HomeTN eCampus FacultyManaging Files for Success“Pruning” for Growth and Strength

8.3. “Pruning” for Growth and Strength

“Pruning” for Growth and Strength


Hand holding pruning shears to trim a small branch.

Do you have a course with large files or outdated files no longer needed? Courses with unnecessary files that can be removed or files that could easily be compressed require valuable storage in the D2L system. Pruning courses can easily resolve the problem. In the previous tutorial Why Get Organized? same frame and Course Files and Broken Links same frame, we looked primarily at the structure of folders and files to create an orderly way to manage your course. In this section, we will look at how large file sizes and unnecessary files challenge good course management and may have a dramatic impact on the efficient operation of the course.

Understanding File Size Units

Course file storage needs will vary by course, but entire courses should rarely exceed 1 GB (Gigabyte). This table provides a description of the units and abbreviations that categorize file sizes. Generally speaking, files in the Megabyte or higher units are the main concern, but Byte and Kilobyte file sizes can be problematic if they create a lot of clutter with unneeded files.

File Size Units Table
Units Abbreviation Description Concern
Bytes Bytes smallest typical unit This size is irrelevant unless there are large numbers of unnecessary files of this size, which create clutter and disorder.
Kilobytes KB 1024 Bytes Also, less concerning, except unnecessary files create clutter as well.
Megabytes MB 1024 Kilobytes This is where it is important to watch the number of MB’s and extra files. These add up much quicker.
Gigabytes GB 1024 Megabytes This is not a typical file size unless you have a large media file or presentations with large image or video files. Use compression and scrutinize for unneeded files. 1 GB file would exceed a typical course size.


Methods to Prune the Course

Return to Managed Files. Ideally, the course will already have the file and folder organization covered in the Why Get Organized? same frame tutorial. This is a good organizational practice, and it makes it much easier to check for unrelated, outdated, and large files that can create a “bloated” course. This is not only a general storage issue, but it can lead to problems cloning courses each semester. Lean courses are much easier to update and maintain and much easier for students to access on mobile platforms.

Managed Files folder tree expanded. Module 1 highlighted.


Before beginning this task, it is helpful to have another browser window open. The other window can be used to review the content of the module as you compare the modules and files in Managed Files.

Sample content page presented in the course.  Managed Files expanded to the same module and images folder as the content page presented side by side.


Before deleting files, download the files to create a backup. Backed up files are easier to replace than deleted files! Keep the files on a computer, thumb drive, or cloud services, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, for a few months or until after the course has run once to ensure all is well. Please do not store the files in D2L. This will defeat the efforts to organize the course.

Download icon highlighted and expanded to show file downloaded.


The files in the next example have been sorted by Size. Selecting the menu carat/arrow reverses the order. In addition to checking files in the base folder, check each folder for large files and no longer needed files. Choose each subfolder and sort the contents by size and review the files there as well. Check each level of subfolders.

List of files sorted by size. Some show link icon others do not.

The link symbol is highlighted in the previous image. Many files may have this symbol throughout Managed Files, but it can be a bit tricky to understand its use. It is an important clue to find active files in a course, but it is not the exclusive way to recognize active files.

Course page files, in an ideal structure, will have the file located in the module folder that matches the content structure and has the link symbol. A Module 1 content will have the matching file in the Module 1 folder in Managed File with a link symbol.

In a less than ideal structure, a Module 1 file may have been stored in Module 2 but linked to Module 1. In that situation, the file will appear to be missing from the Module 1 folder. The file may appear to be an extra and possibly an orphan file in Module 2 or another folder. Working from the content page, a quick check of the path will confirm the file's actual location. To check the path, open a course page, and choose Edit. In this example, the course file is in Module 1.

Change Path icon highlighted.

The entire file path may be hidden. Choose Change Path to see the file structure in a "tree view". Expanding the module folder exposes the subfolders. If the file was already located in a subfolder, that folder would be highlighted in blue instead of the module folder. 

Managed Files expanded with Module 1 and subfolders highlighted.

To find a more detailed explanation for checking the path information, review the tutorial  Course Files and Broken Links same frame.

Images, videos, and presentations inserted into course pages will not have the link symbol because each is typically inserted into a course page. The presentation examples in the screenshot were linked to the course as standalone content and not a course page. Similar examples do have the link symbol for that reason. Use the link symbol as a starting point to understand the files linked and active in the course. 

Duplicate Files

Duplicate files require additional storage too. It can be difficult to know which file is in use with duplicate files. In this example, we have 3 presentations with the same file name except for years appended to the title. This suggests a new file was uploaded each year leaving old outdated files in the module folder. It is not only a good practice to have a good structure for course files, but it is also important to remove old files as new ones are added. The added space and confusion are serious inhibitors to a smoothly running course.

Similar file names with years 2017, 18, and Spring 2019 highlighted.

In addition to unneeded files, you may find duplicate folders created with files intended to replace content, but the old files were not removed. These items may have similar dates and names. This can be challenging to correct, but well worth it in the end. A duplicate folder may have been started to methodically work through a cleanup process. This can be a very useful method to deal with courses with significant issues, but remember to remove unneeded files. Keeping it straight as you go is the best method.

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