Commenting and OneDrive in the Classroom

There is educational value in having students comment on their classmates’ work.

OneDrive offers a unique way to share completed work with others. Instead of posting the work to a bulletin board you can place it online. Imagine your students opening a document posted to OneDrive. In the left pane is a preview of the file. In the right pane is a list of positive comments from their peers. The comments detail the aspects of the document that are well done. Fellow classmates have highlighted qualities they like such as an interesting facts, formatting options, or creative elements. By reading the comments students feel valued and appreciated because their efforts are recognized.

In today’s class my students experimented with the Comment system built into OneDrive. It was an exploratory activity. My expectations were low. It was my first time having students complete this type of task. I was worried that the computers would all freeze when everyone began commenting, especially if there were multiple users viewing the same document. I was pleasantly surprised when this DID NOT happen!

Everything ran smoothly. Students were able to open the documents and provide feedback. There was no lag time or freezing.

Exploration of OneDrive Commenting System

I am glad I took a chance and tried this type of activity. Here is what I observed during class:

  • All students provided positive feedback. No one made a negative comment.
  • There was a range in the quality of comments. Since this was just an exploratory class I was only testing to see if students could comment. When I complete a similar activity in the future (now that I know it works) I will spend more time directing students on how to provide helpful, specific, feedback.
  • Students were VERY enthusiastic. Often they would post a comment and then leave their seat to tell their friend to open their work so that they could ask them to read what they wrote. This resulted in me asking the students to stay in their seats, which then caused them to speak loudly to their friend across the room. So, as you can imagine, I had to rephrase my request.
  • Students would often comment on others comments. This showed that not only were they reviewing the work, but also reading the comments. Sometimes those comments took the form of mini conversations similar to a chat dialog. I think when this happened both students must have had the same document open at the same time, and were having fun chatting in real time about the work.

Five Benefits to Commenting

Today, commenting is part of our life. People can post comments about news articles, blog entries, videos, social bookmarks, social media posts, and more. It is highly likely that your students are already engaging in this activity. Why not make it have educational value? There are several benefits to commenting:

  1. Positive feedback boosts self-esteem.
  2. An audience of peers encourages students to do their best work.
  3. Reviewing another person’s work provides inspiration for future projects.
  4. Commenting promotes critical thinking as students need to closely study the work to notice the strengths.
  5. Commenting encourages responsible digital citizenship because students recognize their posts are public and must be phrased appropriately.

How to Prepare Student Files for Commenting

Do you want to engage your students in a similar activity? There are several steps that must be completed in advance:

  1. Create a Group.
  2. Invite students to join the Group.
  3. Create a folder in the Group and set the Sharing properties to members can edit.
  4. Upload student documents into newly created folder.

How to Add a Comment

Adding a comment is simple. My students are only in Grade 7 and they required VERY LITTLE instruction. If you have older students, they will catch on fast! Here is how you write a comment:

  1. Right click on a file and select Open in Word Web App.
  2. Click Comments.
  3. Select an item on the document you would like to comment upon.
  4. Click New Comment.
  5. Type comment.
  6. Click File – Exit to close document.

Commenting Tips

Here are some helpful suggestions:

    The first time Comments are added to a document this message may appear.
  • Load Comments Prior to Class: The first time you attempt to add a comment to a document OneDrive may post the following message Your document is almost ready for commenting! To begin commenting, Word Web App needs to reload to include recent changes to the document. This message is going to frustrate your students. When it appears, they have to click Reload, re-click COMMENTS, re-select text, and then re-click NEW COMMENT. To avoid this situation, activate Comments on each document prior to teaching class. Or at the very least, warn your students that this message will display.
  • Be the First to Comment: Take the time to review each document and post a comment. This will provide your students with a sample of how to provide feedback.
  • Select an Item in the Document First: Students must select text in a document before they can add a Comment. If they do not make a selection, they will receive an error message.
  • Practice Commenting Together: As a group, write a sample comment together. Have students suggest comments and then brainstorm ways to rephrase the feedback so it is higher quality.
  • Provide Examples of Low Quality Comments: Create a list of comments that are not specific, positive, or helpful. Let students know that those type of comments are restricted.
  • Be the Moderator: Read the comments posted. Delete those that are not appropriate or ask the student to rephrase the statement.

Reflection Questions about Commenting

In my next lesson I want students to reflect on the experience. Here are some of the questions I plan to pose:

  • How does the type of document alter the commenting process?
  • How does commenting help a person improve their work?
  • What types of comments are helpful or empowering?
  • What types of comments are hurtful and disempowering?
  • When might you want to post your work and allow comments?
  • When might you not want to post your work?
  • What are the limitations to OneDrive when it comes to sharing work? Is there a workaround?

Limitations of OneDrive Commenting System

The Commenting system on OneDrive has limitations and there are several areas for improvement. (Over time, I am hoping that the product evolves.) Here is what I have noticed:

  • Editing and Comments: A person should be able to act on the comments by making alterations to the document. Unfortunately, Comments cannot be seen when you edit a document using the Web Apps. They can only be seen if you open the document using a Desktop version of the program. That is a shortcoming.
  • Printable Comments: Comments are not printable. If you print the online document they are not included in the printout. Neither can you just print the Comments pane. I have tried using a screen shot to be able to create a printed record of Comments and this worked.
  • Permissions: File permission is a MAJOR flaw. At this time, if you permit a person to comment, they can also edit and download the file. That should not happen! I want four permission levels that could be set for every shared folder/file: 1. View only 2. View and comment 3. View, comment, and edit 4. View, comment, edit, and download.

I am the first to admit that today’s lesson was not perfect. In fact, since I was anticipating total network failure I remained surprised that everything was working and that this was possible. My next Commenting lesson will be way better. Hopefully these tips will help you too!