It’s September and the beginning of a new academic year. Whether you’re just starting out or preparing for your final year at University, we can guess that your smart devices (phone or tablet) play an important role in your daily activities. Apps should not be left out of University life either and can be used as learning tools, to increase productivity as well as staying healthy. In this article, Amara shares a list of great apps* to kick start your studies this year. All apps mentioned are available on both iOS and Android platforms with price plans from free!
*This is not a sponsored article. Neither the author nor APH has received any direct or indirect compensation for any products discussed.
Your University’s app – I would always recommend starting here first. As Higher Education continues to embrace technology in facilitating teaching and learning, almost every Higher Education Institution delivers their teaching using an online platform such as Blackboard™ which have associated apps. Apart from giving you access to all the teaching material, you can check your assessment deadlines, get feedback on your coursework, and communicate with other students in your class. Some University apps have more enhanced functionality providing students with information and services anytime, anywhere.
Evernote/Penultimate for Evernote – Have you ever written something important on a piece of paper just to lose it when it really mattered? With Evernote, you can have all your important information not only in one place but well organized for instant access. Every smartphone usually has an app for notetaking but with Evernote, you can attach images, embed voice files, scan documents, prepare to-do lists and set reminders. If you find typing your notes in class too difficult, Penultimate for Evernote is a great ‘type to text’ app that can convert your written notes to text and save into Evernote. The app also syncs your notes across devices so you can write a note on your iPhone and read it on your Samsung tablet. Another important advantage is that there is a website behind it so if you ever lose your device, your notes are still available.
Dropbox – My biggest fear at University was leaving my floppy disk in the library’s computer! Yes, there were storage devices before the advent of the memory stick! No more excuses of your dog eating your homework! With Dropbox, you have cloud storage of all your very important work which you can access from your phone/tablet. Ensure you always back up your files so the least you can lose is your latest draft and not all your work from 2010! It is also a good place to store and organize your holiday snaps and other memorable photos. We could all use some more gigabytes!
A flash card app for revision – We are so sure that if you are reading this, you are one of the conscientious students who prepares for revision early on in the semester by making their own notes. If you are, keep it up. If not, what are you waiting for? Flashcards are a great way of summarizing your taught material using your own words. You can note areas you need to conduct more research in or keywords that need to be more clearly defined. If you use flashcards already why not try an electronic version? These are less susceptible to loss and can be synced across your devices. Some allow you to embed pictures and audio into your flash card. What’s not to love about that? Examples include Evernote peek, StudyBlue, Quizlet and Chegg (available for iOS devices, please check for Android).
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RefME – Writing continues to be one of the biggest challenges new as well as not so new students grapple with in Higher Education and based on my personal experience referencing is not left out. Have you ever spent time researching a topic for an essay, reading through different topics, furiously making notes just to find out you’re all muddled up when it comes to what idea came from where and preparing your Harvard or APA reference style list at the end. Well RefMe can help you collect your research and manage your references, supporting your development into a more skilled academic writer. Other apps that do an equally good job are EasyBib and Endnote.
Social media apps – Wait a minute Amara, are you sure? Yes I am. Social media is here to stay and we may as well get with the program. The key to winning with social media is pre-defining your purpose for being on social media before you start and managing your time effectively. You should be using social media and not the other way around. Increasingly, developing an online social presence has become important to help you stand out of the crowd and recognize key influencers and opportunities that can support your career post University! It is never too early to create your LinkedIn profile or use Scoopit! to publish curated information pertaining to your discipline. What do you spend your time on Youtube doing? Watching cats playing tricks? While I agree that is a fun way to spend your time, do you realise how much knowledge is available in bite size chunks on your subject? Who makes the best videos explaining key concepts in Economics? Whatever platform you choose to follow the news or contribute to the conversation, always practice netiquette.
Khan Academy – I’ve used and recommended Khan Academy to my students especially those just starting out for years. Why? Because it’s a great tool and aid to support learning for selected subject areas particularly the sciences. If you’re a first year student in the Biosciences check out the Biology and Chemistry topics. Having this app means that you can have this resource with you at all times and not just when you are in front of a computer.
Google apps – Google provides a range of different apps that can help you organize your calendar and email, ‘Maps’ to help you navigate if you’re new to the town or city, docs, spreadsheets to prepare your work and Drive for online storage.
TED – Hopefully you’ve heard about TED talks? Why do you need it? Well, you’ll hardly get through University without undertaking some form of public speaking will you? The best place to learn is always from the best. With this app, you’ll have access to some of the best from the TED stage. Learn how to engage an audience, speak confidently and about the latest innovations in a wide range of disciplines.
A Fitness app – Working towards a degree is not just about developing academically and mentally. You need to take care of your health too. If you’re like me and need some extra help to keep on the straight and narrow with your fitness goals, consider adding a fitness app to the mix. I’m not making any recommendations here so look for something that works for you! For somewhere to start you can look up apps like ‘Couch to 5K’ from the BBC, FitBit, 7 Minute Challenge or just a simple pedometer. Please note that not all these apps are free.
Your bank’s app – Yes, I know I said 10 but see this as a bonus. The most important resource a University student has is their time however the biggest cause of concern for most students is money. Moving to another town, giving up work/working part time, costs associated with study can all be a drain on finances but moving to an online banking platform can ensure you always stay on top of what is happening without having to spend time standing in queues at the bank or an ATM. Managing your finances is important to improve your overall experience at University so ensure you keep on top of it and use the support available from your institution when you need it.
What did you think of this list? It’s not exhaustive by any means but I believe it is a good place to get started. Do you have all these apps or are there any more you can recommend to our readers. Please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!
About our writer – After completing a PhD in Microbiology and Food Science, Amara is developing her career in academia – providing teaching and learning solutions in UK FE and HE Institutions as well as conducting research in Food Microbiology. Amara believes in the combined power of education, mentoring and productive relationships as essential tools for building successful careers.