Another Hand-in Option

I had this blog post queued and ready to go to complement the Dropbox / post yesterday.  I didn’t expect the reaction to the original post though.  On Twitter, a spitting match about other services arose.  It’s always good to have a discussion but there’s no changing some people’s minds once they’re firmly convinced they’re right.  There was a great deal of positive feedback from people that I’m sure will give it a shot with students.  Then, there was a comment that Dropbox was blocked within a particular school district.  What a range of responses.  Anyway, I’ll proceed…

The Dropbox / combination seems to me to be very easy to set up and use.  Just put a link to your upload site in your wiki or on your webpage and students can easily submit assignments.  No degree in Computer Science is necessary.  The only minor gotcha is that you have to leave the current page to perform the action and once you’re there, the design of the upload page is not customizable.  For all intents and purposes, I would consider these to be insignificant when you’re looking for ease of setup and subsequent ease of use.

But, with a little more work, things can be a little more seemless.  There’s a tad more work setting up a Jotform but you might find it worthwhile for hand-in and much more.  There is a free version with paid upgrades.  I decided to give the free version a shakedown.

What Jotform does is prepare the interface with the code to create a real form for your wiki page.  Using a simple-to-use drag and drop interface, you just drag the elements that you want to appear on your form to a workspace.

Each of the elements is configurable.  I decided to see how difficult it would be to create a hand-in folder logic and then embed it into a wiki page.

I was quite impressed with the selection of tools along the left side.  I pulled out a Heading and then a File Upload tool and customized both.  Under Power Tools, I see that they have the ability to insert a Captcha.  I’ve always wanted to do that and now I could.  Just to be annoying, I decided to redirect back to my blog after a file was submitted.  What I really liked was the collection of themes to automatically colour and change the design of your form.

So, I played around for a bit and it was time to put it on my wiki page.  There’s an “Embed Form” that opens a huge collection of destinations for your form.  Unfortunately, PBWorks wasn’t one of them but I just asked Jotform to give me the Embed Code.  Once copied, I went to my wiki page and asked PBWorks to “Insert HTML”, pasted the code generated and saved it.  All’s good so far.  Time to test…

It worked as promised.  (The annoying redirect at the end of the submission is really annoying – I’d think that through better if I was going into production with this.)  So, where did the file go?  Jotform will store your submitted files on their site.  When you select “My Forms”, you get a listing of all of the forms in your workspace and a badge indicates the number of new items.

If you’re interested, you can also configure this to send your files to your Dropbox account.  Once you head off to check submissions, you can download a summary as an Excel or CSV file – a nice touch to compare against your class list to make sure that you’ve got them all.  The whole process went very nicely.  I registered and was up and running literally in minutes.  The flexibility and the ability to customize was quite impressive.

The catch?  Here’s the rub.  I was using the Basic version of the product.  Most of the features are available but there are some limitations designed to make you move to a commercial version.  You’re limited to 100MB of storage space and 100 uploads a month.  Jotform is nice in that it does support payment systems and SSL connections but, again, there is a limitation to the number that you can use.  The first price up is $9.95 a month.  That level gives the amount of functionality that you’d use in the classroom but that equates to $100 a year.  I don’t see too many teacher budgets affording that.  This really is a nice product, generating a nice interface using a best of class builder and toolset.  It’s a shame that there isn’t flexibility in pricing for education use.

But, if Dropbox is blocked at your district, this may prove to be an option that will work for you.

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OTR Links for 08/28/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.