Evernote Hacks V: Using Evernote for teaching

Evernote is not only great for personal note-taking and organization. Because notes and notebooks can be shared, Evernote is also great for collaboration in teaching. This post looks at some use cases.

evernote for teaching


This post is part of my Evernote Hacks series – check out the other posts!


There are many online tools to provide materials for teaching and collect contributions by students. My university offers at least two. Many online tools work in the browser, and uploading stuff can be a pain. I’ve found Evernote to be a great alternative.

Sharing the course notebook

I create a notebook for the course, and then share it with all attendees. For this purpose, they must register with Evernote using an email address of their choice. Students can use the free plan, so no cost is incurred. I share the notebook with the email address they send me. Done.

Because sharing requires entering the email address in Evernote, I haven’t used Evernote for lectures with a large number of listeners. However, interaction is usually limited in lectures anyway. Evernote unfolds its potential in smaller courses in which lots of materials need to be shared.

Using Evernote for regular classes

The greatest advantage of Evernote is that it integrates with almost all major platforms (Linux excluded, unfortunately, though there it works in the browser as everywhere else). My biggest motivation for using it for teaching is that all my information is either already in Evernote, or I can easily move it there. It simply integrates perfectly with my computer environment and my workflows.

Providing a course outline

Before I start a course, I create notes with the course overview and course rules. Then I create a note for each session. Each note simply outlines the general structure of what I want students to fill in when they prepare their contribution:

  • The names of the students responsible for the session
  • The objectives of the session
  • The session plan
  • Slides
  • References

When they prepare their session, students fill in this grid. It helps them to know what I expect them to prepare.
I also use these notes to give an overview over the course in the first session. I directly write into each session’s note who will be responsible for each session.

If you name notes beginning with an exclamation mark, they will be sorted to the top when sorting notes alphabetically. Similarly, numbering sessions will result in the correct order then.

Providing materials

It’s hardly worth mentioning that both you and your students can upload whatever they want to share. I make all papers used in the course available. Students add their own papers, their presentations, photos of flipcharts, metaplan posters, and the chalk board, content they find on the web, and whatever else might come up in the course.

It is worth mentioning that students’ upload goes against your account. This means they can upload large amounts of stuff, even if they are using the free account. That is, as long as you have a paid account (both professional and business accounts come with unlimited upload nowadays).

Using Evernote for research classes

In our Psychology BSc and MSc programs, we offer courses that teach students hands-on experimental work. In these courses, I use Evernote to collect everything, just as in a regular teaching course: relevant papers, programming code for the experiment, etc.

In addition, students save their data files, notes about data acquisition, and code for statistical analysis. Some also use the platform to exchange ideas and have discussions.

Because Evernote synchronizes automatically, students don’t have to remember to download anything. Their materials are just always there. It’s practical.

Using Evernote for individual student research projects

Finally, I use Evernote to share materials for BSc and MSc thesis projects. In the end, this is no different from using it for our group’s regular research projects (I’ve explained in an earlier Evernote Hacks post how we organize Evernote for this purpose).

I ask my students to collect everything in their project folder: meeting notes; notes about their experiment; notes about data acquisition; etc.

This way, if you ever want to use the work of your student in a paper, you’ll know where to find everything. If you still have to save data elsewhere, such as large data files, create a note that states where the data are. This is very helpful if you are searching several months (or years…) later. Really.

Everything in one place

In short, all my teaching is in Evernote.

I always know where to look. Finding stuff is easy, because everything is in one place.

Copying materials from an earlier course to create a new one is as easy as marking some notes and copying them over to the other notebook.

And with all of that stored information, Evernote’s many features are always at hand: sharing notes with new people, sending stuff by email, working on documents right out of Evernote, and search capabilities.

Have you used Evernote in your teaching? Good or bad experiences? I’m curious! Let me know in the comments…

Resources

To read more about how you can organize Evernote when you have to share your stuff with many different individuals and groups, check out my post Evernote Hacks Part I: Setting up your Evernote Business and Personal notebooks.

And find out more about my Evernote Hacks series.

Photo credit: blieusong / Foter / CC BY-SA

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