Evernote as a Learning Management System, fall 2016
My Fall 2016 teaching semester was "one for the books". I found myself scrambling for help, advice, and support throughout the semester. This semester was especially tedious, because of my switch from one university to another (I need not remind you of the difficulties that come with changing jobs based on knowledge work). Of all my years teaching, fall 2016 has probably been the most gruesome! From lagging turnaround times for grading assessments to understanding the new tenure process at my current institution, I must admit the laxity in my brain has reached an all-time high.
Before breaking down my use of evernote, allow me to indulge you with my setup first:
I have several notebooks. My 'inbox' notebook is my, well, inbox notebook. In a GTD system, this acts as my catch-all notebook. Blog subscriptions, financial statements, email forwarding, etc. Everything gets collected here first. After triage, most of these notes go to my 'File Cabinet' notebook. All evernote files in my system are housed in the File Cabinet. Then, I organize everything based on Evernote's tagging system (many organize based on notebooks. I find that a tagging system work better). The greatest feature of the tagging and notebook features are the nesting of the tags, and the "stacks" of notebooks.
In terms of using Evernote as a learning management system (LMS), I had a pretty good experience. In my classroom, communication is key. I must be able to connect with my students, and the connection can't be inorganic (email, the current blackboard learn setup, etc.). It has to 'feel' as natural to how they regularly communicate as possible. If they need me, I must be available. It's my job! If a change to the class has occurred, I must be able to make an announcement that gets to them faster than email. The Evernote chat function was quite helpful for that (see screenshot below). When assignments were due, students were able to submit directly to my Evernote default notebook. After submission, I was able to give immediate feedback on their documents using the pdf markup function in Evernote. When they had questions about lecture, students were able to chat with me during the evenings, a time when many college students catch up on work, reading, and studying. I also gave a series of audio lectures using Evernote for absences due to conferences and such. The best feature for my classes was the organization of class notebooks. I created a single notebook for each of my classes, then shared those notebook with each of the students in the class. Thankfully, our university creates listserves for each of our classes, so I simply shared the listserve address with the corresponding Evernote notebook. That worked well! I also created an administrative notebook for advising, scholarship, and university service. Call me crazy, but I also used Evernote's tagging function to my benefit. I created a tag for each student, each faculty/staff member, and each class. I also have tags related to class work (ex: .exam, .fall 2016, .outline, .presentation, .lab, etc.). That way, when I needed reference to something, or a student needed reference to something, it was relatively easy to retrieve from my notebooks. After an exam, I posted a copy of the exam and exam answers, so that students could do a deep dive into areas they did not comprehend. This was especially helpful for students not willing (shy) to ask questions in class.
The way technology is used in the college classroom is changing. Professors must be aware of it, and modify based on best (and common) practices for themselves and for the student. Overall, Evernote really proved to be helpful in keeping up with assignments, keeping track of student submissions, communicating with students in a timely manner (and giving them priority, which is what I tend to do when people text me instead of calling. Spoiled American, I am). I also used other applications as a part of my workflow, but independently, Evernote as an LMS - pretty good!