Control your files

(a five-minute guide for students)

At an ALIAWest event last month in Perth, I was surprised to learn of a recent Australian survey which found that students prefer print over digital for their reading preferences. Nicole Johnston and Alicia Salaz surveyed 582 university students at Edith Cowan University in Perth, and presented their findings at the VALA 2018 conference.

This preference for print reading made me think of a set of beautifully colour-coded, highlighted, printed and filed paper notes which aren’t digitally searchable. These could be seen as information silos, where useful information is divided and trapped.

information silos in the 1960's

Imagine yourself in a year’s time. What information from your studies might you want to find? Instead of approaching study unit by unit, you could think of it as building up your own personal collection of knowledge.

Where’s my stuff?

Try to leave your files in a state that the future version of you can use. The real test of a useful filename is if you found it abandoned on its own, would you know what it was? You can make up any file and folder naming convention, as long as it’s meaningful to you. Here’s an example:

Naming folders and files

For students using an online learning management system like Blackboard, beware. Your access to unit materials can disappear into a black hole at the end of semester. Save as you go each week, including keeping a copy of your assignments and all the lovely feedback from lecturers.

Backup all the things

A common backup strategy is the 3-2-1 Rule. For me this means the main copy on my laptop, a copy in the cloud (OneDrive), and another copy on an external drive. If you are feeling brave, check that you can restore files from your backups.

Control over your files does take a little time to set up, but the benefits are that your information will be searchable, backed up, restorable and reusable.


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