How to Use Dropbox Effectively as a College Student
A lot of students no longer work alone. Collaboration is extremely important in the classroom and at the office, and an Information Age tool like Dropbox is a convenient and effective way to organize files, take notes, prepare for presentations and exams, and communicate.
Dropbox has more than 500 millions users. Users have shared files with each other more than 3.3 billion times. Major companies in the U.S. and elsewhere share files and collaborate across national boundaries.
About 20% of students and faculty who use it on college campuses have it on more than one device, including mobile devices, and they send almost 100,000 shared folder invites a week to people on their own campus. If you start to use Dropbox while you’re in college, chances are you’ll get a head start on using it in your career in this collaborative world.
Here are the top ways to use Dropbox effectively as a college student:
Take Better Notes, Prepare for Assignments, and Start a Study Group
Cal State in Fullerton started using Dropbox extensively on their campus in 2014, finding dozens of ways for students and faculty to increase productivity using it.
Dropbox Paper, for example, is a way to create a document native to Dropbox itself. In your Dropbox account, click on your icon in the upper-right corner, select Settings, then search for the “Paper” link to get started.
Dropbox Paper benefits students in seven ways:
- It allows you to take class notes without the hassle of physical paper that can get damaged or lost.
- Paper puts your notes on all your devices that have Dropbox, so you have quick access to them in various situations.
- You can change your notes after class. With old-fashioned, physical paper, if you were taking notes and ran out of space in one section, you’d have to write really small or overlap the sentences somehow to fit in new notes. But with Dropbox Paper, you just hit the Return key and add what you need to.
- You can turn parts of your notes into the start of an assignment. If a passage in your notes sounds particularly good, you can use it to answer a question in an assignment. Copy and paste from your notes (or use the info as a basis to paraphrase), and your assignment might be half-done already. Take good notes to save yourself time later.
- You can make a reminder for yourself in the notes if you didn’t understand a certain topic or just want to know more about it. You can use the Dropbox collaboration tools to message your professor about it to learn more. And when you get the answer, you can add it directly to your notes!
- Send your notes to other students when they have questions or missed class.
- You can start a study group and lead them using your notes, marking the parts during class that you’ll be using as discussion points during the study group session.
Study for an Exam
Dropbox is a great way to study for an exam. With physical papers, you have to shuffle through them to find where you wrote something down for the exam. But with Dropbox, you can keep all your notes for a class in a certain Dropbox folder—or even in a single file of Dropbox Paper! So to find a certain topic, you simply use the Search function and type in related words to find it.
A smart thing to do while taking notes in Dropbox Paper during class or while studying is to highlight or label topics that seem to be the most important for an upcoming test, or keep those topics in a separate file or special section. If you make a habit of doing this, you’ll have the topics ready to go when you need them during exam preparation.
Under each topic, you can copy and paste links to external videos and websites that provide more information and jot down the corresponding page numbers from your textbook. You can also take a picture with a smartphone of your professor’s blackboard or projector and insert that. And take a picture of a textbook page! Sometimes you just don’t need to lug those heavy books around with you.
Access your Assignments from Anywhere, Even Work
If you have a job and are going to school at the same time, Dropbox can help. You can keep all your assignments on Dropbox. Then, if you’re at your job and realize that you forgot to send in an assignment for school, you can log in from your work computer, get your assignment, and send it in. Or work on it right there! (When your boss is in the other room, of course. Or maybe just on your break.) If you always do your assignments on Dropbox, any internet-connected computer in the world becomes a terminal to your classwork.
Prepare for a Solo or Group Presentation
If you have a presentation to give for a class, you can work on it in Dropbox on your home computer, then open it on an iPad or a smartphone and use it as your speaking notes during the presentation itself. Depending on the classroom, you might be able to connect your device to a projector and show your presentation that way.
You can even share a digital “handout” with the class by generating a public link to a file. In a truncation tool such as Bitly, you could create a shortened and customized version of it (think something like bit.ly/Econ101handout). If your class has an email list, you could email a link to everyone in advance.
In a group project, every member of the team can work on the same file on Dropbox, or all use the same folder, see that the work on the project is getting done, and then get up and give the presentation all out of the same Dropbox file or folder, each using his or her own device.
In fact, with everyone so busy these days, your group may not be able to coordinate schedules to sit down together physically, but you can use Dropbox to see how much progress each person is making on his or her portion of the work, schedule milestones, and communicate about the work.
This also ensures that everyone is looking at the most current version of files. It’s frustrating and confusing to email a Word file around and not be sure which version is the most current!
Interact Conveniently with Professors on Dropbox
Interacting with professors on Dropbox can be much easier than sending papers back and forth–or even emails. For example, a professor can send you a file request link to turn in an assignment. Then you upload the file you’re working on through that link, which means no more printing out and turning in physical papers (at least for that professor). Professors can send you updates about the class, assign new work, return results of past assignments, and share schedules for, say, laboratory availability.
Sometimes it’s hard to visit a professor in person during his or her office hours to discuss an assignment. And many email programs won’t send files above a certain size, or the professor might have a different version of the program to open the file. But in Dropbox, you can create a link to the file and just email that simple link to the professor instead of sending the file. The professor can click on that link to see your assignment in Dropbox itself. He or she can give you feedback when it’s convenient for both of your schedules.
If a professor isn’t using Dropbox, it’s worth asking if he or she might try it. In fact, go ahead and send them a copy of this article to make your case!
You’re probably already busy enough, so you don’t need school to add any unnecessary hassle to your life while taking college classes. With technology like Dropbox, your assignments, notes, and communication can all be on devices that you already own and use. Start an account (if you haven’t already) and start using it to organize your life.
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