Our smartphones tend to get a bad rap. Throughout the day, they bombard us with email and social media notifications, text messages and various alerts. These distractions can be especially problematic for online students who are constantly surrounded by technology every day. If used strategically, however, smartphones don’t have to be a distraction. These four apps can turn a smartphone from a disruption into a tool that boosts learning, productivity, and organization while offering opportunities for collaboration.
1. GroupMe (Free, iOS and Android)
What it is: GroupMe is a group messaging app that allows users to create chat rooms. GroupMe is better than group text messaging because it’s available on any device. This eliminates the nuisance of having text messages break up or appear out of order when sending between differing operating systems or devices. Users can mute notifications if necessary. GroupMe is different from the chat function of a Learning Management System because it doesn’t require students to be logged on to an LMS. Users can create multiple group chats at a time, which is perfect when collaborating on multiple group projects. GroupMe is more flexible than an LMS chat function because anyone can use it.
When to use it: GroupMe is useful in collaboration between classmates or group members when they can’t meet in person. Research shows that a human element is crucial in online courses because it increases students’ levels of comfort in the course environment as well as their investment in the learning process. This helps students feel more comfortable asking questions and actively participating, thus leading to more success in the classroom. For online learners, GroupMe can turn a solitary experience into a dynamic, community-oriented experience.
2. Quizlet (Free, iOS and Android)
What it is: Quizlet offers services that are useful when studying for a test or quiz. Users create sets of digital flashcards, which they can study four different ways – by seeing the term and writing the definition by memory; by playing a matching game with the terms and definitions; taking a practice test generated by Quizlet; or using them simply as flashcards with a front and back.
When to use it: A good rule of thumb is to create a set of flashcards about a week before a test and study them throughout that week. Quizlet is great for online learners because students can share links to their flashcard sets with others. On the Quizlet website, creating a “Class” allows users to add other Quizlet members and share flashcard sets with each other. This can help build a more community-oriented experience for online students, and is great for students who want to study on the go.
3. Google Drive (Free, iOS and Android)
What it is: Drive allows users to save files in one place and easily share them with others for collaboration. Drive works hand-in-hand with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides so students can work on projects while on the go.
When to use it: Drive users can work together on a project without ever meeting in person. When someone creates a document and shares it with others, they can all log on and work together in real time. Drive opens up a whole new aspect of learning in an online environment because it makes group projects possible even if students may never meet in person. Students should check with their institutions before using Drive to ensure it is permitted.
4. Evernote (Free, iOS and Android)
What it is: Evernote is the ultimate note-taking and studying app. Its users can take written notes, record lectures or video conferences, take photos of a whiteboard or computer screen, and save pieces of web articles. It also provides organization tips and tricks, has a reminder feature, and lets users share notes and “notebooks” between each other. Evernote Plus costs $34.99 per year, and Evernote Premium costs $69.99 per year. From my personal experience as a university student, however, the free version is just fine.
When to use it: Think of Evernote as a life organizer. From sharing notes and whole notebooks with classmates, attaching files (including spreadsheets and images) to notes, setting reminders and goals, and syncing automatically between your devices, Evernote is the perfect place to store files and information of any kind.
All of these apps are great suggestions for helping you thrive in an online environment. However, some institutions and classes may have restrictions of which you need to be aware, so always check.
Our digital age is full of wonderful resources, but it’s never a bad idea to remember to stay safe online. For more information on how to do that, check out our social media resources pages.