Evernote Mobile – Part 4: Seven tips and techniques to use Evernote for college

One of Evernote’s biggest usergroup is college students. While day-to-day use of the service is being done in great amounts everywhere, one of the less talked-about uses is for college.

Use Evernote to collaborate

Evernote’s student ambassador, Megan Cotter, has already come up with a few tips for using Evernote — as the company itself puts it — from a college or university setting. But there we see a lot about using Evernote across devices — desktops/laptops, phones, tablets and so on.

However, in the real world, we are more often with our phones than most other devices, so here is how we can make best use of Evernote mobile everyday for college.

Evernote for research? Read on to find out!

Before we head off, I would like to map out our journey (it is going to be a longer article than usual!) We will start off by looking at a few common questions most students have — and, trust me, having used Evernote at college for 2 years, I realise there are some things you only learn by experience; nonetheless, I will share them with you!

From then on, we will assume certain things for our seven tips: that you are a college student (or are soon going to be one,) that you go to the same human college as the rest of us, where we all just love homework, that your day at college is spent (at least) trying to be more productive than usual, that you are actually interested in college.

Whew! We got that out of the way.

A couple of common questions

Should I go free or premium?

Sure you are an Evernote junkie, sure you can afford Evernote premium — you can also afford that enviable Volvo you look at everyday — but do you need it? Unless you are a student of graphic design, fashion, media or some field that actually lets you create visual artwork all day long, you most probably have no use of the extra offering on an Evernote Premium account.

Yet, the best advice I can offer you is this: try Free first; if you are frequently held back by the 60MB per month limit of Evernote Free, go Premium and bask in all 1GB glory.

I am an Apple fanboy, I have iCloud.

I am happy for you. No, really, because all I have is Google Drive which offers me all that and more, absolutely free. Anyway, since this is not a competition, let us return to the question at hand: can Evernote offer you something iCloud cannot, or vice versa?

Evernote using MapBox
Evernote+MapBox, one of the many extras Evernote can do. Image courtesy: Flickr/MapBox

Honestly, that is a silly question — and a surprisingly popular one at that. Evernote is a cross-device, cross-platform note-taking, pinning etc. app; iCloud is cloud computing. If you still do not get it, this might help: use Evernote as a go-to app for taking notes, making mark-ups, collaborating in sharing memos, links, saving parts of the web and so on; and use iCloud to store your documents securely online and make them accessible from everywhere.

So, when you share an update on Evernote with your project team, you can attach a link to the document on the cloud. You can take notes using Evernote, but compile them and create formatted documents on the long run that you can save on the cloud (Drive or iCloud.)

The bottom line? Evernote and iCloud are different, they cannot replace each other and are best used side-by-side.

So with Evernote mobile at college, I can take notes. Anything else?

A lot more. Evernote being called a note-taking app is mostly a namesake. Evernote really is a lot more, as we will see over the course of this article.

Now let us move on to the meat of this article!

1. Use Evernote as a scanner with search features

This is one of Evernote’s biggest advantages, in my opinion. When you come across some interesting snippet to keep and… well, just keep, then you can go the CamScanner way. But when there are notes you will get back to, study, annotate and stock, use Evernote. This is, in fact, how I do it myself.

Evernote’s wonderful image scan feature lets you search scanned, hand-written notes based on words appearing in those notes! Here is a quick demonstration of a similar  in screenshots:

Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 1
Step 1: I capture my handwritten note
Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 2
Step 2: I search for a keyword I recall
Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 3
Step 3: Evernote delivers results!

2. Organise your research

As part of an informal college group that discusses physics once a week, I find that I have to constantly hunt for information, research, read, make notes and recall them.

While Evernote cannot possibly help me do the last thing on that list (unless I physically look at my notes) it can help me do all the others there.

Research is a part of almost every college student’s years. The next time you are sitting for a long bout of reading, start capturing things and putting them in your Evernote. And when you are not sitting and researching, the chances are that you will come across something that might help you. The solution is simple: clip exactly what you need, organise it at leisure, and you are good to go!

3. Capture that whiteboard (or black or green)

Capture whiteboards with Evernote at college
Capture that whiteboard! Image courtesy: Flickr/Arenamontanus

We all know the popular saying, “Chalk and blackboard wait for none.” (Well, I cooked that up now, but you get the point!)

The next time your professor gets something up on the board (and if they are not allergic to phones and other gadgets in their class) snap a picture. With Evernote’s image search feature that we saw before, you can get back to the right whiteboard (or black or green) anytime you like.

4. Discuss and collaborate with your peers

While I cannot do this myself, I cannot deny the idea sounds enticing either. In fact, all college students should start collaborating this way if possible.

Set up a shared notebook (or stack if you wish) and start using it as a cross between a noticeboard and a discussion forum. Your friends can update it with things they have found in their exploration of syllabus topics while you can do the same. You can also set up combined study meet-ups in this manner.

This can also help in projects where many students will have to collaborate. Use Evernote as your own discussion board to exchange files (our next tip,) memos, updates and related thoughts.

5. Share, upload and search files

Evernote cannot open any files (as of the time of writing this article, not even open file formats) but the attach feature lets you attach a file in absolutely any format to open and use elsewhere.

Attach files to your notes in Evernote mobile
Attaching files in Evernote mobile

If you have an important file and uploading it to your choice cloud service is time consuming, quickly attach the file to your Evernote. That way, it syncs at leisure (for instance if you have set up sync only on Wi-fi) but you can rest assured the file will always be attached and available locally.

Now this may take up your storage space if you do it ten times a day, but it should hold up for nominal use. Also, if you already have an Evernote Premium account, you can search attached .pdf files. What is important here is to note that when you attach, Evernote merely carries the file, so, be it Pages, Office, OpenOffice or any other unheard of format, Evernote will still attach and carry it around, albeit never open it.

6. Record lectures or your own thoughts

Now students of sciences may find this impractical, but students of arts — where a lecturer’s words are art at best — will find  it extremely convenient to record lengthy talks and discussions directly to their Evernote. Simply turn it on at the beginning, go through class and turn it off again.

Recording audio notes is fast in Evernote
Recording audio notes is fast in Evernote

Here, you have the choice of keeping it locally in your mobile phone alone, or, if you do not mind the huge file sizes (as with our previous tip,) you can sync it to your other devices. Recording to a local notebook will solve this problem as it never syncs; similarly, recording to a synced notebook does its thing too.

But here is a nice thought that applies quite to everybody: use the audio note feature to quickly record your own thoughts into your Evernote.

For instance, I get weird, but wonderful, ideas many a time when I am out walking my Dane. If I stopped to type a note each time, he would understandably rip my shoulder socket out and continue on his walk. But if I record my thought, I can listen to it later while not breaking pace on my walk.

7. Manage documents, handouts etc.

I probably do not have to say how handouts and notices and schedules and notes and slides and… Well, these are essential and rather tiresome part of document management in college. With your Evernote, you can just start digitising them, or, if they are already digitised, maintain an Evernote library of all these documents.

By library I mean a notebook full of these documents attached. It is one thing to leave them lying around in your storage card, but an entirely different, organised approach to have them filed in your Evernote on all your devices.

I myself usually make it a point to download schedules, any syllabi and notices from my college website onto my Evernote and then scan and digitise supplied notes, slides etc. as the year goes. Try it yourself!

 Bonus tip! 

8. Keep a Schedule notebook

I call it a schedule notebook, but you can go ahead and call it whatever you like. The idea behind this is simple: keep a track of recurring things. (Not your daily schedule — I know the name is a tad misleading.)

College students have several things to do every day and several of them recur. These may come once a week, a month or over some other period; and a schedule notebook can help you keep track of things and make sure you attend to them all. These recurring tasks can be anything from making sure you attended enough hours in every course to keeping tack of whether you completed all assignments usually allotted each semester. Or it could be something — including regular tuition and hostel fees — that recur and are specific to your college.

Simply create a list with check boxes and leave it untouched. Every time you need to swing into action and do one of the tasks on that list, make sure you tick it and you can keep track of your progress.

 Bonus insight! 

How do I organise my Evernote mobile for college?

This is a question I got soon after I published the second article in this series, and I think it is both valid and interesting. While how each person organises their notes depends entirely upon that person, for the few who are understandably lost as to where to get started, it helps to know how others are organising their Evernote.

I keep a stack called “College.” At the start of a semester I erase all of my unwanted notes/notebooks and prepare fresh notebooks arranged so: one per paper, named by subject; one called dates; one for documents; and one miscellaneous notebook.

Any homework or coursework announced goes into the respective “subject” notebook. Any important dates, such as submissions, test dates and so on go into separate notes in the “dates” notebook tagged with the respective subject — this allows me to later search for dates by subject. As mentioned before, syllabi, handouts and other documents go into the “documents” notebook with the subject tags. Everything else goes into the “miscellaneous” notebook with the same tagging system for later reference.

Take a look below. (Since I am between semesters right now, I have reset my notes and that is why all note counts you see here are zeros.)

How I organise my Evernote for college
Organising my Evernote for college

 Apart from this, I do keep a To-Do notebook which may contain college stuff, but is a general notebook because it also contains my everyday, out of college stuff; the same goes for my research notebook, since I do not consider research to be a college-centred activity, but a lot more of a general one. And once a job mentioned in a note is finished, I tag it with my all-time favourite tag, done, so I will know when it is complete and out of my way!

I will spare you any further details; but now that you have an idea of how I organise my Evernote for college, maybe you can go ahead and come up with a system of your own to suit your subject and needs. Or you could go ahead, save your time and do it the way I am doing it. Either way, make sure your use of Evernote serves the purpose: increased efficiency, organisation and getting the job done. [vhb]  Cover image: Flickr/NazarethCollege