File this under disasters you can avoid

It seems to be the time of year for disastrous computer crashes and viruses, which of course happen within the 24 hours before that big essay you have due, never when you’re just writing an email to your cousin in Des Moines.

It’s not a question of if your computer will crash or a document will disappear, but when. It will happen to you sometime, so you simply have to have good habits that mean the damage to your course standing will be minimal.  I encourage students to make a practice of printing out each day’s work while they’re working on an essay, and saving documents every 10 minutes while working on them, and always saving their work in two places (laptop andUSB, network folder and emailed to yourself… whatever practice works for them individually and involves backups and more backups). Yes, it’s an extra five minutes of work, but it’s worth it.

What do you do when the worst happens? First of all, email or call your instructor right away. (This greatly improves your credibility, as opposed to telling your instructor on Monday that your computer crashed on Friday.) “Hi, this is Elmo from your Civil Engineering class. I just lost the document I was supposed to submit to Web CT at midnight. I’m going to submit the rough draft I had yesterday, but it’s not my best work. Could you let me know if I have any options for resubmitting a better draft on Wednesday?”  Take responsibility for your situation, and thank your professor for their time.  If you contact them by email or a voice message, don’t assume that they received your message unless you get a reply.  Follow up in person. Learn from the experience–how might your work habits be improved after this? What resources such as antivirus software might it be worth your time to learn about?

Okay, lecture over, but as the sergeant always said on Hill Street Blues, let’s be careful out there!

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