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.

Links Roundup #24

saddle and ropeApps for Students

A previous roundup mentioned Lifehacker‘s annual series of posts on the best current apps/software for different operating system.  Now they have published editions of best apps/software for college students, for Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone.

Blog/Website of Interest

Faculty Focus is a website on higher ed teaching strategies.  It now has a column called App of the Week:

App of the Week is a new feature here on Faculty Focus written by Dave Yearwood, PhD, associate professor and chair of the technology department at the University of North Dakota. Dave is an avid collector of apps and is always on the lookout for new ones that can improve student learning or simply make academic life more organized, productive and fun. Through this column, he’ll provide tips for getting started, app reviews, best practices, sneak peeks, and more. Reviews from guest contributors are welcome as well.


One of our favorite blogs, Gradhacker, has moved and is now available from the Inside Higher Ed site.   The new URL for it is

Citation/Reference/Bibliographic Management

The Evernote blog mentioned an app called RefMe, which can read the barcode of a book and create a citation for it.  It is available for Android and iPhone.  There is also a web version, through which you can manually add citations, or search for a book or journal article and it will fill in any information it finds.  The web page has a paucity of information, it needs more thorough explanations of features, but looks like it works with a variety of document formats and citation styles (though it may be that the free version has eight styles, while the premium has thousands).  The document formats is impressive – includes types such as artwork and interviews, as well as more common ones.  It also integrates with Evernote, Gmail, and Microsoft Word.  Like most apps these days it syncs in the cloud.

Importing PDFs into Zotero is a recent post by Catherine Pope of The Digital Researcher blog.  Excellent instructions including screenshots.

Educational Technology

In this blog, we do tend to prioritize discussing productivity tools that are freely available.  But now and again other tools are worth mentioning.  If you campus has access to, they have a category of tutorials for education, and it includes what looks like a number of useful videos.  There is one on writing a research paper (haven’t looked at it, but have high hopes for it), plus ones on Google Apps for students, visual teaching techniques, flipping the classroom, and many many more.

Top Ten Educational Tools, by our friend Bonni Stachowiak, is an annotated list of tools useful for higher education faculty.  Her list does not overlap much with other lists I have seen.  Bonni’s post are always well organized, thoughtful, and infused with her warm personality.  Tools mentioned are Tapes, Zotero, Heads Up (which sounds like a good game to play with friends, as well as having educational uses), Poll Everywhere, Drafts, TimeTradeAttendance2, PlanbookiAnnotate, and the Livescribe Pen.   Be sure to read Bonni’s post for her reasons for choosing these tools.


In 6 Tips and Tricks for How I Stay at Inbox Zero, Jamie Todd Rubin discusses tips and tools that help him manage his email quicker and smarter.

10 Killer Ways to Tackle Your Email Inbox gives some useful tips and tricks for reducing the time you spend on email… which makes it timely.  ;-).

Evernote/OneNote/Note-taking Software

In a previous links roundup I mentioned an article on how to export your Kindle highlights and notes to Evernote, but this article Kindle + Evernote = [heart symbol] goes much more in-depth and includes annotated screen shots.  The article is on Tim Challies’s blog.

8 Evernote Tips for Book Nerds is an article on Ebook Friendly by Piotr Kowalczyk.  It has some nice tips, like taking pictures of a stack of print books, or a set of pictures of a bookcase (the spines must be readable).  Evernote will make the text it can OCR so that you can search on the titles.  That and some of the other tips might be useful for researchers.

Evernote: How to Annotate Your PDFs is a post by Garth Scaysbrook, who wrote a small book that was a good introduction to Evernote.

Cindy Grigg,’s Office Software guide, has published several posts on tips and tricks for Evernote.  They are 10 Tips and Tricks to Customize the Evernote User Interace, 17 Tips and Tricks for Sharing and Collaborating with Evernote, 10 Basic Tips and Tricks for Evernote, 15 Intermediate Tips and Tricks for Evernote, and 15 Advanced Tips and Tricks in Evernote.  An earlier links roundup mentioned her wonderful article Comparison Chart of Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, and Google Keep, which also links to more complete reviews of Evernote, OneNote, and Google Keep.


11 Tools to Create Awesome Images for Social Media is a post by Leslie Walker, who is the social media expert for  The tools can be used for other purposes than social media.

Instruction Recorder

Georgia State University has released as open source a WordPress app Library Instruction Recorder (LIR).  If those of you who are instruction librarians don’t already have a system for keeping track of sessions offered and statistics about the sessions, this might be a nice option.

PDF Management

Readcube has been a desktop application that improves readability of PDFs by adding links to article references where it can, allows you to find altmetrics for the article, add notes and highligts to the PDF, and more.  Now there is a web version available.


Best Productivity Books is a Lifehacker post by Melanie Pinola that provides and annotated list of some books and is open for others to add more.

To-Do Lists for Android Now Lets You Attach Files to Your To-Do List Items is an article by Paul Sawyers in TNW.  The article discusses this new feature in the Android version, and mentions that some other to-do list apps such as Wunderlist offer a similar feature.


In What Twitter Changes Might Mean to Academics, Anastasia Salter‘s Profhacker post discusses that Twitter users are less active than previously and so Twitter is considering changes to its algorithm that might negatively impact the features most useful to academic discourse.


Microsoft Fix It Solution Center is a review of the Microsoft site by Bob Rankin.  Looks like a useful page, though as he points out, it falls down in a few areas.  Give it a try when having troubl with Microsoft products.


Here’s How to Be the Worst WordPress Designer on the Planet (In 8 Steps or Less) is a really really tongue-in-cheek post by Karol K. in the CodeinWP blog.  The one that resonated with me is the use of flat design which I just hate – I have mild cataracts and I just can’t see flat design elements well at all.

Discipline-Specific Tools: The Law of the Land

Scales of JusticeDo you read legal thrillers?   They are one of the genres I enjoy.  Tracking down productivity tools and sources used by lawyers and legal students may not be as exciting,  but has more utility!

My university does not have a law school,  but does have a pre-law program in the School of Public Policy (one of my liaison responsibilities) ,  so I have created a guide to legal resources.   For that reason I try to keep an eye out for useful resources.   One is the blog Law Sites,  by Robert Ambrogi.   Much of his blog deals with technology resources for practicing lawyers.   Many of those resources are fee-based,  and while he doesn’t often mention price I always assume they are expensive.   Nevertheless,  he also points to resources that are free or less expensive.   One theme I have seen on several of the sites consulted was how to improve the quality of legal resources to the poor.   Ambrogi had a post on A2J Author,  which has been available as a standalone Windows software package for a decade.   It is now available on the web (requires registering for an account),  and is “a tool used by legal aid programs and others to create automated guided interviews to guide individuals in need of legal help” .   It is not meant to replace lawyers,  but to help these usually overburdened and resource poor legal aid attorneys to maximize their efficiency.

A site with a similar focus is the Program for Legal Tech + Design,  based at Stanford.  Their mission includes public service “We are building Access to Justice tools,  to bring law to ordinary people – to engage,  educate,  and empower them), education,  and research. Students and fellows work on a variety of design projects,  such as an open source text messaging service to remind people with an upcoming court date of the day, time, and location.   Their first target is juveniles, who have a particularly high rate of failure to appear, which subjects them to fines and/or arrest.

The Legal Tech + Design group also held a two-day event to design legal communication tools, attended by law,  engineering,  and humanities students.   The first day taught design principles and discussed communication techniques.   The second day the students broke into groups and came up with prototypes of communicating legal language to consumers,  then went out to find volunteers who tried out their designs.

Similarly,  hackathons are events in which a group of volunteers,  meeting either in real life or virtually,  design apps over a short period,  usually a weekend.   Ambrogi mentions a hackathon called Hackaccess held at a recent American Bar Association (ABA) meeting.   The winner was William Palin,  who designed an iOS app for creating health proxies or living wills (PaperHealth)  and who had previously created an app called Paperwork which helps create forms used in family law such as divorce or change of name forms.  There is even a website called   All of this feeds into the topic of another of Ambrogi’s posts that in 20 years of writing about legal technology he has never seen as high a level of innovation as he is seeing now.   He wrote this after attending a conference called ReInvent Law NYC,  where 36 entrepreneurs presented on their ideas or products.

So with all this going on,  what are lawyers and legal students using today to increase their productivity?  As you might expect,  they use many of the same products as everyone else is using.   Evernote is mentioned often.   In fact,  Rocket Matter,  a firm that produces legal practice management software,  put out an 18-page PDF called Cloud Planet: A Lawyer’s Guide to Evernote.   It is a basic guide,  nothing new for the experienced Evernote user.   Its lengthiest discussion is on security,  not surprising since lawyers deal with so much confidential information.   Rocket Matter considers their practice management product a productivity tool,  and they have a blog called Legal Productivity.   It discusses a wide variety of topics from what to expect from the new Apple devices to free sources of graphics to blogging tips to website metrics.

Rocket Matter isn’t alone.   Rival company My Case,  which also sells legal practice management software,  has a blog with a category for productivity.   One post on top iPad tips for lawyers has some general productivity apps,  but a couple that are for trial presentations,  Trialpad and Exhibit View.  Another post was on tips for using Google that had at least one I had not heard of,  which allows you to create an alarm.   Type “set timer 25 minutes” (perfect for a Pomodoro!) or any other amount of time.

The lawyer who wrote the post on Google tips has her own blog,  The Inspired Lawyer.   She writes on a variety of productivity tips and tools,  including such things as work-life balance.   One post many of us can use contains tips on dealing with what she calls “rabbit holes”  – web sites that you start reading only to look up and realize how much time you have spent on nothing useful,  sites such as Buzzfeed or Facebook. She also does links roundup posts,  called “Links I Like” which made me empathize with her immediately.  🙂

Another legal blog with a category for productivity is Family Law Lawyer Tech and Practice,  by John Harding.   He includes reviews of software and hardware,  mentions new technology available,  and more.

Sites more specific to law school and law students include the Center for Legal Pedagogy‘s page on time management and productivity tools for law school and bar study.   It links to a number of tools in various categories including time management and productivity,  focus tools,  to-do lists and task management tools,  and organization.  Harvard Law School Library has a guide to mobile apps which has a page for productivity tools  Topics include apps for to-do lists,  notes,  scanning,  and more.   Kincaid C.  Brown of the University of Michigan’s law school library has a short PDF called Make Your Life Easier: Free Online Productivity Tools and Resources.  The items listed are primarily Firefox add-ons,  and are mostly general tools such as Zotero,  but there are a couple specific to law.    One is Jureeka! which,  when browsing a web page,  provides links to the full text of free sources of such legal texts as federal statutes,  caselaw,  regulations,  and more.   The other is CiteGenie,  which can provide bibliographic citations in either Bluebook or ALWD style for legal materials.

This is a whirlwind tour of sites for productivity tips and tools for legal study and practice.   If you have your own favorites,  please add them in a comment

Content Curation Tools 2: Alternatives to!

Back in May, we explored one of today’s most popular content curation tools:! Today I would like to broaden that discussion and look at a number of other alternatives to!.

There are different aspects of content curation that have to be considered when evaluating tools. Just like a crossroads with many different paths, your tool choice determines the direction of your content curation activities.

Some content curation tools have more advanced features with regards to the collection and alerting aspect of identifying new content.  For example, Feedly has become well known as the RSS aggregator successor to Google Reader.  It is a content curation tool that has specialized on the collection of content for the user to evaluate. As well as doing a good job of keeping track of RSS feeds you wish to follow, Feedly also offers a search engine which allows users to search for additional sources of information on a topic.  These new finds can then be added to your feed as well.

Some content curation tools have very attractive display and organization features.  For example, Tweeted Times is a specialized application that allows the user to created themed collections of tweets in an attractive newspaper format. Twitter lists or twitter searches determine the content which is refreshed every hour.

Another popular tool that utilizes a newpaper-like layout is  It combines entries from Twitter hashtags, photos, blog and newsline articles and Facebook. For example, Michael Steeleworthy published a paper called The Academic Librarian Review.  I have found this particular tool to be a bit klunky in its skill of returning content that was on point for my interests, but it has remained a popular choice on tool lists for some time.

When considering photos and graphics, Pinterest offers both the ability to easily add to your topical boards, but also to search others’ boards for new items fitting your topics.

Other content curation tools have better defined functionality for the actual curation and annotation of curated content. A prime example of this type of tool is Storify.  Popular in K-12 arenas for several years, this is a tool that is often overlooked by academic users. This tool allows the aggregation of text, video and images from many platforms including Twitter, YouTube and Facebook along with user content which relates the items together into a story or timeline.  One example of an application of Storify with an academic bent is the story created by Jeff Sonderman on the 9/11 anniversary broadcasts.

Another popular tool in the K-12 arena is Flipboard.  This tool allows users to create their own personal magazine.   Articles, blog posts, photos and other media can be aggregated to create attractive, professional-looking layouts in a digital magazine style.  K-12 teachers actively use Flipboard to create resources guides on class topics or current event magazines for their students to read as a part of their civics lessons.  Teachers also create assignments where their students create flipboard magazines on their assigned topics instead of the traditional paper report.  I can see uses for academic professors, college student projects and librarians.  As well as the types of uses popular with K-12, there are interesting applications for academic librarians using flipboard in creating user tutorials.  For example, here is a short flipboard on the tool Evernote. While this is not strictly a content curation related use for the tool, it is still a potentially effective application of the tool for typical work activities.

Understanding what functionality is more important to us is key to making the best decisions about which tool to adopt for our use.  That being said, there are many very successful content curators who use multiple tools in order to reach different groups and to capitalize on the special features that different tools offer. Consider your goals, take a look at some of the tools mentioned here, or in other tool review articles on the web, choose a tool and then get your feet wet.  Whichever tool you choose, getting started with content curation is the most important  part of the process.  You will refine your skills and learn what does and does not work for you as you hone your new skills.

Have you started making content curation a part of your life?  Share with us; let us know your successes and lessons you have learned.

Links Roundup #23

saddle and rope

Note that this is an extra Links Roundup article. I have simply gathered too much stuff, and must publish another roundup in order to get “caught up”. Enjoy!


Hackdesign is a web site that offers 44 lessons in design.  Either view all the lessons, or get one each week via email.  Lessons include design fundamentals, tools, typography, user experience, iconography, responsive design, and more. The Toolkit might be particularly useful.


Notes for Gmail Gives You a Scratchpad for Emails and Threads is a Lifehacker post by Alan Henry that discusses a Gmail add-on that basically adds sticky notes to either an individual email or a whole thread.

Evernote/OneNote/Note-Taking Software

Once again there is a feature in one version of Evernote (Mac version, this time) that I can’t wait to have in my version (Windows/Android).  Catherine Pope of The Digital Researcher writes, in Find Your Stuff with Descriptive Searching in Evernote that you can now use natural language searching in Evernote.  She gives examples, such as “image from this month”, and Evernote will recognize the date and format parameters and return notes that match both.

How people use a particular tool changes over time, as Jamie Todd Rubin acknowledges in a recent Going Paperless column on How I Simplified My Notebook Organization in Evernote.  The notebook structure he had during his early years using the product became too cumbersome and he came up with a simpler organization that works for him… and maybe for you.  Part Two describes how he simplified hist tag structure.  He also has a good column Add Reminders to Scanned Documents for Quick Action Items.  It discusses using the reminder feature of Evernote so that if you need to take an action on a particular document that you have scanned, Evernote will remind you if you set a reminder.  Yes, you should scan everything (I don’t yet, but will).

There have been a flurry of posts (such as this one) on Evernote‘s new ability to help one self-publish an ebook, via integration with the FastPencil platform.  Note that FastPencil sells a variety of services (at a variety of prices) such as professional editing, cover design, publishing distribution, and marketing.

Cindy Grigg, who does the website on office software, has a truly EXCELLENT article with a 40-feature comparison chart of Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, and Google Keep.  She links at the bottom to her more complete reviews of the three (Evernote, OneNote, and Keep).

Microsoft  Updates OneNote for Android for ‘Full Tablet Experience’ is an article in Tab Times.  It indicates the update is aimed mostly at students returning to school, and that one of its major features is handwriting recognition – draw either with a finger or a stylus.  Another article on the same topic, Why OneNote for Android with Handwriting is Important, makes the point that styli (styluses?) are getting better and thinner, more like writing with a pen or pencil, so that handwriting is more natural.  This can be important because some studies have shown that retention is better with handwriting than typing.

Library Technology

The 2014 NMC Horizon Report is now available.  Description:

The report describes findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, giving library leaders and staff a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.

Mac OS

The Mac Power Users is a podcast by Katie Floyd and David Sparks. Their mission is “to turn listeners into Power Users. Each episode will look in-depth at one computing or technology related topic or talk to a luminary of the tech community about their workflow.”  Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.


A lot of people have used Doodle to schedule meetings.  Timothy Lepczyk at EduHacker writes in Online Scheduling with Best Day about an alternative tool, Best Day, that has more features then Doodle, including allowing participants to vote on which location and time should be chosen for a meeting.


Cindy Grigg, has an in-depth review of Office 365 in her guide to office software, .  My place of work has just moved to it so I found this particularly interesting.  The Office Software page looks excellent and I have just signed up for the free email newsletter.

Mind Mapping

Catherine Pope of The Digital Researcher blog has a post on Scapple, which sounds like a combination of a mind-mapping tool and a note-taking tool.  More, it integrates with Scrivener, a writing tool that many academics use.  Scapple is available in both Mac and Windows versions.


Fatima Wahab writes in the Addictive Tips article Notable PDF: Annotate and Save Changes Made to a PDF Online about the Chrome extension that allows highlighting and commenting on a PDF and saving those as text and PDF.


Bonnie Stachowiak of the blog Teaching in Higher Ed has a set of links on PKM topics in Delicious.  In our interactions with her I’ve been bowled over by her organizational and communication abilities.  She also has an excellent introductory presentation on PKM.  And don’t forget to listen to her podcast #9, where she interviewed Crystal and me!


Maggie Zhang of Business Insider has a useful post 17 Web Resources that Will Improve Your Productivity.  A lot of our old friends are mentioned such as Evernote, IFTTT, and Feedly.  Most others I have heard of but not used.  Worth checking out.

Mihir Patkar of Lifehacker has a good post Use This Flowchart to Identify What Type of Procrastinator You Are.  The article discusses research done by Dr. Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University which identifed three types of procrastinators, the thrill seekers, the Avoider, and the Indecisive.  Listed are some hints for each type on how to deal with the problem.


“Lifehacker’s Five Best Desktop Antivirus Applications discusses the pros and cons of the viewer-chosen favorite applications.  The five are a variety of free, premium, and freemium; and a mix of operating systems.  Programs mentioned are Avast, ESET NOD32Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Avira.  If you aren’t protecting your computer, please do… you’ve heard enough about the risks!

Bob Rankin‘s Internet Explorer: the LEAST Secure Browser? is more nuanced than the title suggests, so read the whole thing.  Overall, IE, Firefox, and Chrome are all reasonably safe, with some security enhancements on the way.


In case you haven’t already noticed, we just love Jill Duffy‘s Getting Organized weekly columns for PCMag.  A recent one has detailed ideas for how to organize video files.


Hemingway is an app that helps with proofreading a document, and now is available on the desktop for Windows and Mac.  It works with Markdown, a mark up language for plain text beloved by many academic writers.

Jamie Todd Rubin, who I often mention for his Going Paperless columns on Evernote, is a programmer by day and a fiction writer at other times.  In “Open Beta of My Google Docs Writing Tracker Version 2” he shares the application he created to organize and track his progress on all his many writing projects.  He automated a lot of this process with a program which sends the data to a Google spreadsheet, and has now shared that program on GitHub.  This could be very useful for graduate students and faculty, as well as other writers.