Organizing with Technology

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain how you can use technology to stay organized

Understanding Organizing with Technology

Organizing with technology is important for online learners because the class format is quite different from a face-to-face course on campus. In a face-to-face course, for instance, you’ll typically meet with your instructor and the other students in your class at least once a week and receive frequent reminders about when assignments are due.

In an online environment, though, it’s up to you to remind yourself. Luckily, there are a lot of tools available to help you get started. But first, it’s important to get organized.

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Organize Your Environment

Time of Day

First, identify what time of day you are most productive. Are you most alert and fresh in the morning? Do you prefer to work at night, when you’ve accomplished your other tasks for the day? Or is there some other time of day that works best for your studies? It can really help to set up some kind of schedule so you know when you will be sitting down to accomplish the requirements for your course.

Study Location

Second, decide where to study. Some people prefer to work at home; others find that setting too tempting or distracting. Some prefer the quiet of a library while others appreciate the background activity they find at a café. Make sure you have a plan B location in case your first location doesn’t work out on a given day (maybe someone in your home is having company over or there isn’t any more seating available at the local cafe).

Study Set-up

Third, what conditions will enable you to concentrate and learn most effectively within your study space? Your motivation can be influenced by the noise level, temperature, and light in the place you choose. So bring a sweater, pack some headphones, or do anything else that will allow you to tailor your environment to your personal preferences. Once you find what works best for you, you can make the adjustments you need to be comfortable and get to work!

know where you can plug in

Decorative image.Know where you can plug in. Identify several places with free wireless Internet: that way, if one network is down, you will have an alternative location for getting assignments in on time. This rule doesn’t only go for wireless either. Electrical outlets can become hot real estate if others have the same idea as you. If you’re planning to be at a given location for a long time, be aware of the availability of electrical outlets—the last thing you want is for your device to die in the middle of a study session or while you are working on an assignment.

Organize Your Course Materials

The second element you will have to organize is your course materials. You may prefer working with hard copies that you can print out and write on, or you may appreciate the ease and flexibility that comes with working digitally. Most students use a combination of both, depending on the course or a given assignment. But both require you to set up a reliable and convenient system so you can stay on top of your work. If you like to work with hard copies, find a place where you can keep all your school materials: books, notes, assignments, binders, and a calendar. Keep a stash of basic office supplies: pens, highlighters, paper, a stapler, binders, folders, index cards, or any other study aids you might need. Who doesn’t enjoy shopping for school supplies?

Create an Organizational Style

Create an organizational style that works for you. The Internet can be really helpful here—a quick Google search or a few minutes on a visual bookmark site like Pinterest might give you some helpful tips and ideas that could actually make a practical task like organizing exciting and (dare we say?) enjoyable.

If, on the other hand, you prefer the ease and convenience that comes with an electronic (or digital) system, you still have many options for how to organize your materials. Again, you’ll still want to have a place where you can store and find your materials. Which device will you keep your materials on? Where will you store your back ups? If you’re saving your files on different devices, you may find yourself wasting a lot of time trying to locate a particular document. Avoid this problem by creating an electronic organizational system that works well for you.

You may want to store files on your own personal computer, or you may want to take advantage of publicly available computers and store your work on a removable hard drive. Any of these hardware options (or combinations of them) should work just fine.

Another option is to keep your files in the cloud, or in online storage. This storage option may mean emailing yourself copies of assignments or tapping into the free resources offered by cloud-based services. If your files are saved in the cloud, you will be able to access them from anywhere—as long as you have access to the Internet. Some examples of cloud-based storage services include the following:


Keep at least one backup for each of your files and store them in a different place than where you usually access them. So if you save your files on your personal laptop, save them also in the cloud or on an external hard drive. That way, if (knock on wood) your computer crashes, you won’t lose all your work.

calendarOrganizing your Time

The last thing you’ll need to organize is your time. The first thing you’ll want to do when you sign up for an online class is to read the syllabus (thoroughly!) and familiarize yourself with class requirements and assignment due dates. Write these down immediately—it will help you get an idea of what the rest of the term will look like and how the course will be paced. Above all, it will make sure that you don’t have any surprises midway through the term—you won’t want to realize that your first big essay is due the day before the midterm when it’s too late to get either assignment done well.

Create a calendar that you can fill out as soon as you receive the syllabus and that you can update and consult periodically throughout the semester. You might want to use Google calendar, iCalendar, or another cloud-based system that you can check from any device and set up with notifications for when assignments are due, or you might find that the system that works best for you is an old-fashioned day planner or wall calendar. Use a reminder or alert feature built into an online calendar in order to keep yourself on track.

Organization tips for online classes

Check out the video below for more tips on how to stay organized while taking online courses.