Tips & Tools for Managing Your Course Assets

There are so many assets that go into building an e-learning course that managing them can seem like a full-time job. Think about it: you’ve got templates, fonts, images, icons, videos, audio clips . . . the list goes on! And there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to find something you need when you need it. The last thing you want to do under tight deadlines is recreate the assets you already built just because you can’t find them.

While there’s no single way to manage assets, there are a few general steps you can take to find a system that works best for you and your team. Here are a few ideas to consider when managing your course assets.

Use Folders & Tagging

When you’re first starting out, you likely won’t have many assets, so it’s not a big deal if your assets share the same folder. But you’ll quickly outgrow that system as your asset library expands.

A good way to take control of your assets is to develop a basic folder structure for the types of assets you use most frequently. The folder structure doesn’t need to be complicated. The more general you keep it, the better. Here’s a common structure many course designers use:

  • Backgrounds
  • Graphics
  • Callouts
  • Icons
  • Buttons
  • Fonts
  • Audio
  • Video

Folders work well when they’re only one or two levels deep. After that, you’ll find it’s tougher to locate things unless you tag your files.

What are tags, you ask? Tags are like folders, only they travel with the files. This means your individual files and folders can live anywhere on your system. With tags, you can easily search for and find your files—wherever they are on your computer.

Most folks don’t realize they have a tagging option built right into their computer. Both PC and Mac users can tag individual files or folders. This article gives you the lowdown on tagging files and folders on a Mac, and this one covers how to tag on a PC.

Pro tip: It’s not uncommon for designers to evolve naming conventions over time. Try to use consistent tagging and keyword conventions and, if you make a change, remember to update older file tags as you go along.

Use a File-Naming Convention

It's a good idea to use a consistent naming style so you can easily identify files. Try to keep file names short and make sure they clearly describe the asset. Think of the search terms you and your organization might think to use when searching for materials and use those. Then, make sure everyone who’s working with the files understands the file-naming structure and sticks to it. 

Use File Management Tools

When you’re working with hundreds or even thousands of files, you might realize that finding and sharing course assets with fellow developers is tedious. Even with well-organized, clearly named and tagged files, searching can take a lot of time. Some solutions that work well for managing large numbers of assets are cloud-based file management tools.

Some web-based file management tools with free plans include:

Pro tip: If your organization has a Content Management System (CMS) or your marketing team uses a Digital Asset Management (DAM) tool, it’s a good idea to ask if your team can take advantage of those systems for managing course assets.

Delete Old Files

We all know the TV show Hoarders. Well, there are a lot of “digital hoarders” out there—people who never delete a file or asset for fear that in a few weeks they will need that exact file. It’s smart to keep the stuff you know you can re-use, but if you have multiple versions, old draft versions of files, or unfinished or low-quality assets that are just taking up space, you should delete them! Go through your files once every few months (or every week, if you really like things organized) and purge any files that you no longer need. Your hard drive will thank you!

More Learning

With these helpful tips, you’ll have a well-organized, easily searchable asset library in no time. But if you’re looking for even more helpful file and asset management tips, check out these two articles: How to Manage the Course Authoring Process Like a Pro and How to Organize and Manage Your E-Learning Course Files.

What tools do you use for managing course assets? Share your suggestions in a comment below. Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.