their grade and feedback in Canvas.

Action: Student gets their grades and feedback in Canvas.

Optional: Student can edit their files and resubmit the assignment.

1. Instructor attaches file and publishes assignment

File permissions after the instructor publishes an assignment:

  • Instructors:
    • Can view and edit student files before they turn in their assignments
    • Can’t remove assigned files from an assignment
    • Can find the student’s files in the instructor’s Assignments’ course Drive folder
  • Students: 
    • Can add and edit files

2. Student completes and turns in assignment

File permissions after students turn in their work:
  • Instructors: 
    • Can still view and edit student files in Drive
    • Can grade student work in SpeedGrader™
  • Students: 
    • Keep ownership and edit access to their files
    • Can submit new versions of files
    • Have their files uploaded to SpeedGrader™

3. Instructor grades and returns assignments

File permissions after the instructor returns the assignment in SpeedGrader™:
  • Instructors: 
    • Can still view and edit student files in Drive
  • Students: 
    • Keep ownership and edit access of their files 
    • Can submit new versions of their files

4.Student gets their grade and can edit their assignment

After instructors return assignments in SpeedGrader™, students can edit their files and resubmit new versions. 

FAQ

How do instructors make a copy of each file for their students?

When instructors publish an assignment with coursework files attached from their device or Google Drive, Assignments creates a copy of each file for each student. The file is saved to an automatically created course folder inside the student’s Drive Assignments folder.

Can students submit Drive files they don’t own?

No. A student must own a Drive file to submit it with an assignment. Students can’t submit files others share with them. However, a student can make a copy of the shared file and submit the copy.

What happens if instructors accidentally remove a student's file?

In Drive, if instructors accidentally delete a student’s file, it might be available in their Trash folder. Instructors can restore the file from there. However, if they deleted the file from the Trash, the admin needs to restore it.

If the admin can’t restore the file, instructors can ask their student to unsubmit their assignment and resubmit it using the backup copy from their Assignments folder in Drive.

Can a student unshare a returned file?

Yes. However, if instructors need to view the file, they can open the backup copy in their Drive course folder.

How do instructors view a file they returned?

If the student’s file is still shared, the instructor can open the file in Assignments and find any current edits. If the student has unshared the file, the instructor can ask them to share it again in Docs or Drive.

To view files in their returned state, instructors can go to the Assignments folder in Drive and open the backup file. Backup file names begin with the prefix “Copy of.”

Why can't instructors edit a file?

  • Instructors should check if their file permissions are View only or Edit access. With View only, you can’t edit a file.
  • Check that you have Editing selected on the toolbar. If you have Suggesting selected, your edits show in green text with suggestions in the margin.
    Select Editing mode

What are file permissions?

File permissions determine what you can do with a file, based on your role. In Assignments, you have 2 types of file permissions: Edit access and View only. Assignments automatically sets the correct permissions for students and instructors when files are turned in or returned.
Note: If students have a file open in more than one tab, their permissions change to View only in all tabs when they submit the file.
With this file permission... I can: 
Edit access Make changes to the file. Create or delete content. Leave comments, suggested edits, or direct edits.
View only View the file, but not make any changes.

How can instructors check file permissions?

You can check file permissions when you open a file. If you can edit the file, you have Edit access. If you can’t edit the file, your permissions are View only. Permissions update as students and instructors exchange files. 

How can instructors collaborate on a file before a student submits it?

Before students submit an assignment, you can view and edit all attached files as an instructor. You can then review the student’s work and give feedback. The student can get your feedback, such as comments or suggested edits, and make changes before they submit their assignment.

How can students collaborate on a file before instructors return it?

Students can check your direct edits as an instructor to a file before you return it. They can’t see your comments or suggested edits until you return the file.

If you want students to see your comments and suggested edits before you return the file:

  1. Open the student’s file in the grading tool.
  2. Under Files, click Open in new window "".
  3. To give students edit access, share the file with them.
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