If you are an online student, you should know about various tools and techniques you can use to save time. And if you’re not an online student, these tips can still be very helpful!
- Bookmark websites. When you locate a good resource, bookmark it in an efficient way. Use social bookmarking tools such as delicious, diigo, or the bookmarking tool of your choice. Install the browser buttons for your bookmarking tool and use the keyboard shortcut for bookmarking (Control +D or Apple Command +D). Make sure you assign appropriate and memorable tags to each of your bookmarks. That way, you will be able to quickly and easily locate bookmarked websites.
- Optimize your browser. Every browser includes powerful features to streamline your experience. Firefox is my browser of choice, mainly for the excellent add-ons they offer. Here’s the page that describes the many ways you can customize your Firefox experience: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/customize
- Uber-organize your notetaking. Use a free application, Evernote, to take notes, record, take pictures and organize in one place. Evernote is so powerful it will search for words in pictures you have taken. For instance if you take a picture of a drawing with notes, Evernote will be able to search for the words in that picture. You can share notebooks with others and even make them public.
- Collaborate online. Use Google Docs to easily write and share work with others. This free service allows you to upload any type of file and will convert compatible files. Sharing and editing has never been easier. Word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations can all be editing in real time by groups of people. You can also chat in a side-windows as you are editing, if people are working on it at the same time. Want to publish? One click and it’s there for the world to read.
- Sync, share, and access files from any computer. If you are still saying, “Oh, I don’t have that file, it’s on another computer,” then pay close attention to this bullet point. Dropbox allows you to save any file to your local dropbox folder, syncing it across any other computer you have installed dropbox on. You can also share files and folders with others, too. So, don’t be emailing that super-large file–share a dropbox folder instead. (Caveat: You should still save important files on at least 2 other storage media.)
- Sync your Google Calendar. Set up the syncing feature in Google Calendar and enter it once on whatever device you are using. I have my iPhone synced with my Google Calendar. If I enter an appointment on my iPhone, then it shows up on my computer Google Calendar, and vice-versa. It’s a huge time-saver.
- Use RSS, not email. Anyone who knows me, knows I am trying to get away from the email monster. We all get way too much email. One way to get around this is to subscribe to important website updates using RSS instead of email subscriptions. If you don’t know what RSS is, then start using Google Reader. You will catch on really fast.
- Communicate online. There are now so many ways you can communicate online, get things done and questions answered. Take advantage of these tools. Gmail chat is an excellent tool. I am getting to love Skype more and more, especially after using their screen sharing feature.
- Use speech-to-text software. I use Dragon Dictate (for Mac) to write responses to student assignments, write forum posts, and any other type of quick writing that I can compose in my head. You will think of ingenious ways to use this tool once you see how well it works. Great strides have been made with this type of software, so try it out. Dragon Dictate also offers a free app for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Tell me how you like it and how you use it. (I bought mine through amazon.com–better pricing.)
- Use Google Voice as your phone. Don’t give out your personal number to your instructor or classmates. Set up a free Google Voice account and link it to your mobile phone and any number of phones you use. This excellent and powerful tool enables you to do a lot more–such as call screening. Can come in handy if you want to screen unimportant calls! Watch these videos for more information about Google Voice.