Just as you’d take the time to set up your physical classroom for an optimal learning experience, it’s wise to consider what you can do to set up and maintain your computer in a manner that supports the goals you’ve established for your online course. Likewise, online students should consider their computers their classrooms and study halls, and therefore use their tech tools in a way that optimizes their ability to achieve academic success.

In their book E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success, Fourth Edition, Ryan Watkins and Michael Corry list some steps you and your students can take to ensure that your computers remain organized, optimized, and secure for the term ahead. We’ve summarized them below:

  • Keep your coursework—and your computer—organized. Create file folders for each course for easy retrieval. The authors also recommend creating file names that include a clear description as well as a date (which helps you easily identify which version of a document you’re looking at).
  • Minimize distractions. When you’re working online, it’s easy to get sidelined by e-mail, instant messaging, social media, or “brief” visits to our favorite websites. To stay on track, close or turn off any applications that are not essential to the task at hand.
  • Focus on one project or class at a time. Though working on multiple activities at one time may feel more efficient, you may find that dividing your attention among various projects may ultimately dilute your ability to devote adequate attention to any one of them. To reduce the temptation to multitask, close all files or windows that are not directly related to the project or assignment on which you’re currently working.
  • Back up your files. To ensure that you don’t lose access to critical files, save copies of your assignments to a CD-ROM, DVD, flash drive, or cloud-based storage, preferably on a weekly basis. (Backing up your files is also an essential part of an overall backup plan for accessing course resources.)
  • Keep your computer secure with anti-virus and anti-spyware software. And don’t forget to keep this software up to date! New viruses constantly appear on the scene.
  • If you need particular software for a course, install it at the start of the term. Once installed, confirm that it works; if not, take the time to contact technical support before you need to use it for assignments and other coursework.
  • Once the term has started, avoid downloading or installing any new software that is not needed for your courses. This can help decrease the likelihood that you’ll run into software compatibility issues, memory overload, or other computer problems. (pp. 55-57)

Reference: Watkins, Ryan and Corry, Michael. 2014. E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

What are your suggestions for creating an environment that’s conducive to effective online teaching and learning? Share your tips below.