What is Google Sites?

This is part of a regular series of articles exploring some of the terms used in e-learning (view other articles in the series).  We’ll do our best to break down the jargon and explain what things are from a basic perspective.

Google Sites is a tool for creating and publishing websites. It is free, entirely online and very easy to use – you don’t need to have any experience in creating web pages, being able to create a Word document is enough to get started. The following short video gives a high-level introduction to Google Sites and how it can be used:

Why is it useful for education?

There are several reasons, such as:

  • Images, Videos, Audio and other files can all be made available
  • Hundreds of site templates are available to help create a site quickly and custom templates can easily be applied – making it straightforward to create sites for specific purposes
  • Page templates can be created and used for specific page types – allowing authors to focus on the content rather than the layout
  • Groups of people can work together on the same site, at the same time
  • Sites can be public, private or restricted to specific people – this makes it ideal for public portfolios and private project workspaces
  • Individual pages on a group site can be configured to only allow editing by specified people – enabling individuals to maintain their own parts of the site

Combined, these mean that Google Sites is very well suited to situations where students are working collaboratively to produce an attractive information resource, planning projects, or creating private resources to share with selected people (such as a portfolio). However, the flexibility of the tool means that it could also be used for creating sites to promote research or individuals to a wide audience.

How is it being used?

Google Sites Logo

Google Sites has been used very successfully with students at SHU, for example:

  • Sarah Procter, Development & Society, has used Google Sites with Early Years Professional students who need to develop portfolios of evidence to earn their professional status.
  • Michelle Blackburn and Lynne Booth, Sheffield Business School, used Google Sites to mimic a real-world activity likely to be encountered by their Human Resources students, such as adding and maintaining accurate information in a corporate website.

It has also been used in other educational situations:

  • All About Linguistics is an award-winning site created as part of an assessment by first year linguistics students at the University of Sheffield. A template for the overall site was created and the sub-topics were researched and developed by small groups of students, who were able update their own sections but could see the entire site. At the end of the assignment the site was made public and is now being used in schools around the world to help children gain an understanding of linguistics.
  • Blue Ridge Virtual Governor’s School in Virginia, USA, has used Google Sites for High School Seniors to present their project work portfolios in support of university applications.
  • Edina Public Schools in Minnesota, USA, uses Google Sites to provide information on Educational Technology to teachers in schools around the city.

How can you start using it?

All staff and students automatically have a Google account which can be used with Google Sites. To get started, log in at http://sites.google.com and click the ‘Create’ button. Help is available at https://support.google.com/sites

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