ORGANIZING YOUR WORK

You can choose to organize your work in many different ways.  You can print all messages from the newsgroups or you can print only "important" messages like the syllabus and your assignments.  You can file your printouts in a binder, organize them in a portable file cabinet, or stack them around your computer room floor.  You can move newsgroup messages to a local mail folder on your computer or you can use the Windows™ file structure to "file" your messages and assignments. 

It doesn't matter how you organize your work as long as you are consistent. Decide on an organization plan before the class starts and stay with that plan. Even if you decide half-way through the class that you don't like the way you are organizing your work, don't change mid-stream. Six-week classes are too short to stop and re-organize in the middle of them. You'll risk getting behind in your work.

HOW I ORGANIZE MY WORK:

I made the decision many years ago to stop printing everything I wanted to keep. I was going through a ream (package) of paper every week--that's not too bad at $4.00 a ream or $16.00 a month. But I was also going through a black and color ink cartridge every month--that's about $50.00 a month! In addition to those costs, I had to buy three-ring binders, label-making kits, and lots of bookshelves. Plus I spent hours each weekend organizing all those papers! And the question kept coming up: Do I file this paper under the name of the class, under its subject, or under its author? Do I make a cross-reference binder so I can find information about a particular subject when I can't remember into which class I filed it?

It makes perfect sense to me to stop printing, especially in an online class. I now store all of my work on my computer--I don't print anything unless it's required. It was a hard adjustment at first because it was much easier to just hit the "print" button. In fact, I had to remove the "print" button from my browser's toolbar to keep me from printing by habit. At first, I still printed my research papers; but then it dawned on me that I write papers electronically, I check their spelling and grammar electronically, I submit them electronically, and my instructor reads them electronically. Why should I worry what it looks like on the printed page?

I have three computers, but I use the Windows™ operating system on all three of them (Windows 98™, Windows NT™, and Windows ME™). Windows™ has a wonderful feature called Find. Without that feature, I wouldn't feel comfortable filing everything electronically; but with Find, I can store documents anywhere and find them within seconds. Try to do that with a paper-based system!

Here's how I do it: I created a folder inside the Windows™ My Documents folder and called it UOP. Then inside the UOP folder, I create a folder for each class I teach. When I create a syllabus, lecture, or newsgroup message like this one, I store it in the folder for the appropriate class. To save "important" newsgroup messages, I use the "File" menu and select "Save As." The reason I place everything inside the My Documents folder is because I already back up My Documents on a regular basis, but I don't regularly back up anything else (I backed up my entire hard drive when it was new and I have the original install discs to all programs I have installed).

I also have other folders inside My Documents for subjects that interest me (like technology standards, constructivist teaching, low-fat cooking, Star Trek, and classic movies). As I'm browsing the Web, I'll save any pages or information I want to keep into their respective subject folder. The Windows™ operating system allows me to have thousands of files in one folder so I don't take the time to make sub-folders in each subject unless I have collected several thousand files or there are natural sub-categories. I also don't take the time to "clean up" the folders on a regular basis -- it's not worth my time to sort through old files since file space is so cheap and my time is valuable.

My computer's hard drive is very large (19 Gig), but it gets full on a regular basis. A few times a year, I move older files of My Documents folder to a CD-ROM disc*. I formerly used ZIP disks* but they aren't as fast to search as CD's and CD's can hold six times as much information. I used to use re-writeable CD-ROM discs but found that was a waste of money unless I planned on "cleaning up" files on a regular basis.

Now, when I want to find some information I stored (like a great recipe for low-fat oatmeal muffins), I simply use the Windows™ Find feature (in the START menu) and search through My Documents for "oatmeal muffins." Even with a 19-Gig hard drive, it has never taken more than 10 seconds to find anything I wanted. Try it, you'll like it (both the muffins and organizing your files this way).


*The spelling of disk (with a "k") is reserved for magnetic media like floppy disks, hard disks, and ZIP disks. The spelling of disc (with a "c") is reserved for optical media like CD-ROM discs, digital video discs (DVD), and laser discs. Magnetic media (disks) are read with a small magnet whereas optical media (discs) are read with a small laser light. If you have trouble remembering the distinction, remember that the physics constant "c" represents the speed of light (E=mc2).