File-Naming Conventions

If you don't already do so, I'd suggest you establish and enforce file naming conventions for files that students submit to you. For example, let's say I require a draft curriculum development plan from students in my online, graduate course on this topic. Here are some examples of the names files I would receive if I didn't give them directions:

  • submission.doc
  • plan.docx
  • myplan
  • DRAFT PLAN FOR ASSIGNMENT # 3.1 FOR ITEDU 694 BY CARRY ICULUM.DOC
  • Smith plan.ppt.doc.ppt
  • Mary's plan in seven parts.zip
  • What a mess. Imagine 20 of these (that's our class size limit for grad courses here) in a directory on your hard drive. Yikes.

    Now let's say that I required them instead to submit a single document in Word 2003 format. The file name they use would begin with their last name (followed by their first name for those where the last name is not unique in the class), followed by "PlanDraft01.doc" and I would give them the example that my submission would be:

    FlowersPlanDraft01.doc

    I would also point out that there are no spaces or non-alphanumeric characters used (other than the period).

    Now, the directory on my hard drive would have all of their work organized by last name. If there is a second draft, I can see it by the number changing. I can distinguish a draft from a final submission. If I comment on their draft, I append "Commented" to the filename just before the period.

    Students will forget to do this, so I'd recommend that you first give each person a warning. For publicly submitted works (like attachments to forum postings,) a public correction can go a long way. But if they do this the second time, I'd suggest you deduct points for failing to follow file-naming conventions. Enforce this. Hit them in their grade and they'll typically pay attention.

    The result is that you'll not only save time in seeing at a glance what each file is and being able to find the file you're looking for, but you'll also minimize file misplacement. It also helps students realize the need for their own file organization.

    Saving Time in Online Teaching ©Jim Flowers, Dept, of Technology, Ball State Univ.