By Elizabeth Griffith | December 13, 2017
If you're like me and working towards a degree, you'll appreciate my top 10 list of practical tech tips for college students.
1. Have a back-up.
During my first online class, I thought it would be a good idea to update the operating system on my seven-year-old laptop. Little did I know, it would leave my laptop with all the functionality of a shiny paperweight. To say the least, I freaked. I had a paper and discussion board posts due in just a few days and absolutely no easy way of completing them. Luckily, the IT department here at Marian came to my rescue with a loaner. I had mine repaired and purchased a new one that next weekend. I learned my lesson and I have a backup computer.
2. Go for the electronic textbook.
As I've worked in the adult programs for a few years now, I've noticed many students insist on paper textbooks, but trust me, electronic textbooks are cheaper, available instantly, and can be downloaded to multiple devices. You can notate, bookmark, and highlight them just as you would a hard copy. You can also perform keyword searches – a feature that has saved me an incredible amount of time when writing research papers.
3. Really utilize your smartphone.
Smartphones allow us to access course materials such as e-books, lectures, articles, and discussion boards from anywhere with cell service. Turn your waiting time into extra mini study sessions. When the kid's soccer practice runs long, the doctor's office is running behind schedule, or your oil is being changed, put your earbuds in and focus on making progress by logging into your course.
4. Take advantage of student discounts!
And I'm not talking about saving a few bucks on museum admission here, but rather much more significant sums on the hardware and software you may need. Whether you need a reliable, new laptop, iPad, or the latest photo editing software, most companies have special rates for education. Many online services will even give students extended and free trial periods. During my last class of the semester, Axure.com gave me a student license for a year and all I had to do was email them from my student email address.
5. Get over your fear of cloud-based storage.
I know that technology moves at the speed of light and all, but cloud storage isn't exactly a new thing. Companies like Evernote and Dropbox offer free accounts which also encrypt your data in transfer and in storage. Access your files from anywhere with an internet connection and a smart password and you can sleep well knowing military-grade cyber security keeps your information safe.
Additionally, I utilize Google's suite of products Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Gmail to act as the hub of my file storage, transfer, and communication needs. Not a fan of Google? Check out the list of alternatives published at pixelprivacy.com.
6. Submit your homework as PDFs.
Unless your professor specifies the format for your work, do everyone a favor by saving and submitting it as a PDF. PDFs are universal, that means regardless of the application that created the file, which cool fonts are used, how large the images are, and what operating system the recipient is running, the PDF can be viewed as it was intended to by the creator. Prevent those bizarre formatting issues that mysteriously pop up in shared Word docs by saving your work as a PDF.
7. Take your grammar to the next level.
When I went back to school, it had been twenty years since I had taken an English course. I took to Google for help in my writing and I discovered there are a lot of great tools out there. The one I use regularly is Grammarly. Grammarly checks my spelling, makes suggestions on correcting grammatical errors, and even looks for accidental plagiarism. It's cloud-based so I can log into any computer to continue writing where I left off.
8. Don't let source citation slow you down.
My go-to site for help with source citation is Citation Machine. Their free account does require you watch an advertisement once a day to use their service, but it is worth it to me. You select which citation style you want, select the source format, and type in the book name, magazine article title, URL, etc., and Citation Machine pulls the information from user aggregated searches to fill in the blanks. You can add any missing information and correct any parts that are wrong before hitting submit. It's as simple as a copy and paste of the formatted citation into your reference list.
9. Add polish and pizazz to your presentations.
How many boring PowerPoint presentations have you struggled through? Don't contribute to the monotony of lackluster presentations. Utilize free sources of photography, videos, and even sound bites on websites like CreativeCommons.org, Videvo.net (video), YouTube.com (audio), Incompetech.com (audio), Pexels.com (photos), Pixabay.com (photos), and pikwizard.com (photos). Weaving professional quality assets into your carefully prepared presentation helps to unify your work, engage your audience, and leave them with a positive and professional impression.
10. Go high-tech with your training in an online learning site.
Supplement your studies with a deeper dive into your top software programs or systems of interest. Online learning sites such as Lynda.com, Udemy, and Codecademy offer professionally produced video instruction with transcripts and exercise files that you can digest at your own speed. Find a learning site that works for you and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.
Hopefully, you find at least a few of these tech tips to be beneficial additions to your educational habits and methods. Technology is not a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing. We can always tailor it to our needs and comfort levels. So find what works for you and modify the processes you can to get your work done more efficiently.