Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Resolutions for Online Students and Faculty

Here are a few thoughts for good things to do for the new year when you spend a lot of time online:
  1. Backup!!!!!!
    You put a lot of effort into those papers, presentations, and projects. Make sure you have at least one backup copy of your hard work. I try to have both local and online copies: such as a CD copy and a copy emailed to my Gmail account.
  2. Clean up the computer.
    Now that you've got those important files backed up, you can clean up after yourself. Organize your files (I have folders for classes and projects), get rid of old drafts and unused images, etc.
    Do you have a lot of articles you've downloaded and want to keep for future reference, but are currently cluttering up your drives? You can upload PDF files of articles to Refworks, creating your own article library accessible from any web computer. If you have non-PDF copies of articles, you can Print/Export to PDF in many applications these days (especially on Macs), or use an online converter like Zamzar to create a PDF (there are lots of PDF creators available, this is just the one I'm using most often). If you have hard copy you want to convert, but don't have good scanner software, you can convert individual page TIF files (a common scanner format) to multi-page PDF's using DocMorph from the National Library of Medicine. Docmorph can handle other graphics files, too, so whatever your scanner produces can probably be converted.
  3. Update your software.
    Did you say No/Cancel several times this semester because the update message came by just as you needed to upload files or finish a paper? Check your operating system, Adobe Reader, web browsers, office suites, etc. But especially check your anti-virus, Internet firewall, and anti spy/adware programs.
  4. Think about what you do and what you are using. Are you using a particular service or software because you always have or because it does what you want, just the way you like it? What do you want your software to do? Do you want something simpler or something with more features? Are there essential features that you must have? (For instance, I need a calendar that syncs to my Palm and to our online calendar system, so I have to use Outlook.) And, are you willing to pay for it? Once you've thought about all this, then...
  5. Consider alternatives/Try something new.
    Do you always use Google to search? Do you automatically choose a particular web browser? Different products and services have different features, and, as we're seeing today with Netscape, even old standbys don't always last. It's good to try something different every so often, but remember to stay open minded. The purpose of this exercise is to find something different, something that might be better (at least for some purposes), not to find a clone of what you already use. Be willing to experience a little awkwardness as you learn. (Obviously, don't try this when you are stressed by deadlines!) And remember, you can always go back to your old system. Or maybe you'll find that you'll end up using more than one: I use Google for most general searching, but I have better luck with businesses in Yahoo! Local. And for some things, I like Microsoft's Academic Live Search better than Google Scholar.
Have a Happy New Year, everyone!

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3 Comments:

Blogger Nicole Engard said...

I'd say this is a good list for lots of people - not just students and teachers!!

3:30 PM, January 01, 2008  
Blogger Rebecca Hedreen said...

Nicole,
These are good for anyone (in fact I was inspired by a number of similar lists), but I've found that many teachers and students need to be reminded. I think it has to do with being "off" between semesters, so you don't want to deal with updates and backups, and once the new semester starts, you're just too busy for most of this stuff. Happy New Year, and Happy Backups!

9:16 AM, January 02, 2008  
Blogger LNA said...

I found this amazing website it is a WEB 2.0 that supports all media files conversion it is called http://youconvertit.com, they can do the following:
1- Convert document, images, audio, video and Archived files.
2- Convert any Youtube and other Online Video to popular formats or download the video
3- Send file(s) up to 300 MB to friends or post it on any forum for 7 days
4- Convert any type of units (Acceleration, Area, Torque and others)

what makes them amazing is you can add up to 5 different file formats, i used them to convert a document and couple of audio files.

Try them and give me your feedback http://www.youconvertit.com

12:19 PM, January 02, 2008  

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