Students should use Google Docs now more than ever

A student studies in the Colvard Student Union Starbucks on Mississippi State University's campus. 

In the past few weeks, we have truly seen the world go to heck in a handbasket as widespread panic has coerced people across the U.S. into snatching up cleaning supplies, paper products, non-perishables and various other groceries in order to brace for a potential lockdown crisis. Shelves all around Walmart, Kroger and Sam's Club are swept clean of certain grocery essentials as the spread of COVID-19 looms with a threatening presence. Schools, bars, movie theaters, workout gyms, restaurants and any other typically crowded facility have barred the public from their premises in an effort to avoid extensive personal contact and spread of the disease.

As universities across the U.S. have essentially closed their classrooms off from students, courses have moved toward online instruction, so students must finish off the semester from home. Since the rapid outbreak of the coronavirus during Mississippi State University's 2020 spring break, my support for Google Docs has strengthened, for the pandemic has expanded nationwide and reshaped our education experience for the remainder of this semester and potentially for the rest of 2020.

With Google Docs, MSU students affected by the closing of their residential halls and classrooms do not have to travel back to Starkville just to retrieve their computers for unfinished essays or electronic class notes. Google Docs is available through a number of digital formats, so users can obtain their schoolwork through at-home desktops, library computers or even the Google Docs phone app.

For those who have yet to switch over to Google Docs, the opportunity still exists for you to take full advantage of its uses. If you are traveling back up to your campus residence or Starkville apartment to retrieve your school documents needed for online instruction, simply transfer major documents needed for the next few weeks of class onto a Google Doc instead of keeping up with a pesky USB flash drive to hold all your vital notes and essays. That way, once face-to-face instruction resumes in full gear, you have all notes and papers ready for use at home, at the library, on your phone and more.

Do not let the cause for social distancing inhibit your ability to peer edit, collaborate or communicate with other students in your courses. According to Wrike, Google Docs' collaboration tool allows for real-time feedback, commenting, editing and updating of particular shared documents with other users. The collaboration also extends to other Google apps which let users create spreadsheets, presentation slides, calendars and more. Though the coronavirus quarantine limits the amount of contact you can have with peers, Google Docs breaks this barrier by allowing you to share your personal and academic work with classmates beyond campus confines.

Although MSU offers the Microsoft Office Suite that includes apps like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint free for all students, creating a Google account, which allows access to Google apps like Docs and Slides, is free for everyone, non-students and all. According to Microsoft's products website, you can pay a one-time fee of $149.99 to download three Office apps to one computer, a yearly fee of $99.99 for six Office apps available for up to six devices or a yearly fee of $69.99 for six Office apps available to one device. While Microsoft Office access for MSU students is free now, it will cost once they become alumni. Google applications, including Docs, are entirely free and offer free updates unlike Microsoft Office, which requires a subscription to receive the latest applications and updates. Therefore, students should grow accustomed to using Google Docs before life after MSU hits, and they no longer have free access to Microsoft Office.

Not only is Google Docs free to use but it saves all data to the Cloud, allowing the user to access the files at any time or place with internet access. The document is automatically saved as it is typed, and there is no need to download the document because it is backed up to the Cloud. According to Google Drive, one Google account allows up to 15 gigabytes of storage including photos, documents, emails, videos and more. One of my favorite reasons for using Google Docs over any other word processor is its convenience of access. With one's documents backed up to their Google Drive, all one needs is the internet to access any and all documents created, which is extremely useful for college students whose schoolwork extends beyond just their dorm rooms.

I have heard countless horror stories of students losing all their schoolwork because their laptops were damaged from car wrecks or from the infamous monsoon seasons in Starkville. With Google Docs, this concern poses less of a threat to one's schoolwork, since students can work on their papers beyond that one specific laptop's hard drive. Though the sudden shift to online instruction lessens the threat of potential rain damage, the convenience of Google Docs' accessibility supersedes anything its competitors like Microsoft Word have to offer.

According to Brian Ries and Meg Wagner of CNN, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus, many colleges are considering maintaining online instruction throughout the upcoming fall semester instead of reverting back to face-to-face instruction. MSU has already designated online instruction for 2020 summer courses, so at this rate, the potential threat of an entire fall semester online provides all the more reason to hop onto the Google Docs train.

Because of the rampant spread of COVID-19, we need to prioritize our health through clean habits and limited social excursions. Luckily, with the aid of Google Docs and its advantageous features, we are better equipped to ease into this new transition of online instruction.

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