Managing Online Project Submissions with Dropbox Links

Files Gone to HeavenDuring the last days of the semester, my inbox tends to collapse under the weight of submitted final projects, and every now and then I have the dreaded “limit exceeded” warning show up just as a deadline hits. I get emails with projects delivered in just about every form imaginable, and there are always several that don’t work at all–particularly since my university has a policy about destroying any zip file that makes its way into an email attachment. Thus I was excited to see the recent improvement to Dropbox extending the ability to link and share files.

Dropbox already had a strong file-sharing model for public content through a public folder, which Brian suggested using for keeping a constantly up-to-date CV. The newest version of Dropbox links allows for easily creating direct, easy to share links for any file or folder in your Dropbox without having to zip a folder and upload it–and also makes it easier to share content without requiring the user on the other end to use Dropbox themselves. The update also incorporates a faster interface for previewing those files without downloading them, although larger project folders still end up as downloads. It’s even possible to easily view presentations and short videos, which can be a great solution for student work not intended for YouTube. I’ll be adding Dropbox’s new feature to my recommendations for students submitting their final video game project files this semester.

Having a good digital submission process is important, as hours can be lost just locating and managing files, much less tracking down students whose files have been removed as security violations, but often internal university systems only handle certain types of projects. And ultimately, not everything fits in an email attachment or needs to be downloaded to the harddrive before grading.

I already encourage my students to use Dropbox or another cloud service for back-up–as Erin discussed, Dropbox offers incentives to academic users, and it can be a good free space to start getting in the habit of cloud back-ups. There are lots of solutions out there: Brian looked at Google Drive, Ryan reviewed Amazon Cloud Drive, and other tools from Box to SugarSync are moving in. The range of services makes it even more important to be able to easily share content without requiring the recipient to sign up for yet another site.

How do you manage end of semester turn-in, particularly for complex and large digital projects? Share your favorite solutions in the comments.

[CC BY 2.0 Photo by Flickr User Orin Zebest]

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