This week’s blog post is going to sound at first like it is simply a file management solution. Sure, Dropbox is a free, easy-to-use system for backing up your files online. But I think it’s much more than that. With its sharing capabilities, Dropbox offers unique ways to collaborate with colleagues and students. We’ll return to the educational benefits of Dropbox later in this post, but first, more about Dropbox.
Dropbox has to be one of the easiest ways to back up your files online. Go to the Dropbox website, install a free desktop application and a folder appears on your computer. The Dropbox folder looks and functions like other folders you may have on your computer but the difference is that the Dropbox folder saves all of its contents online. Say you have a work computer and a home computer and you’re tired of lugging files back and forth. By installing Dropbox to both computers, you can create an online folder that always has the most up-to-date information. It even works if one of the computers is a PC and the other is a Mac. You can even add a Dropbox folder to a mobile device like an iPhone or an iPad. While Dropbox is free, you do need to create a username and password to begin using the service. When you first sign up, you get 2 Gb of memory for free. The feature I really like about Dropbox is that by inviting a friend to the site, a user gets a 250 Mb referral bonus. A person can quickly build their online storage to 8 Gb without spending a dime.
Some readers may be wondering how Dropbox relates to education. Dropbox allows its users to share folders with other people. So, if I’m working on a project with a group of colleagues and want to share files with them, I can drag the files to a shared Dropbox folder and everyone now has access to the documents. This feature would be a great benefit for research groups, for committees on campus or for students wanting to submit assignments electronically. My students complete many digital projects in my online and face-to-face classes that they must submit for a grade. This can be a challenge, especially if the files are large. Dropbox offers an easy-to-use and economical solution.