What is Dropbox

Dropbox is a file hosting service that allows files and folders to be saved and shared through the cloud.

What is the purpose of Dropbox

The purpose of Dropbox is to allow access to files from any device through a secure login. Files can be uploaded to the Dropbox folder on one device (i.e. a desktop) and accessed on another device (i.e. a laptop). Users are also able to share folders or subfolders and their contents with others, if they enable file sharing.

How to use Dropbox

After creating an account with Dropbox, users can upload and access their Dropbox folder and files in one of three ways:

  1. through the Dropbox web application
  2. through the Installed Dropbox file integrated with their local device
  3. through the Dropbox mobile app installed on their tablet or smartphone.

Through all three points of access, files can be viewed, uploaded, downloaded or shared with others.

Where to find Support

This tool is not centrally supported

Help and Documentation

For help, please refer to the Dropbox documentation

Supported Tools to Consider

Tool Evaluation

Functionality overall rating: 2 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 3 stars


The tool can be scaled to accommodate any size class with the flexibility to create smaller sub-groups or communities of practice

Ease of use rating:3 stars

Ease of Use

The tool has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 2 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

Technical support and help documentation is available in the form of web pages or videos

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


The tool allows users to communicate through different channels (audio, visual, textual) and allows for non-sequential, flexible/adaptive engagement with material

Accessibility overall rating: 2 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 2 stars

AODA Friendly

Dropbox has some limited capacity to be fully accessible for users or for materials to be made AODA-friendly. The Dropbox program may have difficulty working with Screen Readers. Any files uploaded and shared through Dropbox would need to be made accessible by users before sharing.

User Foused Participation rating: 2 stars

User-focused participation

As a file sharing space, Dropbox has some limited capacity to address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities

Required Equipment rating: 3 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of the tool does not require equipment other than a computer and access to the internet

Technical overall rating: 2 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
OWL Integration rating: 2 stars

OWL Integration

Dropbox users can choose to make their files available through a link, which can be added to OWL

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

Users can effectively utilize Dropbox with any standard, up-to-date operating system (i.e. Windows 10, Apple OSX, etc.)

Web Browser rating: 3 stars

Web Browser

Users can effectively utilize the tool with any standard, up-to-date web browser (i.e. Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 etc.)

Additional Tech Requirements rating: 3 stars

Additional Tech Requirements

Users can effectively utilize Dropbox without any browser extensions or downloaded software. While Dropbox can be accessed through a web browser, desktop and mobile app downloads are available for greater access

Mobile Design overall rating: 3 star Mobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

The tool is fully functional with a range of electronic mobile devices (laptops, tablets, touchscreens, mobile devices, etc.)

Mobile Functionality rating: 3 stars

Mobile Functionality

There is little to no functional difference between the mobile app and the main tool

Offline Access rating: 3 star

Offline Access

Files can be marked for offline access. See How can I access my files offline?

Usage and account set up overall rating: 2 starsUsage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 2 stars

Sign Up/Sign In

An account is needed to create and share Dropbox folders. Dropbox encourages users to create accounts, but it is not necessary - an account is not needed to view and download files that have been made publicly available through a link.

Cost of Use rating:  2 stars

Cost of Use

2GB of storage is provided to users free of charge. A fee structure allows users to purchase more storage space for their Dropbox account.
Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 3 star

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

Users can archive, save, or import and export content from Dropbox in a variety of formats

Data Privacy and Ownership rating: 3 star

Data Privacy and Ownership

Users maintain ownership and copyright of their intellectual property/data; the user can keep data private and decide if/how data is to be shared. See Is Dropbox safe to use?

Social Presence overall rating: 2 starsSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 2 stars


Dropbox has the capacity to support a community of learning through asynchronous but not synchronous opportunities for communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between users

User Accountability rating: 2 stars

User Accountability

Instructors cannot control student anonymity but the tool provides some solution for holding students accountable for their actions. Folders are shared between users through an email address, which may be an anonymized ID.

Diffusion rating: 2 star


Student familiarity with Dropbox is likely mixed, some will lack basic technical competence with its functions

Instructor Presence overall rating: 2 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating:2 stars


Dropbox is intended for file sharing and has limited functionality specific to supporting an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagement

Customization rating: 3 stars


Tool is adaptable to its environment: easily customized to suit the classroom context through folder structure

Learning Analytics rating: na stars

Learning Analytics

As a file sharing platform, Dropbox was not designed to provide learning analytics. Little data can be collected on a user’s activities within Dropbox (i.e. access, download of shared files)

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

Rating Rationale
Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s) rating: 2 stars

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

Given the way Dropbox supports file sharing, it is possible that it could contribute to enhanced cognitive performance as a supportive process tool.

Higher Order Thinking rating: 2 stars

Higher Order Thinking

Dropbox may engage students in higher order thinking skills (given significant consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Feedback on Learning rating:2 stars

Feedback on Learning

Opportunities for receiving formative feedback on learning are available, but infrequent or limited (i.e. poor opportunities for tracking performance, monitoring improvement, testing knowledge on a regular basis)

Security and Privacy

This tool has not been formally reviewed by Western’s Technology Risk Assessment Committee

Security and Privacy Flags


  • Users are required to create and use a non-Western account. It is highly recommended that users do not use the same username and password that is in use at Western.

Information Collection

  • Application collects information that could identify the user specifically (email address, class schedule, etc..)
  • Application collects information that is confidential (physical address, drivers licence number, health card number, social insurance number)
  • This application may use profile information and/or provided data for marketing purposes


  • Acceptance of the Application's Terms of Conditions or End User License Agreement may bind the institution to an agreement thereby requiring legal counsel to review the application contract.

Cost and Approval

  • The application may require the instructor to enter credit card information
  • The application may require students to enter credit card information


  • This application is hosted outside of Canada

Last Updated: January 22, 2020


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