From time to time, it happens to every student. An assignment deadline approaches, or the time for class is drawing near. You need to access that paper, spreadsheet, or presentation right away, and you can’t find it. What did you name the project? Where did you file it? And which draft is the final one? It has to be there somewhere… you just know it. But the clock is ticking, and you are now kicking yourself for failing to create folder names other than “My Documents” or “New Folder” and neglecting to title your files clearly. So you keep looking, knowing that your instructor is as likely to accept “I couldn’t find the file” as a valid excuse as he or she would buy “the dog ate my homework.”

To minimize the likelihood of this happening to you again, you may need to reconsider the organizational system you use. If you’re in need of pointers to accomplish this, consider these strategies pulled from Joel A English’s Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner, which can help you organize all your coursework on your computer:

1. Make one main file devoted to your schoolwork. English suggests naming it after your school.
2. Within this school file, create a subfolder for each class you take. (Tip: use the full name of the class – or, if that’s too long, use the department abbreviation and course number, e.g., ENGL 101.)
3. Give each file a clear and unique name, e.g. “US History Essay 1” or “Biology Lab Assignment 5.” (Note: some instructors require a particular file-name structure if the work is being submitted via e-mail or a dropbox. To ensure that your work will be accepted for full credit, pay attention to the guidelines provided in your syllabus, in class, or within the course LMS.)
4. Save your final file to the appropriate course folder. (p 62)

Though it can take a bit of time to get your computer set up, you’ll save yourself a great deal of frustration and stress later!

Reference: English, Joel A. Plugged In: Succeeding as an Online Learner. 2014. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What strategies do you employ for keeping your coursework organized and easy to access? Share your thoughts below.