Using DropBox ‘File request’ for collecting homework

I just started experimenting with this new way of digitally collecting  homework from my students. It eases the collection process, saves on emails and file management, and, in a word, it saves me a bit of time :)

So far, the homework submission process looked like this:

  • homework received by email
  • responde to email to acknowledge receipt
  • copy homework file into adequate folder, depending on level, etc.
  • rename homework to something identifiable
  • file away both sent and received emails
  • repeat all of the above each time a student submits work
  • once all have submitted, mark homework

This was a little long and created countless interruptions in my daily work, and of course took a lot of my time.

Luckily, DropBox (referring link) has recently introduced a feature called ‘file request’, which can be used to ease the process above. The idea is to have the homework going straight to the right folder in your DropBox, and by extension on your hard drive, without using email. This used to be possible with a third party DropBox plug-in called DropItToMe, but this wasn’t really working well enough in my opinion. Now, the official DropBox feature seems to do the job just right.

So, here’s how you set it up:

On your DropBox web account page, look out for the ‘File request’ feature on the left.

DropBox file request





Open it, click on the large ‘Request files’ icon, and fill in the information requested:

Creating a file request







Choose which folder you would like the homework to go to, what you would like to call it (e.g. Beginners’ French homework submission), and, as I am discovering as I type this, you can add a deadline. Handy.

Click next and you will be presented with a web link, which you’ll need to share with your students. I chose to paste this link onto our VLE, with instructions explaining how students should name their files:

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 13.09.47




That’s, it, you’re all set up. Students will be able to submit their work using the link on the VLE, and the homework will simply appear on you hard drive, in the folder you chose (provided you are running the DropBox client on your computer, which I assume you are).

The only downside so far, for me anyway, is that you still get a notification email every time someone submits work. This cannot be turned off. A workaround is to create an inbox rule in your webmail or client to filter or delete incoming notifications.

Also, I imagine some of you may be using TurnItIn already, in which case this tip would be redundant. I think there are pros and cons to each method, but hopefully this one can suit some of you :)


Languages for Specific Purposes in HE 2015 – it’s happening!

So, happy days! I can now confirm that we are going ahead with the organisation of an event called Languages for Specific Purposes in Higher Education 2015. This will take place here in Manchester on 11th September. This is the event I talked about in my previous post (which goes back a while, yes).

As I explained previously, the idea of this event is to bring together colleagues from UK HEIs to discuss provisions and practices in LSP across the country. Think French for medics, German for engineers, and so on. It’s a very small scale event (20 attendees, for now anyway), and for this reason I won’t reproduce the call for registrations on this blog – the email was circulated earlier this week on the AULC mailing list. You can DM me if you are interested but missed the email.

I’m really excited about the idea that our event could make a very small contribution to the development of LSP provisions in this country. It’s been very interesting hearing about so many institutions who came back to us explaining what LSP courses they used to offer, and at the moment it certainly seems like the context is right for this type of courses to thrive again.

At some stage we’ll probably set a page, perhaps on this blog, to aggregate all slides from the event. More on this soon.

Languages for Specific Purposes – A talk to kick things off

Last week at the 2015 AULC Conference in Cambridge, Martin Kantus, David Tual (@AngloFLE) and I gave a talk entitled “What’s so special about LSP? (Languages for Specific Purposes)”. Martin and David teach languages to engineers in the language unit of the University of Cambridge, whilst I teach medical French here in Manchester.

The idea of this talk was to try and provide an overview of the literature in LSP, discuss the state of LSP provisions within UK language centres, share some of our experiences as tutors and course leaders, and generally speaking raise interest in LSP.

2015 AULC Conference

In a nutshell, it seems to us that the current upwards trends in so-called ‘non-specialist’ language teaching are creating a very fertile terrain for the development (in some cases, the re-development) of LSP provisions. We were very pleased to see the interest generated by our talk and were surprised to discover how many universities had, or had had, some form of LSP provision.

The next step is to gather in one room teachers, course leaders and policy-makers in order to get the ball rolling in our language centres. The demand for specialist language teaching is there, there is a surprising amount of expertise around, and the national HE context seems particularly favourable to the  development of LSP provisions. Now it’s up to us to get together, establish a road map and set the pace for this promising field in language teaching.

Interested in getting in touch and participating in a future LSP event? Get in touch. Lots more details as soon as I have them.