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All Your Course Materials at Your Fingertips

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

As trainers we’re busy enough without having to dig out from piles of manuals and notebooks just to get to the studio. And while maybe that’s an exaggeration, it doesn’t always feel like one when you’re searching through shelves and files, looking for the manual you absolutely need right now.

And if we can’t easily access materials from courses and workshops we’ve taken then it’s less likely we’ll review that material. The information may start to fade from our memories, and then we’re not making the most of the investment we’ve made in our continuing education.

Life used to be simple. I used to have a few documents I needed to teach GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Pre-training courses, a folder or two of workshop notes, and maybe a couple of spiral notebooks of notes. I’d done my Stott Pilates training before they’d finished the manuals, so I don’t even have those, only a few thin, printed off early drafts that were tucked away in a folder.

I think it all fit in a couple of magazine file boxes. Oh, and the couple of VHS tapes that accompanied the course materials were stashed on top of my video player.

Now there are approximately 25 different courses that I teach, and I’ve taken countless courses and workshops, meaning the system I used when I was first starting to take courses and conduct teacher trainings would no longer suit my needs.

I realized this a few years ago when I was preparing to teach a course I hadn’t taught in several months and I wanted to review a specific variation of an exercise from the DVD before going to the studio. Right, where was the DVD? Or had I ripped it to keep on my iPad? Where was that file? I’m generally a highly organized person, so the fact that this was the second time in a month I was tearing apart my office and hopelessly dredging the files on my laptop for a lost piece of course material had me stressed and anxious. Not a great start for going into a busy teacher training week.

The next open weekend I had I dedicated to setting up a new system. (This is a great way to use slow times. See my post Weathering the Ebb and Flow of a Movement Career)

Whether you’re conducting educational courses, or you’d just like to know you can quickly review material from courses you’ve taken as a student to prepare for your sessions or refresh your skills, I think the system I set up for my materials might be helpful for you.

Start by getting all your physical course materials in one place. Dig everything out from your file cabinets, book shelves, backpack, etc. If you’re storing your materials at home get everything you might be keeping at the studio, and vice versa, to have it all in one place. Even the random manuals from weekend workshops you didn’t really like or don’t feel are current or relevant to your teaching now- just get it all together so you can see what you have.

Now touch it all once and see if it sparks joy. Just kidding. You’re going to sort it into piles by course, subject, or methodology. This is going to depend on how many different methods you teach, whether you conduct courses, etc.

If you conduct courses you’re going to make a folder for each course or workshop that you teach. In that folder should go the manual, the DVD, and any additional notes that you may have outside your manual.

When you get an updated manual for a course, look through your old manual and transfer any relevant notes from the old manual to the new one. You could write them in a different color to distinguish updated notes from old notes if you feel that will be helpful for you. I put the old manuals into a separate filing cabinet, down in the basement, just for archival materials. That way when I go to the “GYROTONIC® Level 2, Program 1” folder only the most recent updated material is there so I don’t have to waste time figuring out what manual to grab.

If you’re teaching a lot of methods or conduct many courses you’ll have to be pretty specific with your files. But if you only teach Pilates as a trainer, for example, then you could have fewer folders, possibly filing together workshop notes for general programming, another file for injuries and specific populations, such as pregnancy or osteoporosis, and another for more theory based workshops. Your original manuals for your teacher training would go in their own file. Remember to store any DVDs with the relevant manual or workshop notes.

I use two file crates to store my GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® materials. One is for GYROKINESIS® courses, GYROTONIC® courses that utilize the Pulley Tower, as well as workshop/course notes from specialized trainings I’ve taken as a student. The other is for Specialized equipment, specifically Gyrotoner, Archway, Ladder, Jumping Stretching Board, and Leg Extension Unit. This way I know exactly which file box to look in for the material I need. I have a third file crate for my pilates materials.

However you set up and categorize your files has to be specific to how you’ll best utilize your own materials.

Another big help is to tab the heck out of your manuals. I go through packs of those sticky tabs at an alarming rate. I wait until I get a “$10 off a minimum purchase of $10” from Staples, and blow the whole thing on as many sticky tabs as I can get for that. I tab and label each section of each manual, so I don’t waste any course time on flipping through to find the page I need.

Now for the digital materials. A lot of our materials now exist only digitally, or both in digital and hard copy. While organizing hard copy materials has always been pretty straight forward for me, at least once I took the time to revamp my system to work for my needs, digital organization has been trickier for me. Especially when a software update comes along and moves my audio and video files (thanks a lot, Apple)

But, what finally worked for me to organize my course materials on my laptop was to approach it just like my hard copy filing system. I made a folder for each course I teach, then moved any documents or video footage to that folder, then grouped all the GYROTONIC® course folders into one general “GYROTONIC® Course” folder, along with another folder for general course administration forms. I did the same for my pilates materials.

Something else I found helpful was to use a program called Handbrake to rip the course videos from my DVDs to save as files on my laptop. I can then move them onto my iPad to carry with me to the studio or when I travel for courses. My iPad has since died, but it was so convenient to have all those materials so available that I’m considering replacing it.

(Legal note: Handbrake is apparently often used illegally to pirate videos, or some such activity, but as long as we’re simply transferring educational materials onto our own personal devices, for our own personal use and not sharing with others, we should be within the bounds of legal usage. Just please don’t share the files with others, as you could get into trouble. For example, GYROTONIC® course materials are protected by a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement all trainers sign to become licensed)

I would then of course store any video files in the folder with the relevant course materials.

Having all your digital files nicely organized on your laptop also serves another great purpose, at least across Apple devices. I can access my laptop files from my phone (just be sure when you save them on your laptop you select “Desktop-iCloud”) This would also be great on an iPad… if it weren’t dead.

Getting materials well organized does take a bit of time up front, but it will save you loads of time and hassle going forward. Anything that helps keep busy teaching weeks streamlined and running smoothly is well worth it!

One of my file crates of course materials

Do you have organizational hacks that work for your course materials? I’d love to hear what works for you.

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