Professional Tip: Make It a Living Document!

Teachers (and the many others that this applies to), if you are like me then you are constantly tweaking even the most minor elements of any document, presentation, etc.

Oh, is that comma out of place? Edit.

Oh, could I have explained that idea more clearly? Edit.

Oh, do I need to adjust that date? Edit.

However, when it comes to work disseminated to students or co-workers, editing a document can become a nightmare. In a student portal, I need to remove the previous work and re-upload the new one. In a company memo, I need to send out a new email with the updated document.

This is why we should be transitioning to living documents whenever possible. As a teacher, I’ve uploaded documents or presentations to my school’s online platform, Canvas, but in many instances, I’ve noticed a mistake (or simply needed to change a due date) and had to go through the tedious process of changing the primary document, removing the online file, and re-uploading the updated file. However, I’m doing more work than is necessary.

In this constantly evolving era, some of the unwritten rules are being re-written. Learning and communication are dynamic. In our companies, many people can be hammering out ideas and updating memos on the same e-document. In education, I’m learning to communicate to my students that here is the unit schedule, but this is a living document and can change. They understand this. They know that an unplanned fire alarm, impromptu assembly, or unanticipated (but welcome) detour in class discussion can throw off what should be a malleable schedule.

Living documents are becoming the new normal, and we should embrace this!

Just the other day I was creating presentation slides in Canva, downloading the presentation as a PowerPoint, and then uploading the presentation to our e-campus. Then, of course, I realized a mistake, fixed it in Canva, and was about to go through the whole process again when I realized that I can just share the link to my e-campus instead. Voila! Now I can rest easy knowing that if I need to make a minor tweak, I simply change it in Canva, and that will automatically be reflected when students click on that link. This same revolution of accessibility can be applied to other cloud-based, link-sharing applications.

Collaborative documents may not be the answer in every situation, but if you haven’t at least begun testing the waters, it’s time to do so. It will save you time and energy, and it will make your communication to others more dynamic and effective.

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