Creating a Timeline with Timeline JS

Recently, I found myself testing different timeline creation tools to see how well they worked and how hard they were to work with. Technical challenge is an important consideration for course activities, as any difficulties I face in testing will be magnified by the number of registered students. Even small problems hinder scalability. In some cases there may be a hundred or more students attempting to figure out a new tool, all at the same time. If just ten percent of them get stuck, that can mean tens of hours—if not days—of cumulative delay while the issue is sorted out. And it’s often much worse than that. Sometimes a third-party tool integration is seamless; sometimes it’s a distraction; and sometimes it derails everything.

This time I think I found a tool that is powerful, looks good, and yet is simple enough to scale. Actually, I didn’t find it so much as I rediscovered it. Timeline JS has been around for awhile. I remember playing with it years ago. It had some kinks, then, that needed working out (for exactly the same reasons as laid out in my opening paragraph). I’m so happy to say that it appears those kinks have been worked out, because now I have a new tool that I’d like to recommend to everyone:

Timeline JS is a timeline creation tool that uses Google Sheets as the interface to author content. Now, working in a spreadsheet sounds terrible, but they’ve taken advantage of the parameters and clarity of a spreadsheet to make every step very clear. Probably the nicest aspect of Timeline JS is that users are restricted entirely to writing and linking to content—which would be an issue if their product didn’t look so good already.

Timeline from https://timeline.knightlab.com/

The steps are very clearly laid out on their website. All a student has to do is copy the Google Sheets template; populate it with text, links to resources, citations, and all the other meta-tagging options available within the template; and, once the spreadsheet is complete, publish and paste its URL within the Generate Your Timeline field at the bottom of this page. The timeline produced tends to look good without requiring the student to fuss with proportions, colors or styles, which puts the onus on content, where it should be.

Give it a try, and let us know what you think. Is this something you can see using in one of your courses?

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