The Dark Side of GDocs? – Transferring Ownership

We’ve starting implementing Google Docs pretty heavily at our school. It’s the perfect solution to share and collaborate on documents with colleagues. There are many important curriculum documents that are created by individual teachers. With GDocs it is a simple process to work on these documents and develop this curriculum collaboratively.

As with many international schools, however, we have a pretty decent turnover rate of teachers at our school. Our average length of stay for teachers hovers right around 4 years.

And this is the dark side of going Google: What happens when a teacher leaves the school and we delete their Google Apps account? All of that data is also deleted. All of those shared documents and all of that institutional knowledge is gone unless you take precautions and prepare those teachers in advance.

So, what are the solutions?

Actually, for the leaving teacher it is pretty easy. Although you cannot transfer ownership of documents outside of your school domain, it is a pretty simple matter to use Google Takeout (thanks to the Data Liberation Front) to download all of the items in your Google Drive (or selected folders).

But what about those documents that need to stay within the institution? There might be a better way, but here’s what I’ve come up with:

Transfering ownership of Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, and Forms: These native formats can easily have their ownership transferred to a departmental or institutional account. For example, if I have Math curriculum documents, I can put all of these in a single folder, select all and transfer ownership to (If this is a new account, you may need to share it with this account first, and then transfer ownership.) Because you are transferring ownership and not creating a new document, the URL should remain the same and any existing links to that document should still work. Also, the existing sharing settings should remain the same. You can also use this method to transfer ownership of any of your documents to anybody else in your school like a co-teacher or your department head.

Transferring ownership of non-native GDoc formats such as PDFs, JPGs, and MS Word files: The method above does not work with other files that you have uploaded to Google Drive, unfortunately. However, once you have gone through the process above and have also removed any personal or non-essential files from Google Drive, the Google Apps administrator has the ability to “bulk transfer” ownership of all files from one user to another. This transfer could be to an archive account ( If teachers find they need a file and the owner is listed as “archive” they can then either request a transfer of ownership (if it is a native GDoc that was accidentally overlooked) or could make a copy of the file. After a set period of time (6 months? 1 year?) I would delete all archived worked permanently.

Transfer Docs

Thoughts? How do you handle this at your school?

7 thoughts on “The Dark Side of GDocs? – Transferring Ownership

  • June 5, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Hey Clint…thanks for sharing your thoughts on transferring resources. We have created some sign-out protocols for people leaving that is similar involving the creation of department alias in google. We encourage them to first make copies of all docs shared with them they wish to keep – then use Takeout. After the teachers use google takeout — then we can transfer resources to the appropriate place…another suggestion I made was to share the documents you specifically feel are departmental with the dept. alias…dept. heads could then change sharing rights in each doc they feel is relevant. I think the whole transfer piece really hinges on how organized someone keeps their GDrives. Either way it is a heck of a lot easier than lugging around paper folders and 3 ring binders. These are the cool kinds of problems that innovation eventually solves.

  • June 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    @Tim I think you’re right: the issue is about organization more than anything else. Since this is relatively new to a lot of us, we haven’t really thought about how our organization today will help/hinder us a few years into the future. And it’s hard to convince somebody of the importance of this until it is too late!

    We have developed some protocols as well, though I’m sure they are incomplete at this point. I’m hopeful that they will continue to be refined and updated as time goes on. I’m sure one day soon some very bright person will develop a tool that makes all this relatively obsolete!

  • June 5, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I think many schools will end up creating “organizational” accounts for this in the future like “msoffice” or “admissions”

    Further – why delete teacher accounts when you can just disable them? Then if they are in a folder with edit rights ownership is not really a big deal

  • June 5, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    @Justin By disable, do you mean suspend their accounts? Can it really be this simple??? If accounts are suspended and then moved into an “old accounts” suborganization, this should allow access to any shared documents still held by this account right?

    Will there be an issue if schools have connected their GApps accounts to Active Directory? Would this mean you couldn’t delete these account from Active Directory? This is nowhere near my comfort zone…

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  • March 12, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Hey Clint,
    Reviving an old thread here. I assume you have been through a year of this by now and gearing up for another end of year… We plan to just make sure that we never delete anyone’s accounts. They will be disabled from access, but we don’t feel the need to transfer the ownership. Did that work for you too? Also, you wrote about some protocols above, but the document is not shared outside of UNIS… which you don’t likely have access to anymore… ahem… any chance you still have access and can share?

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