Imagine this: A client that you haven’t heard from in a while contacts you and asks for a fire safety course that you delivered more than a year ago. Looking through your documents, you notice that you have three different fire safety courses. You wonder, “Hmm…Which one belongs to this client?”
And not only that, but each of these courses has more than one version, with titles like:
The date modified timestamp might provide a clue to the file most recently edited, but how can you be sure it’s the final, FINAL version?
If this has ever happened to you, we’ve got you covered! Read on as we answer the “as heard in training” question: “How can I organize my e-learning project assets for effective version control and file management?“
While asset organization definitely isn’t the most exciting part of e-learning design and development, it’s an extremely important component of the workflow. Establishing and following standards for file management not only saves time, but it can also prevent issues that result from poor version control (such as not using the latest and greatest version for any course updates).
So, let’s get organized! We’ll start with tips for creating folder structures and naming conventions that can help you work more efficiently and effectively on an Articulate Storyline 360 or Rise 360 project.
Folder Structure and Naming Conventions
Once you’ve installed Storyline 360, a folder titled My Articulate Projects is automatically created in the Documents folder of your local drive (usually the C: drive). If you’re like a lot of e-learning developers, you’re probably working on multiple projects or with several customers at the same time. So, using proper naming conventions and creating a folder structure can help your projects stay organized.
Here’s a file structure similar to the one used by the Yukon Learning development team:
Because we work with multiple customers, we create a subfolder with the customer’s name, and then add our template __SERIES_COURSE__ folder. Then, when we begin a new project, we duplicate the template folder and rename it accordingly. In our example, we named the folder: My Articulate Projects > Gallifrey Industries > FireSafety_Evacuations.
Next, we have a series of subfolders in our main project folder. So, let’s find out what each folder is used for!
Archive: This is the “catch-all” folder for assets that become obsolete throughout the project. For example, this could include “final” versions of .story files that have been changed and are no longer the “final” version.
Audio: If you record narration directly within Storyline 360, you may not use this folder. However, if you use voiceover talent to record audio, you’ll usually receive .mp3 or .wav files. We structure the scripts to distinguish one track per slide/layer, and then ask the voice actor to label the tracks accordingly. Labeling the tracks in this way can look similar to this:
Course_Files: All draft versions of the .story files created throughout the project can be stored in this folder. We recommend saving daily or weekly versions as a safety net, should a file become corrupted or unusable. We also like to distinguish important drafts by labeling them as _FirstDraft or _FinalDraft, in case a customer references specific versions in the future.
Feedback-Edits: Those who use Articulate Review 360 to collect feedback may not need this folder. However, if you collect feedback via other methods (such as an Excel spreadsheet), this is the place for it. You can also file exported Articulate Review 360 comments here.
Fonts: If a customer’s brand standards call for a licensed font or one that isn’t built into Windows or Articulate 360, it can be saved here so that it’s easy to find and share with other developers (preventing the dreaded “Missing Fonts” alert when opening a file).
Images: This is where we store images that a customer gives us, whether they are originals or purchased images (and therefore only licensed to the customer). You can save custom images and source files created from other software (like PowerPoint) for Storyline 360 or Rise 360 projects here.
Publish_FINAL: This folder usually only contains two files:
- The final published course file, (aka, the .zip file) that will be loaded into your LMS.
- The final version of the .story file, should the course need to be edited in the future.
Tip: If you make edits to the “final” .story file at a later date, be sure to add the old version to the Archive folder.
Publish_Tests: If you need to publish a course for testing in the LMS or on the Web, store those files in their own space so that you don’t mix up the versions. We like to add the words “DELETEAFTERFINAL” to the name of this folder so we don’t forget to delete all test versions when the project is done.
Resources: Save all assets that you’ll be adding to the Resources tab of the course here. This includes editable documents and non-editable PDFs.
Scripts: When developing Storyline 360 courses, we use the Publish to Word feature to generate a script at the first draft phase. This allows the reviewer to make script changes in Microsoft Word using Track Changes separate from the Review 360 course review. This is also where we save the scripts that we create for professional narration orders.
SME_Source_Materials: This is another “catch-all” folder. Here we store all the assets provided by the customer or Subject Matter Expert (SME). It might include assets like storyboards, brand standards, PowerPoint presentations, image mock-ups, or any other general source materials.
Videos: As name implies, this folder contains any videos or video source files used in the course.
Tip: Customize the subfolders in your template folder to meet your needs. Because Rise 360 projects may require fewer assets than Storyline 360 projects, you may want to create tool-specific template folders. There’s no one way to organize assets–as long as you organize with intention!
Now that we have our folders and assets organized, let’s move on to tips for saving, backing up, and archiving your files.
Saving Your Files
When developing or publishing in Storyline 360, you always want to work and save locally (which usually means on the C: drive). Saving your .story files on a shared or network drive, or publishing them there can cause errors and put your assets at risk. If your organization needs files to be stored on a shared or network drive, it’s best to save and/or publish them locally and then move them to the shared, network, or backup drive.
Backing Up Your Files
It’s also a good idea to back up your files, both while you’re developing and after you’re done.
- There are a number of automatic backup tools, like Backblaze and Carbonite, which schedule periodic back-ups that run behind the scenes while you work.
- There are also free cloud-based storage tools, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, which can store your files for safekeeping when you’re finished working on them.
We’ve all heard horror stories about laptops becoming damaged or corrupted and losing valuable assets, including editable source files. So, make sure you save and backup your files often!
Hot Tip: With a recent Storyline 360 update, when you publish to Review 360, you can now include your Storyline 360 source file so it can be downloaded by you or your team!
Archiving Your Files
Along those lines, because most storage options are limited, we must declutter and archive our project files on a regular basis. This can be a good “end-of-year” project when things are quieter and many people are away from the office.
Here’s a simple 3-step process that we use for archiving project files:
- First, identify projects that have not been developed or updated in over a year.
- Then, delete the Course_Files, Audio, and Video subfolders. You may also choose to delete the Images folder if it doesn’t contain any source files for custom-created images. These tend to be the assets with the largest file sizes, so they take up more storage space on your machine.
Tip: If these assets are needed in the future, they can be exported from the Media Library in the final version of the .story file, and then saved in your Publish_FINAL folder.
- Finally, transfer all remaining assets from the project’s folder to a cloud-based storage tool or an external storage device.
We hope these approaches to organizing your e-learning project assets have provided some inspiration for effective version control and file management! Do you organize, label, or classify your project files and folders in a different way? If so, let us know about your approach! We’d love to hear from you!
Now, Here Are Some Quick (and Efficient) Links!
For more on this topic, check out the following posts from Articulate and The Articulate Trainer blog: