I have a confession to make (on behalf of my institution)... I have lived through LMS hell over the past 5 years at my university. To date, I have recreated one course in four different LMS systems - and since LMSs don't talk to one another kindly, I have had to recreate them from scratch. Fortunately, we seemed to have adopted a new LMS that should have some shelf-life, but the experience has forced me to take matters into my own hands.
Additionally, while I like to use an LMS for communicating grades (or accepting papers or automating quizzes and exams), I really prefer to own my materials. If I ever decide to pack my books for a new institution, I would like to take as much of my work with me as possible.
For these reasons, I started looking to Evernote as a way of collecting my lesson plans, presentations, notes, and other resources into course notebooks that can easily be shared with the students in my class. At this point, my students tell me that they LOVE having the course material in a shared notebook, and I think I have a system worked out that could survive another four LMS platforms (*shudder*).
Setting up the Course
I mentioned previously that I have very few notebooks. The exception to this rule is that I have a separate notebook for each class that I am currently teaching. I usually name those notebooks by the course dept, number, section, and semester code that my institution uses. In the example that follows, the course is ENGL432.01 (dept., number, section) 201520 (spring, 2015). The reasons for a unique notebook are several...
- I need to be able to share this notebook with a specific class. Whatever is added to the notebook is shared, and all of my awesome pesto recipes elsewhere in Evernote remain private.
- I invite only the students in my course to the notebook.
- When the semester is over, I will tag them (ENGL 432), move the notes to my Reference notebook, and delete the shared course notebook. Later, I can search for the tag, and create a new shared notebook for the next semester.
Conventions for Notes
I find it useful to have a system for naming notes in the course notebook. I have three major conventions that I typically prefer to use...
- Admin - [notename] : This group of notes may include the course calendar, the syllabus, information or helpnotes related to the LMS, etc. I name the note with the course syllabus and calendar "Admin - !Welcome, Contact Info, Syllabus" - the reason for the ! is so that it is listed first when the notes are arranged alphabetically.
- Chapter [x] - [topic] : If we are following the general outline of a textbook, then I like to arrange my notes according to the chapters as well. Not all of my courses are arranged by chapters in a text - in which case, I will arrange them "Lecture [x] - [topic]
- FYI - [topic] : I like to share resources with my students that are not required reading, but relate to discussions we have in class. If I run across a new article related to our class lectures, I'll share it as an FYI. Also, I tag these so that I can find them later and incorporate them into the readings for a class the following semester (if they deserve to be included).
- Study Aid - [topic] : Pretty self-explanatory, I think ;-)
If you are a premium user, you can attach powerpoints or keynotes to the notes. I used to do this - until I discovered a much more efficient way to present course lecture notes. Evernote's "Presentation Mode" will turn any note into a BEAUTIFUL (and deliciously minimalist) presentation. Below is an excerpt from my class lecture notes...
When I choose "Presentation Mode," the screen goes to this...
I love this solution for several important reasons.
- Creating the outline in Evernote is breezy easy. I sometimes write my outlines in OmniOutliner, and then export them to a text file and paste them into Evernote. But recently, I've discovered that I am quite happy to simply draft my lecture notes in the Evernote note directly.
- I really want my students to engage in discussion with me - not write down (or type down) stuff on the big screen. They have access to the notes in the previous format within Evernote, and yet see controlled sections of the notes while I am lecturing.
- I try very hard to be sensitive to students with disabilities in my class (I am, after all, the ADA compliance officer for my institution). This accommodation of copies of the lecture notes is available to everyone, but can be especially helpful to students with various disabilities.
I want to be clear about how Evernote is useful in this context - it is great for giving information to students. You'll still need a system (LMS or otherwise) for the student to submit work, to communicate grades, give exams, etc. But I really do believe that your course is YOUR course, and shouldn't be locked away in the institution's LMS. Evernote have proven to be fertile ground for me to share as much as possible with my students in an accessible way. I can assure you that my students LOVE the shared Evernote notebooks as much as I do.
Image Credit: Evernote Peek. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2015, from https://evernote.com/intl/es/peek/