Being productive and getting things done both rely on planning and being organized. But with the hustle and bustle of courses, it’s sometimes easy to forget what you have to do and when. So here are 25 Web 2.0 applications (mostly free) that should help you on your quest as a student or professor in being productive.
The idea is that these applications will in some way increase productivity and/or reduce time taken for specific tasks. Thus, some companies are more heavily represented because their products are designed for productivity.
These Web 2.0 tools were designed specifically for students, educators, and/or parents.
Engrade is a suite of tools that acts as a gradebook for courses, as well as a communication vehicle. It seems aimed at the grade school level of courses as it allows parents to participate. However college students and professors could benefit. Grades and scores can be weighted and listed by letter or number. Administrators can oversee educators’ classes.
Students: Check grades, atttendance and homework.
Professors: Publish grades, attendance, homework assignments. E-mail weekly progress reports to students.
Chalksite handles some of the administrative tasks of courses, such as managing grades and assignments, and communicating with students.
Students: View class assignments, your grades, or discuss homework problems.
Professors: Set up workspaces for each class you teach. Add your students to the list and invite them automatically by e-mail. Post assignments, attendance, and grades. Assignments can have files attached that students can view. Chalksite also has messaging one-on-one or by group, as well as discussions similar to Web site commenting. Educators can also connect with parents and create teacher Web pages.
Schoopy is a classroom organizer application that also allows school Web pages to be created. It’s aimed more at public schools than colleges, though it can still be of use. Parents can register and access the appropriate Schoopy account for a school, as well as participate in discussions. It’s similar in spirit to Chalksite but also allows the creation of online communities and the designation of users as leaders or participants.
The name Gradefix is misleading. It’s not a way to hack into an educator’s grade database. Instead, it’s a homework management system that allow students to easily schedule homework around classes and other tasks. Gradefix is designed to help procrastinators — sort of like project management for students.
CollegeRuled is primarily for students, allowing them to create their class schedules, participate in discussions on class message boards, and link to schedules from Facebook. Students can also manage tasks for each class, to keep track of notes and assignment due dates.
Tuggle is designed for student communities and the easy management of them. Features include event signups, online payment via Paypal (transaction fee), group e-mail and texting, group directory, questionnaires/polls, reports, and a variety of community tools including bulletin boards for finding rides, roommates, etc.
Students: Student leaders can set up an organization Web page, get members to signup by e-mailing them a link, and administrate activities.
Professors: Manage student events outside of class.
TeamCowboy is for students or professors who manage student sports teams. Track your roster, setup game schedule, game scores, payment for equipment, etc.
Calendars, Task lists, Planning tools
How can you be productive if you don’t know what needs doing when? Manage every thing with a variety of task management applications.
- Google Calendar.
Google Calendar has its interface annoyances but is otherwise quite well laid out. Add events to your own default calendar, additional calendars you name, or other public calendars so that study teams can coordinate remotely. Each calendar’s events can be color-coded as desired. Calendar view can be single-day or up to seven days.
Addons: RememberTheMilk: Reminder plugin that can be integrated into GMail or used independently.
Students: Record your class and lab schedules, assignment and project due dates, team meetings. Share your schedule with teammates, friends, and family. Define separate calendars for each group and share accordingly.
Professors: Share your office hours with students, meeting times with colleagues, research grant proposal due dates with assistants, etc.
Alternatives: Spongecell, CalendarHub, Backpack, CollegeRuled (above), 30boxes (below).
30boxes is a calendaring tool that has the extra feature of allowing you to track headlines from RSS Web feeds.
Students: In addition to managing your schedule, use 30boxes to follow events and news from your campus’ Web site or course Web sites.
Professors: If you have a course Web site that allows student comments, you can easily keep track of them via a comment Web feed, which will display a snippet in 30boxes on the day it was posted.
Neptune is simplicity in to-do list management, allowing you to set up various folders with one or more tasks. Order tasks in each folder by priority. Neptune will e-mail you each day (if you want) with a list of the topmost task for each defined project. Task items can also be e-mailed to Neptune or uploaded from a file. Note taking allows HTML formatting, images, and limited math formulas.
Students: While Neptune events are not yet shareable, a student could use it to take note snippets for projects due.
Professors: Manage multiple classes, research, grant proposals, and meetings.
Alternatives: Ta-da Lists, Zoho Planner, MyTicklerFile (below), iOutliner, Sproutliner.
MyTickerFile is a calendaring tool for managing reminders and projects. This one differs in that it uses 43 folders: 31 “day” folders and 12 “month” folders, allowing you to break down tasks by date priority. Students and professors can record and manage short-term and long-term reminders and project tasks
- Zoho Projects.
Zoho Projects is a project management tool that lets you define and manage tasks, milestones, status reports (including Gantt charts), time tracking, and file sharing. Tasks and subtasks can be structured in nested form, with duration, start date, due date, and task owner easily defined. Task owners can even be notified by e-mail of a task assignment (by the project manager). Amongst other features, team meetings can also be scheduled.
Students: This may be a bit extreme for the average student, but seniors or grad students working on large, multi-stage projects with or without other students can use Zoho Projects to manage the workload.
Professors: Similarly, professors can manage large research projects involving colleagues and/or students.
Want to take notes about a particular Web page? MyStickes are like sticky notes for the Web. Once you’ve registered (free), you can add sticky notes wherever you like. When you come back to a page, the sticky will be there.
Students: Don’t have time to read a full Web page and make notes? Add a sticky indicating how far you got to save time.
Professors: Save your precious office hours by adding important notations about assignments or specific problems on your course’s official Web site. Helpful for students who cannot make your office hours.
Research and Documentation Tools
Office productivity suites (word processor, spreadsheets) and various research tools will save students and professors time.
- Google Docs and Spreadsheets.
Docs and Spreadsheets is Google’s Web-based answer to Microsoft’s famous MS Office tools, MS Word and MS Excel, respectively. Two applications have been combined together from one simple panel, though each has its own easy-to-use interface.
Students: Write notes or assignments from any computer. Share them with studymates.
Professors: Publish assignment answers and supplmental spreadsheets and share them with students.
Alternatives: Spreadsheets include ZohoSheet, EditGrid, Numbler, Numsum, ajaxXLS. Word processors include Zoho Writer, Writeboard, AjaxWrite, Zoho Notebook.
Have a collaborative blog and need to monitor it for changes? Researching a subject and need to follow a lot of weblogs regularly? Bloglines makes it simple to browse new articles on each blog you’ve subscribed to. Your subscription list can be organized into folders.
Alternatives: Newsgator Online Edition.
- Google Reader.
Google Reader offers essentially the same functionality as Bloglines, though in a different interface. The real beauty of Google Reader is that if you use Google’s GMail e-mail client (see below), you can integrate Google Reader into it.
Students: Tracking various Web sites for a research project? Browse headlines, save items for later use, or e-mail to a study partner.
Professors: Have a class blog? You or your TA can subscribe to the comments feed to quickly see what your students are saying/asking.
Del.icio.us is a popular social bookmarking tool whereby bookmarked Web pages can rise to the home page by having multiple votes. It can also be used for bookmarking research references.
Students: Share your references with classmates or study partners.
Professors: Share references with teaching assistants, colleagues, or students.
Diagramming, Presentation, and Other Visual Tools
Diagrams and other visual aids often help the research process go faster, sometimes sparking untapped ideas.
Mindmaps resemble a pattern of neurons (ideas) and connections (pathways). Mindmapping is a highly productive method of visual brainstorming, used to plan projects or map out a knowledge base, amongst other uses. They can help you decide what topics to study, as well as provide an upfront visual cue of what you already know and thus don’t need to study. Mindomo has an interface and feature set that rivals even free standalone mindmapping applications such as Freemind. Maps are shareable but require you to register and login to save them.
Alternatives: Mindmeister, bubbl.us.
Gliffy is a diagramming tool for producing flowcharts, “swimming lanes”, process flows, network diagrams, UML diagrams, chemical processes, and various other technical and non-technical illustrations.
Students: Add a bit of spark to your term papers with a few relevant diagrams.
Professors: Elaborate visually on a lecture topic and share the diagrams with students.
Alternatives: CumulateDraw, ajaxSketch.
With Thumbstacks, create MS Powerpoint-like presentations in Firefox (Mac, Linux, Windows) or IE (Windows), and share them with others, to be viewed in any modern Web browser.
Students: Create presentations for a term paper.
Professors: Create supplemental presentations for sharing with students or colleagues online, or display on overhead screens in class.
Alternatives: Zoho Show, Empressr (below), ajaxPresents.
Empressr is a presentation/slideshow tool that lets you use a variety of audiovisual content (video, audio, pictures, Flash, charts, and graphs). Presentations can be shared.
Students: Supplement class presentations with visuals.
Professors: Create class notes or supplemental presentations and embed them in your course’s official Web site.
Miscellaneous Productivity Tools
The apps here are for general productivity. Some might not strictly be Web 2.0, but they will at least be a plugin for another Web 2.0 application.
How is Google Mail productive? If you’ve never used it, it’s among the best of the Web-based e-mail clients, if not the best. It has high-quality spam filter, and you can configure additional filters to redirect incoming mail to various folders depending on their source. It can also serve as a command center for your other e-mail accounts. GMail not only lets you retrieve e-mail messages from other e-mail hosts’ accounts, you can also send mail as if from your other addresses.
Addons: GTDGMail: Firefox extension. The GTD – or Getting Things Done – movement has become hugely popular online. GTDGMail piggybacks over GMail and lets you compose and send reminders to yourself in a manner similar to e-mail. It helps you organize the GTD process and turns your Firefox Web browser into a productivity tool.
Students: Manage your e-mail messages by setting up folders for each course, as well separate folders for family and friends, Google Alerts for research, etc.
Professors: Manage your e-mail messages by course, research project, department, etc.
Can’t get all your friends and classmates using a single text chat client? Meebo acts a browser-based bridge to AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Windows Live/MSN Messenger, ICQ, and Jabber. Nothing to install and it’s free.
Students: Manage chats with family, friends, classmates, and professors.
Professors: Offer text chatting as an alternative to office hours help, or collaborate with remote colleagues.
Campire is a group communication tool. With it, you can share content and graphics. Just set up access lists and send out invites by e-mail. Configure what each person can see in the private chat room. Chat history is available.
Students: Conduct remote group study sessions.
Professors: Hold remote help sessions conducted by yourself or your teaching assistant(s).
Alternatives: Zoho Chat, Meebo (above).
- Zoho Creator.
Use Zoho Creator to create database-driven applications from scratch by defining form fields, by copying and modifying existing applications, or by importing data.
Students: Use it to build an easy-to-access knowledge base of your subjects.
Professors: Create test quizzes for students, as well as test answers, reference lists, and collect questions about the course from students. Need to assign term paper topics uniquely? Create a list of available topics and let students choose.
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