Dec 15, 2020

Essays, Exams, Results. The top multitasking and productivity tools of 2020 for students

While many people in full-time jobs look back on their student days as some of the best times of their life, very few will miss the difficult research and concentration required to write assignments, or the stress of waiting for exam results.

The use of the internet and online resources means that students now have a world of knowledge at their fingertips. Unfortunately, there are two downsides of our interconnected world that are very apparent:

  • Sheer volume of information - The amount of information out there can be overwhelming, meaning students flick from source to source without retaining any relevant information. With all the best intentions, students can find important sections from many different texts, only to see that without proper organization the key information can get lost.
  • Distractions galore - The internet is an incredibly powerful means to communicate with anyone in the world. This burning desire to reach out to people always seems strongest when it is study time. Social media aside, what about that funny video you saw on YouTube? What’s the name of that obscure singer from the early 2000’s with the frosted tips? Surely you can find them on Wikipedia? With distractions everywhere, getting in the headspace to really engage with an assignment is more difficult than ever.

Despite the obstacles, students are leveraging online connectivity while staying productive and achieving the results they desire. While willpower and habit forming indeed play a part, there are also some great online tools that can help students to concentrate and organize information, making the business of research, writing and studying a whole lot easier. Read on for some of the best tools for college students.

Productivity apps for college students

Some people are blessed with the ability to concentrate for hours on end, while others require some external push to help them enter the state of flow that is necessary to really engage with a task. People often ask about the best productivity apps for students, but of course there is no objective list. Some people need assistance proofreading their own work before handing it in, others need to be free of distraction from social media, or given a space where they can properly organize their thoughts. While this is no definitive list, we will show you some popular tools for college students so you can get an idea of what is out there and what you can take advantage of.

Alarmy

For most college students, oversleeping can be one of the main obstacles to a fulfilling and productive day. You may have a study schedule that was due to begin at 8am, or an early morning class that you skipped because you were up into the early hours of the morning. With all the best intentions you may set your alarm, only to snooze it repeatedly or even worse, disable it and then go back to sleep for hours, ruining all your carefully planned commitments.  

Alarmy is a wake up call that doesn’t take no for an answer. You can customize this alarm with either gentle or extra-loud ringtones, personalized messages, back up alarms and even missions linked to turning the alarm off. If you are someone who can turn an alarm off and go straight back to sleep, you can set a mission that involves solving a math problem or actually getting out of bed and taking a certain amount of steps. This is essential software for college students, ensuring you’re out of bed on time and ready to start the day as intended.

Grammarly

In the search for productivity websites for students you have no doubt come across Grammarly. Whether in your student or working life, using correct spelling and grammar goes a long way. It can show that you are serious about your work and actually check what you have written. Even with all the care in the world mistakes can slip through you didn’t even know you were making. This is where Grammarly comes in.

Used by people all over the world, Grammarly provides that extra set of eyes to make sure any work you turn in is professional and error free. It also goes far beyond just correcting mistakes, with AI technology helping you to structure your text for your chosen audience. It is more like an assistant than an arbitrator, which is extremely powerful.

Freedom

Scrolling on Instagram when you are meant to be studying? Surfing the internet when you have a set text to read? Even the most dedicated students are guilty of this. The allure of the world wide web is sometimes just too strong, so how can you find a way to beat the distraction?

Freedom is a cross-platform tool that has to be considered one of the best study tools for college. A very simple premise, Freedom allows you to block websites and apps (or if you are working offline, the whole internet) for a time period that you determine. You can limit your access to certain apps according to your study schedule and sync the website block across your devices. If you think your willpower will collapse, you can even block yourself from ending a session prematurely.

Evernote

The humble notepad should not be forgotten. Jotting down notes aids memory and helps learners synthesize key information. However, there are times when you want to compile texts from different sources, or maybe some graphs and images. Here we can see that pen and paper has some limitations. 

Evernote gives an online spin to note taking, with an array of features that can save you time and help you to better retain important information. There is the ability to scan and save paper documents, snip relevant sections of a website, and record and store text, images, video and audio connected to a topic. As well as integrating with other apps, you can also sync any pages you create to all your devices, meaning your study aids are there on your mobile to be reviewed anywhere and at any time.

Quizlet

In looking for the best software for college students, you may be tempted by programs that either promise too much or have an overwhelming number of complex features. Within the avalanche of available applications, Quizlet should not be forgotten. 

Quizlet is a service where you can create and/or review sets of flashcards. There are different interactive modes you can use that involve listening, writing and gamification to keep things interesting. Quizlet is perfect for people learning languages and subjects such as biology and science where new lexicons need to be mastered. Easy-to-use and fun, Quizlet is a great tool for students.

While we have taken a quick look at some programs from different spheres, we are now going to conduct a more in-depth examination of PDF editors. As a way to record information for essays and study, you may not immediately think of PDFs, but programs offering sophisticated editing capabilities are allowing students to work collaboratively and get more out of their texts.

PDF editor in focus

Most people don’t have a large experience editing and manipulating PDF documents. A PDF editor doesn’t come as part of the Microsoft Office Suite or as a cloud-native app on Google Drive. While there is no dedicated Google PDF editor, there are third-party apps that integrate with the cloud, allowing you to take advantage of an advanced PDF editing toolkit straight away. 

Lumin PDF is one such app and comes with the following features:

  • Editing and annotation - Edit your PDF in the document itself, no need to convert to other file types. Re-write text, add bold headings and use highlighters. Mark text and leave notes and comments for your own reference or for others to see.
  • Real-time sync and auto-saving for collaboration- Lumin PDF syncs with Google Drive, meaning that any document changed within the Lumin app will be reflected in the file in your Google storage. Documents can be shared in the cloud, with multiple people working in a PDF document at once. All changes are visible in real-time and saved automatically, meaning nothing is in danger of being lost.
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) - Opening a PDF containing typed or even handwritten text can be read by Lumin’s OCR software. This turns text from an image into machine readable characters so you can search and copy individual words or sections easily.
  • Merging and splitting files - With Lumin PDF, individual pages can be taken out of a PDF, meaning you only keep the information you need. Pages from other documents can be added to an existing PDF, or a large document can be split into different parts.
  • Unlocking files - Some PDF files can be owner-locked, which means that copying, editing and printing functionality is disabled. By opening a PDF in Lumin, the file can be unlocked in seconds, giving you the ability to use it for a range of purposes.
  • Cross-platform functionality - The Lumin PDF application can be used on any device, giving users the freedom to access and utilize the same array of tools whether they are working on desktop computers, laptops or mobile phones.

Many professional PDF editors have a selection of these features, but Lumin PDF has everything in one place. 

How can students use PDF editors to study more effectively?

Once you connect your online PDF editor to Google Drive, the sky's the limit! Here are some ways college students are using PDF editors to create assignments and study more effectively.

  • Annotate set readings - A staple of university of life is having a whole stack of readings for each subject. While there may be textbooks floating around, most texts are now online and often in PDF form. This may cost less and mean you don’t have to carry around a bag of books, but it is also harder to make notes. With a PDF editor you can highlight text and write notes and comments. With your PDF stored in the cloud you can even send it to a classmate to discuss and annotate along with you.
    What’s more, if you were to get a PDF that is locked and can’t be edited, you can always just upload it to the PDF software and unlock it on the spot.
  • Search and copy with OCR - With a big paper textbook it may take time to find the exact section or paragraph you need for your research. PDFs also used to have this problem. Presented as an image, you couldn’t use Ctrl + F to find a keyword. However, with OCR technology, PDF software is able to read the PDF, meaning you can search and copy any text freely to put in your notes.
  • Work collaboratively - 2020 has meant that many students have been robbed of the ability to interact and undertake group work face-to-face. Luckily, with cloud-based applications you can stay connected easily. Group assignments involving PDFs can be worked on collaboratively in Google Drive, with real-time syncing and auto-saving. This means nothing gets lost, everyone works from the one version of the document and you can see changes as people are making them.
  • Checklists for tasks - College is often the time where people get their first real taste of multitasking. There are classes, essays, exams and part-time work commitments. When these all come at once it can be overwhelming. Paralyzed by indecision over which task to tackle first, it always helps to create some kind of list. Not only does it help you to get organized, it's satisfying to tick off. PDFs are ideal for creating fillable forms, so with the top PDF editors you can download an already made template, customize it and finally get to work on your most pressing tasks!
  • Create study aids - Want to take all the relevant parts from your learning materials and combine them into one easy document? Merging and splitting of PDFs means you can take different sections and pages out of PDF (or other) documents and package them into a study aid for your upcoming exam. Highlight the important sections and write notes to make sure you don’t forget any crucial information come test time.

The top tools for students in 2020

Being a college student means interesting classes, exciting social experiences and stressful preparation for essays or exams. Working online has allowed people to access resources they may never have come across, but distractions from things like social media can pose a real threat, as can inefficiency arising from not being able to organize a large amount of information effectively. We have looked at some productivity apps that could help you to stay on top of your coursework while getting the most out of your college experience. We have also seen the versatility of PDF documents, especially when professional editing software such as Lumin PDF is used. With guides and forms you can be assured of the support you need to boost your academic potential.

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