Now that we’re into the second week of classes, we’re long past the informal introductions and the administrative details and classes are beginning to pick up momentum. If you’re a first-year undergrad, then your breath is bated as you begin the portentous foray into post-secondary academia. If you’re approaching the end of your road at the University of Toronto, this year may be the one year that will make or break you.
In any case (no pressure, guys), you’ll be needing some extra fire-power in that utility belt of yours to help you through the semester. A few nifty (and obviously free) mobile applications may be the key to giving you the extra edge that you’ll need. Trust me when I say that it’s dangerous to go alone, so take these:
1) Blackboard Mobile Learn
Blackboard doesn’t even need an introduction. But for anyone who doesn’t know what it is for whatever reason, it’s a ubiquitous tool at U of T (and many other institutions), allowing students and faculty to access course content, updates, grades, announcements, discussion forums, and more. Download this one if you haven’t already, especially if you’re a keener looking for another way to stay on top of things at all times. Check out this link for more information about Blackboard’s mobile app for U of T.
I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of this one. Good Guy Dropbox has been very helpful to me over the years, as it allows me to store up to 2GB of documents, photos, and videos in a single folder, which I can then access from either my mobile device or my desktop computer, as long as I’m connected to the Internet. You can also generate a link to share a specific file, or even share an entire folder with another Dropbox user, making note-sharing or group work more convenient.
As a student, particularly at the University of Toronto, you know how important it is to count every nickel. That is, unless you’ve inherited a sizeable trust fund from your celebrity parents’ recent divorce settlement, or you just so happen to be a genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist. I’m going to venture a guess and say that you’re not and, if you’re someone like me, that your wallet feels the pinch of buying breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner every other day while you’re downtown.
If you’re living in residence or if you’re renting a place nearby, Epicurious might help you conjure up a simple and inexpensive meal, and help spare you the guilt of unnecessary spending. It’s like a virtual recipe book, and it’s even got an ‘I Can Barely Cook’ section devoted to culinary novices such as myself…
I feel like the biggest hypocrite for talking about saving money on food here. In the end, it’s up to you to decide if the money you save from not eating out is worth the added effort and cost of groceries.
Taking notes with your quill pen and paper scroll has become archaic. Fortunately, Evernote is a note-taking service that not only helps you take notes in lecture, but is also useful for taking pictures, audio notes, and sharing all of your work with your other devices on the cloud. I think it’s a pretty sweet deal for a free note-taking app, and I’m intent on using it to take awesome notes in all my classes.
There is one minor issue that my friend and I (and apparently other Evernote users) have experienced while using the app on the iPad, which is that the app has crashed a couple of times. Thankfully, all our notes remained intact, and starting the app again was quick. But if your lecturer speaks as fast as Prof. Brian Cantwell Smith, or Dr. Matthias Niemeier (anyone else?), you might miss an entire chapter in the 5 seconds it takes to re-launch.
5) Google Drive
I haven’t used this one enough to give you my personal opinion, but Google Drive bears a strong resemblance to Dropbox in that it offers the same essential features, such as cloud-based file storage and web-accessibility across multiple devices. Google Drive includes 3GB more of initial storage than Dropbox for free accounts, but you can earn up to 16GB of additional storage with Dropbox by referring it to others. I think the biggest advantage that Google Drive has over Dropbox is the fact that you can edit Google Docs through the app, which is great for collaborative work for your group project. If you’re really torn between the two, you can find a more in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the apps right here.
This one is only available on Apple devices. iBooks allows you to purchase books from the iBookstore, as well as download PDF documents using your Safari web browser for later or offline viewing. I’ve started to use iBooks on my iPad to download course slides, syllabi (I just wanted to say ‘syllabi’), and other documents in PDF format that my professors provide. I then organize all the documents into ‘Collections’ according to their corresponding class, from where I can read everything while studying for a test, or in order to keep up during lecture. It might come in handy, so I recommend downloading it if you don’t yet have it on your device.
I’m completely serious. So long as you’re not using it to follow the fabulous life of NiC0LE P0LiZZi, or to reflect upon the insightful teachings of @swagboyzzz2020, Twitter can actually be an effective resource to help you keep up to speed with news, activities, and upcoming events around campus. The clever thing to do would be to create and manage lists or groups of accounts that you follow (such as professors, peers, clubs, campus life, professional connections, etc.) so that you don’t waste your time scrolling through irrelevant tweets.
These are only a few of the many applications that are available to you to help you stay on top of your game. What other mobile apps do you have in your arsenal of productivity tools?