Paperless like a pro: How to organize yourself online to avoid paper pileups
by UTEP Connect
Online classes can be a blessing, offering flexibility and convenience to students juggling work schedules and other obligations. Students returning to school are often surprised to find they don’t need binders, notebooks and heavy textbooks since everything is available online. However, you have to keep your digital life organized if you want to achieve online school success.
Benefits of paperless online classes
- Paperless classrooms are environmentally friendly. The need for folders, physical textbooks, pencils, pens and other traditional classroom trappings is significantly reduced (or even eliminated) by online classes.
- Going paperless cuts costs. Although technology can be expensive, you’ll discover that using a single device for your studies can save you money in the long run. The cost of traditional educational materials may not seem like much upfront, but it can quickly pile up.
- Students can learn and work at their own pace. Within traditional classrooms, students are expected to absorb information at the same rate, even if the pace doesn’t meet their needs. Through online learning, you can breeze through topics you find easy and spend extra time on tricky concepts.
- Paperless classrooms use up-to-date technology. This makes online students more digitally literate than their counterparts in traditional classrooms.
Start smart with effective systems
Students who are new to paperless classes often find it hard not to have paper copies of their syllabi, reading materials and assignments, but all these can be managed digitally when you keep things organized online.
Start on Day One by making a folder for each class on your computer and ensuring you download important things like the class syllabus and assignment instructions to place into the folders. That way, you won’t have to go online to check this information.
Organize your digital files
Every time you create or save a document on your computer, you’ll be creating a digital file. If these are not carefully organized and managed, they can be both difficult and annoying to locate, and the problems don’t stop there.
According to recent research, the chaos of a cluttered environment can restrict your ability to focus, as disorganized files will compete for your attention and reduce your mental resources.
While you’re at it, create a backup system by setting Microsoft Word to auto-save every few minutes so your hard work won’t digitally dissolve if the power goes out.
Store files in the cloud
With a service like Google Drive or Dropbox, you can access your files from anywhere and will have a backup if your computer crashes. Just like on a desktop or laptop computer, you should organize your cloud-based files with one folder for each class.
Use an online calendar to keep up with deadlines
Find a good online calendar that you can access via both your computer and your phone. Free choices such as Google Calendar, Zoho Calendar and 30 Boxes are all simple but powerful. Once you decide upon an online calendar, stick to it for the semester – if you use multiple calendars, an important assignment may fall through the cracks.
Speaking of due dates, be sure to add these to your online calendar on the day you receive your syllabus. It’s easy to put this off, but this is something you should do on the first day of class. As you enter each deadline, set reminders to keep yourself on track.
Make time to plan
Set aside a few minutes once a week to review the assignments due over the next two weeks, and make a task list to ensure everything gets done. If you have questions about an assignment, this is the time to email your professor or post a question in your online classroom.
You can also use this weekly check-in with yourself to set a study schedule. Make appointments on your calendar, and be sure to keep them. After all, your calendar should reflect what you actually accomplished on any given day – not what you wish you had done. For maximum effectiveness in tackling projects, break assignments into smaller pieces and set deadlines on your calendar for each piece. An early start gives you wiggle room if the project takes more time than you expect.
Seek help well in advance
Make an appointment for an online consultation with the writing center at least a week before your project is due. Not only will this online discussion improve your paper, having an appointment will force you to complete your work ahead of time.
In this fast-paced world, getting an online degree appeals to busy professionals with families and other personal commitments. Going to campus on a daily basis is often unrealistic when you have to work, cook dinner, help your kids do their homework and grapple with other things life throws your way. By using the organizational tips outlined above to manage your digital studies, you’ll have a much easier time pursuing your online degree.