File naming conventions may not be the most seductive click bait topic you will encounter today, but getting your head around it could save you some frustrating work in the future. I asked keen file organiser Dr Moira Scerri about her motivations for setting up a naming convention for her Canvas subject site.

Why though?

According to Moira “a naming convention assists collaboration with other teaching staff, avoids dead links and will assist in future iterations of the subject and when the Canvas course is rolled over”.

Key to Moira’s reasoning is the way in which Canvas manages files such as PDFs, video and other documents. Canvas uses the name of the item (as stored in the Files section of a Canvas subject site) as a reference to link the item to the content of Pages, Quizzes and other components of a Canvas course. If one of these documents needs to be altered you might simply upload a new version of it, however Canvas would then still have both versions saved in its filing system. Over time this kind of practice can lead to a mess of similarly named items that clog up the search function and potentially cause you or other collaborators a lot of confusion.

Instead, by establishing and using a system for the naming and storage of files, a process of version control is enabled. Files can be written over in the Canvas File system by a newer version, ensuring that all links in the site remain current as the file name will not have changed.

What does it look like?

Moira emphasised that the chosen system, of which hers is just an example, needs to match the structure of the subject site. Others may not need the same level of detail or may indeed need a finer grained approach to support a more complex subject design.

As an example, in the subject Operations and Quality Management, Moira has used the following file naming system:

MxModule number
TxTopic number
Wx Week number

This naming convention allows for flexibility as a module may consist of multiple topics and may be conducted over multiple weeks. While this elasticity may not always be needed, having it in place ensures structural consistency should changes to the files need to be made down the track.

These codes are followed by additional symbols that represent specific activities or types of content:

CodeActivity typeActivity descriptor
LLecturePresentation material
vLLecture video Pre-recorded lecture video
APractice activityActivity scheduled during class
RReadingReading scheduled during class
CCase studyCase study scheduled during class

Bringing these together might look something like this:

M1T1W1vL: a video recording of the lecture for module 1, topic 1, week 1.

M1T3W2R1: the first reading for module 1, topic 3 held in week 2.

M3T1W6C2: the second case study for module 3, topic 1 discussed in week 6.

To the untrained eye these codes may seem incomprehensible but Moira assures me that she became familiar with them and able to decode them at a glance after working with them for a week or two. Confident that the work she and other teaching staff have undertaken in establishing and working with this system, Moira knows it will continue to pay off, making their work easier for years to come.

Do you have a workflow that you would like to share? Get in touch with Alex or the LX Team!

  • And not adding newer files (duplicate and differently named) helps manage the Canvas storage limit of 500MB which will quickly be reached if old files remain in place. Store previous versions on your own drive, store the current version only on Canvas.

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