Editor’s note: This is the second post in a three-part series on technology and online student success. Check out Part I on how to use technology to improve time management skills.

As online learners, it is our responsibility to plan for the unexpected. In the second part of my three-part series on how to leverage technology to increase the likelihood of academic success, I want to discuss technology backup plans. Online students should keep these three tips in mind before approaching assignments to eliminate frustration (see picture to the left) caused by unforeseen computer failures:

1. Have an alternate location for accessing the Internet.

Computers are unpredictable and most of us have experienced a hard drive failure, power outage, Internet outage, or some other event that prevents us from getting that assignment in on time. To this end, we should all think of alternate ways to access the Internet. If you back up your work on a thumb drive or even on your smartphone, you can always hop over to a friend’s house, a local library, an Internet café, or even copy and shipping stores to submit your assignment.

Take a moment to identify where your local library is and jot down that address on a piece of paper or on your smartphone. Call a couple of your friends and get their commitment to allow you to use their computer in case of an emergency. The library or a friend’s house is the best route, as using their computers and Internet is typically free (unless your friends are enrolled in an online business program – they may charge you!), whereas you may have to pay for access at a store or café.

2. Use the cloud to save your work.

If you’ve ever had the experience of losing a paper after you’ve worked on it for days, you know the pain of going through the rewriting process.

These days, there are a number of ways to back up your work. I mentioned thumb drives and smartphones, but another great way is using cloud technology. Dropbox is a service that provides 2 GB of free online storage. If you set up a folder on your computer exclusively for schoolwork, you can set Dropbox to automatically upload it. The other nice part of using a service like this is it allows you to access your work from anywhere. So, say your power goes out and you left your thumb drive on your desk at work. You can head over to a friend’s house, log on to Dropbox online, and download your work to pick up right where you left it.

3. Change your Word or OpenOffice autosave settings.

I’m thinking again of that “oh no” moment right after losing a document due to unforeseen circumstances. Check your Microsoft Word settings and see how often it is currently set to autosave.

If you’re like me, once you get in a zone on a paper, it’s difficult to remember to save frequently. Losing even one paragraph means you’re losing valuable content. In most versions of Word (or OpenOffice), you can simply click on “File”, then “Options”, then “Save” and check to see how often a recovery document is being saved. You can set this to a minute to decrease the likelihood of losing your work.

The greatest part of having a technology backup plan is that you always have peace of mind. You don’t have to purchase fancy software or hardware and you always know that you’ll be able to keep up in your courses. I have been an online learner for the last six years and over those years I have experienced events that would have temporarily derailed my education if it were not for each of the above contingency plans. As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

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