Users who spend part of their time working at home have to be a bit more technically self-reliant than their office-bound peers. For one thing, they need to develop some dial-up savvy to connect their home computers to their corporate network. If they use Outlook with Exchange Server, they’ll want to configure their installation to use offline folders.

An offline folder file (.ost) is simply a hard drive location for storing copies of a user’s online files. Offline folders allow users to work with Outlook items just as if they were connected—but without incurring phone charges. They can connect to their company’s network when they need to, and Outlook will synchronize their offline folders with the online folders on the server.

Enabling offline work
If your students haven’t configured Outlook to work offline, take them through this drill for creating an offline folder file:

  1. Choose Services from the Tools menu and make sure the Services tab is selected.
  2. Select Microsoft Exchange Server from the list of installed services, then click Properties.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, select Enable Offline Use, and click the Offline Folder File Settings button.

In the Advanced tab, select Enable Offline Use and then click the Offline Folder File Settings button.

  1. When the Offline Folder File Settings dialog box appears, you can either accept the default filename and path for the file or type a new filename and path. (You can also use the Browse button to specify the desired file.) While you’re in this dialog box, you may want to point out the Compact Now button, which will enable your students to immediately reduce the size of their offline folder file—a good idea if they’ve deleted a lot of items.
  2. Click OK to exit each of the three dialog boxes.

Telling Outlook to work offline
Outlook also lets you set a default connection state, which can help prevent unwanted dial-ups for remote users. To set the default:

  1. Choose Services from the Tools menu.
  2. In the Services tab, select Microsoft Exchange Server from the list of installed services and click Properties.
  3. In the General tab, select Manually Control Connection State.
  4. To set Outlook to begin each session offline, select Work Offline And Use Dial-up Networking. (You can also point out the alternative settings, which tell Outlook to prompt for a connection state or to automatically connect.)
  5. Click OK, then click OK again.

Students learning to work efficiently from home don’t typically have the luxury of on-site tech support. As a result, they bring a diverse and sometimes daunting collection of questions to your classroom. What issues do you encounter when teaching students how to handle remote-workplace challenges? Sendus an e-mail message or post a comment for your peers.