Mastering MOOCs with Evernote

I have been using Evernote more and more as my research portal. The Evernote Clipper makes it so easy to clip whole blog entries or articles or even pages from the internet. Copying an article or set of powerpoint slides in PDF form is also very cool. It will display the whole article one page at a time with the page turners at the top of the article. I can even highlight and annotate the article. mooc_evernote_figure_1My most recent discovery of the power of Evernote was when I recently began taking a few MOOCs for professional continuing education and also for my own fun and interest. A copyright MOOC that I finished this summer is one case in point. The MOOC was set up with videos, accompanying powerpoints and pdfs, both of which could be downloaded. There were discussion groups and weekly assignments.

I began by creating a new notebook. I have chosen to preface each notebook name with MOOC so that all my MOOC notebooks are together. I could have also created a stack for MOOC notebooks. That being said, my new notebook was called MOOC-Copyright for Librarians. I always make one of my first notes the syllabus for the class. This gives me a good reference point in the future when I want to see where specific topics were discussed. It is also really nice to have the syllabus at my fingertips so that I don’t have to keep loading it at the MOOC site while I’m in the middle of taking the class.

Most MOOCs are arranged by weekly sessions. They generally have one or more videos where the instructors present material, as well as discussion questions for a discussion wiki area, additional resources (either included if they are open-source, or listed in bibliographies), and a weekly assignment. With some MOOCs the instructors are kind enough to post their powerpoint displays separate from the video so that they can be downloaded. Those I download directly with separate notes for each. Since I am only using these files for my own study, this is a permissible use under copyright provisions.

I organize my individual Evernote notes by means of tags. I always have one tag that corresponds to the session or week number so that I can later easily sort my tags for a particular session together. Then I will have additional tags based on topics. This is becoming increasingly valuable as I find myself taking a new MOOC which sometimes revisits or expands upon topics discussed in other MOOCs I have previously completed. By using common topic tags, I can retrieve a tag and all the notes on that subject will be gathered together, no matter which MOOC or workbook I happened to be using the that note was created.

By assigning a tag of “to do” on notes that are related to assignments, I can easily organize those items by then dragging the “to do” tag to my shortcuts area in Evernote, making all those items immediately available and easy to review for due dates.

mooc_evernote_figure_2I also find Evernote a great place to directly record any notes I take while watching the instructor’s videos. If the instructor has a particularly illustrative graphic during the video that I wish to refer to later, I can both note the number of minutes into the video where the discussion occurs, and also use my windows snipping tool to capture the moment of the video with the graphic displayed. I can then paste that snip into my notes and then continue on with the video and taking notes. I found myself doing this a number of times during a beginning astronomy course.

mooc_evernote_figure_3My final use of Evernote for my MOOC study came from the discussion threads of the courses. I often found that other students had both insightful comments I wanted to capture, as well as posting interesting links and article citations that I wanted to revisit later. I found by creating one note specified as Bibliography or Links to Revisit or Additional Reading, I could easily accumulate all those valuable resources together throughout the class. Since we generally had weekly topics to specifically discuss, I also captured my answers from the discussion thread so that I had a record of my own contributions.

MOOCs are a wonderful way to expand our horizons and hone our skills through free, continuing education. While Higher Education is trying to decide how MOOCs fit into a student’s university experience and whether MOOCs give the same (or better) training as classroom-based instruction, I am reveling in the opportunity to learn from great teachers at universities across the country for free and at my own convenience. The asynchronous, “audit only” structure of MOOCs allows individuals to sample interesting topics and learn at their own level and speed.

Have I finished all the MOOCs I have signed up for? Sadly, no. Life gets in the way. But Evernote gives me an easy to use, convenient way to document all that I do learn, which puts me far ahead of where I would be had I never attempted to join a MOOC.

What about you? Have you taken any MOOCs? They are available on a wide variety of topics. I have taken MOOCs on content curation, astronomy, happiness, copyright and “new librarianship”. How have you used Evernote for study or research? Share and continue the discussion.

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