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15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016

15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016

So, it’s 2016 and you’re ready to get your life organized, once and for all. The question is how? There’s only so much that you can manually manage all by yourself, and trying to take on too much can cause you to get stuck in the never-ending cycle of “busy work” that keeps you from working on the things that really move the needle.

If you’ve been really struggling to hold it all together lately, perhaps it’s time to take advantage of some of the following productivity resources and tools that are freely available to use online. They can help automate some of your most tedious tasks, speed up your progress, and keep track of everything while you’re at it.

1. Google Drive

Google Drive is the ultimate cloud-based platform for storing, managing, sharing, and collaborating on files. You can create documents, spreadsheets, slides, forms, and drawings directly in Google Drive while keeping them neatly organized in folders to be edited anytime you want. All changes are synced right across your account.

As a Google product, Google Drive is integrated with other popular Google products like Gmail and Google Photos. If you work in teams, files and folders can be shared so that everyone who has access to them can see and make updates in real-time so that everyone has the most updated version of the file.

2. Evernote

Similar to Google Drive, Evernote is a cloud-based platform designed for creating and storing all sorts of different files. It’s generally viewed as an advanced note-taking tool that allows you to organize your notes into notebooks with optional tags for even more precise categorization.

Evernote also has an incredibly useful web clipper tool, which is a browser extension you can use to easily save whole web pages, small sections, or just the URL as a bookmark to your account. Any notes that you create and manage can also be shared and managed by other Evernote users who are invited to do so.

3. IFTTT

There’s a good chance that you use a lot of apps and tools already—both for personal and professional reasons. IFTTT (If This Then That) is an incredibly helpful tool that can connect one app to another, giving you the opportunity to set a specific “trigger” between them that automatically generates a specific action. These are called “recipes.”

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For example, if you use Evernote a lot, you could create a recipe that automatically uploads any new note that has a tag attached to it to your Google Drive account. This saves you the time and energy from having to do it manually. IFTTT works with lots of different apps, and the recipe variations that are possible to create are virtually endless.

4. Any.do

The old fashioned “To-Do” list using pen and paper often ends up being more of a hindrance than a help at the end of the day. To help you succeed at actually crossing more things off your list, Any.do allows you to categorize list items according to work or personal goals while offering you small rewards for completing them.

You get four types of lists to build (Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday) to help you plan ahead, and you can manage your list from the desktop web or any mobile device with the Any.do app. Any items you add or cross off are synced across your account so you always have the most updated list wherever you go.

5. Cal

Cal is Any.do’s stylish calendar app that integrates with your to-do lists. It gives you a weekly calendar view of your list items so that you can see exactly when you need to complete each item. You can also use it to manage events and appointments according to date and time.

Simply tap a day to see all the list items for that day. When you tap an item, it will automatically open up the Any.do app so that you can make edits to the item or cross it off your list.

6. Pocket

Ever come across a really great article or video in one of your social feeds, but don’t have time to check it out at the moment? Pocket makes it easy for you to save it for later with just a simple click of your mouse or tap to your smartphone screen.

Save links from your web browser, Facebook, Twitter, email, Flipboard and all your other favorite places where you love to browse content. When you’ve got some spare time to check them out, just open up your Pocket feed on your computer or mobile device to see a clean and organized list of everything you’ve saved.

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7. Digg Reader

Instead of visiting every one of your favorite blogs one by one, an easier way to stay updated on recent posts is by subscribing to their RSS feeds using a feed reader. Digg Reader is a popular choice that lets you add as many as RSS feeds as you want so that you can stay on top of new post headlines almost as soon as they’re posted.

When you read a post that you really like, you can “digg” it to give it a personal thumbs up, or use the save button to save it for later. Folders also make it easy to categorize your RSS feed subscriptions so that you can organize blogs according to subject, like news, health, sports, technology, and so on.

8. Asana

It’s easy enough to collaborate on files by using Google Drive or Evernote, but when you have several teammates who need to work more closely on big projects and all the tasks that come with it, a platform with more advanced features is often necessary to keep everything organized and running smoothly. Asana is a team collaboration tool that gives every user their own dashboard so that they can work together with their teammates to assign tasks, track progress, have conversations, receive notifications, store files, and so much more.

It’s free for teams of up to 15 people with unlimited usage for tasks, projects, conversations, and file attachments. Besides the convenience of having a central place to store and share all your project files, the added benefit of being able to interact and chat about each task directly within the platform itself will help take your team’s productivity to a whole new level.

9. Doodle

Doodle can help you take the headache out of coordinating a time to meet with friends or colleagues. Instead of getting on the phone multiple times or having to send text messages and emails back and forth, you can use Doodle to send out a schedule poll with a few suggested dates and times to meet so that recipients can choose the ones that work best for them.

When the poll reveals an optimal date and time that works for everyone, you can close the poll and confirm it with everyone. It saves you a ton of time and energy by only requiring two emails to be sent, and it can even be integrated with other popular calendar apps like Google Calendar, Exchange, Outlook, and others.

10. LastPass

Most of us have too many passwords to keep track of these days, and ideally, you should have a different one made of a complex combination of characters per login for strong security. LastPass is a free password management tool that stores all of your passwords away safely in a vault so that you can organize them and quickly perform a search to find the one you need at any time.

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LastPass also comes in the form of an extension for popular web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) so that you can easily save passwords as you’re browsing and have your passwords automatically filled in the fields for you anytime you visit a specific login page. Password access and automatic app fill is also available on mobile devices when you use the LastPass app.

11. Mint

No matter how financially stable or unstable a person may be, managing budgets is a good idea for everyone. From the makers of some of the most popular financial software, Mint is the ultimate money management and budget creation tool that safely and securely connects to your bank account to track every transaction.

You can automatically generate budgets tailored to your needs, set up alerts for unusual account charges, get a free credit score, see a bird’s eye view of your overall financial life, and even get tips on how to improve your finances. Mint breaks everything down for you using easy-to-read reports and graphs so that you always know exactly how you’re spending and saving.

12. Camcard

Business cards are often more of a nuisance than anything else—especially when you collect a lot of them through networking and friends. Camcard is a free app that allows you to scan, manage, and sync your entire collection of business cards so that you can avoid having to store and shuffle through loads of physical versions.

The contact information from each individual card can be quickly and accurately stored to your mobile device so you can instantly contact them by tapping a button. You can also organize all of your cards by adding notes, setting up reminders, and attaching tags to them so that it’s always easy to find and contact the individual you have in mind.

13. Momento

Keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of events and memories so you can reflect on them in the future. To bring it up to speed in today’s mobile tech-driven world, Momento is a smart journal that you can install on your mobile device as an app that helps you privately capture your daily activities, thoughts, ideas, photos, videos, and location check-ins with the opportunity to combine them with the stuff you share on social networks.

Whether you decide to use Momento for professional or personal journaling (or both) is completely up to you. The app gives you an organized timeline of journal entries, which can be expanded on to see stories for each day. You can also see everything in a monthly calendar view and categorize your entries by adding tags to them in order to keep them organized and searchable.

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14. Trello

There’s only so much you can do with a regular to-do list and a calendar when you’ve got multiple projects going on. Trello is a tool that helps you and your team members (if you have a team to collaborate with) keep track of every single detail of each project task in a visual organization system.

You can create a board and then add lists that contain drag-and-drop cards for storing all your information (including photos and attachments) about a specific task. The app is designed to be used for both professional and personal projects that take a lot of planning, collaborating, and multiple task completion. Like Asana, Trello also allows users to have conversations on items and receive notifications so that everyone stays up to date with the latest information.

15. Way of Life

Much of your success comes from the little habits you persistently stick with doing over a period of time. Way of Life is a free app that helps you develop good habits with reminders that you can set up on specific days to help you stay on track. You can even use it to keep track of bad habits.

Once you spend a few days tracking the good habits you’ve stuck with and the bad habits you’ve avoided, you’ll be able to see pie charts and bar charts with trend lines over a specific period to give you a glimpse of your progress. As you keep using the app day after day, you’ll be able to spot both positive and negative trends through the chart data so that you can figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Remember that just signing up for one of these free resources doesn’t guarantee that all your organization and productivity problems will instantly be solved. You have to actually use them to do the necessary work. Try picking one to start with and commit to using it every day.

More by this author

Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

Businesses rely on talent to generate and sell value. Without skilled people to create its products, manage its operations and execute its strategies, a business would inevitably fizzle out of the game and leave better-staffed competitors to take the field.

This is the reason why ambitious companies go great lengths to attract top talent,[1] shelling out millions of dollars in the process and bending traditional work policies just to bring highly skilled but demanding candidates into the fold.

Clearly, the contours of business are changing. But so are the demographics of work.

Millennials have become the dominant generation in the job market in terms of population, and some have already transitioned into leadership roles. Most millennials consider opportunity to learn and grow more important than overall compensation.[2]

Companies also today expect employees to come equipped with razor sharp business acumen.[3] Unfortunately, there is an alarming discrepancy between the actual skills businesses need and those currently possessed by job candidates.

To stay in the game, employers need to continually upgrade their training and skills development strategies to cover the entire employee lifecycle.

What are Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

Learning management systems are software-based solutions for authoring, presenting, consuming, storing, and tracking educational content and training materials. These systems aim to centralize all instructional content (e.g., lessons, training modules, instructional videos, presentation slides, worksheets, online quizzes, ebooks, takeaway notes, etc.) in one place.

LMS enable instructors to design and deliver learning experiences to students, with the added capability of evaluating the effectiveness of the instructional materials and grading the learning progress of students.

On the other side of the equation, learners use LMS to develop skills and acquire new knowledge virtually anytime and anywhere via the different channels and content formats made possible by digital technology.

Over the years, a wide range of features and technologies have been integrated into learning management systems to help enhance the experience of training designers, instructors, and learners. These include cloud and mobile technology, artificial intelligence, responsive design, scheduling, gamification, data analytics, and interoperability with other applications.

5 Best All-Purpose Learning Management Systems

There are dozens of LMS vendors catering to the general market or to specific segments such as K-12 learning, higher education, and corporate training.

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With so many options available, selecting the right LMS solution for your needs can be complicated and costly, especially when you end up adopting a platform that doesn’t exactly match your goals or requirements.

Short of conducting a comprehensive audit of your needs and finalizing a learning roadmap, the safest bet would be to adopt full-featured but affordable LMS solutions.

Based on user reviews, here are the 5 best LMS to help people gain knowledge, build skills, and achieve mastery:

1. Canvas Network

Launched by Instructure as an open source software in 2011, Canvas is an end-to-end cloud-based service originally engineered for the education sector.

Widely adopted for K-12 and Higher Ed learning, Canvas can be repurposed for anything that involves an instructor, a subject matter, and a student.

Used around the world by people of all ages and organizations of all types, Canvas arguably has the largest learning and support community in its class. It works on desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.

To get a glimpse of the platform’s fresh interfaces, you can visit the Canvas Network, a learning community that provides educational and instructional materials created by colleges, universities, corporate businesses, independent course developers, and other knowledge-sharing entities around the world.

Hosting hundreds of interesting topics from data science to horticulture, the learning network also serves as evidence to the scope, capabilities, and popularity of the Canvas LMS platform.

Canvas is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, which enhances the platform’s reliability, speed, scalability, and overall online performance.

Additionally, platform adopters enjoy a low-risk environment since cloud-based solutions require no hard stops for version updates, upgrades, or system migrations.

The Canvas website does not show a price matrix but says the service adopts a simple formula for computing fees: a one-time implementation fee and an annual subscription fee based on total number of users. It also promises free basic services for teachers who want to use the platform.

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In addition to Canvas, Instructure also offers Bridge (an LMS designed for corporate environments), Arc (a video platform for online learning), and Gauge (an assessment management system).

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Canvas Network:

2. Google Classroom

This free service from Google aims to improve the teaching and learning process using cloud technology, web apps, workflow simplification, and seamless communication between students and instructors.

Using Classroom, educators can easily create and schedule classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and grade quizzes all in one place. By streamlining processes, Classroom helps teachers save time and organize classes more effectively. Both students and teachers can also work using any device anytime and anywhere.

Classroom works perfectly with other Google tools, having been launched initially as part of Google’s G Suite for Education. This LMS solution taps Google Drive for content storage and distribution, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for the creation and sharing of instructional materials. Meanwhile it integrates Google Calendar for scheduling and Gmail for communication.

With G Suite, other communication channels such as chat messaging, video conferencing, and a dedicated website are enabled.

Easy to set up and manage, Google Classroom is free to use. One of my very first courses was actually hosted on Google Classroom.

Going beyond the classroom environment, Google offers G Suite Enterprise for Education for large institutions. This suite provides enhanced search and analytics capabilities as well as advanced tools for enterprise communications.

3. Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment)

If budget and capability equally top your list of LMS adoption criteria, then Moodle might just fit the bill. Which is to say there’s none (i.e., bill).

Moodle is a free and open-source learning solution for distance education, workplace training, flipped classrooms, and other pedagogical environments.

It is also a full-featured LMS supported by a robust community and a thriving developer ecosystem. Not surprisingly, Moodle is used in more than 15 million courses by more than 130 million users in 230+ countries.

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Among other things, Moodle enables administrators and educators to create a dynamic and dedicated website to host organic, easily accessible, and highly customizable courses that can be experienced on desktops and mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

Moodle provides a personalized and intuitive dashboard as well as a host of collaboration tools for content designers, teachers, and learners. A universal calendar, an efficient file management system, an automatic notification system, multimedia integration, and a progress tracking tool all come with the package.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Moodle:

4. Absorb

This platform recently bagged PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award for Best LMS.

Co-designed and built by former course authors, Absorb takes learning experience to the next level. This turnkey LMS solution is responsive, full-featured, and highly customizable for maximum impact.

Course developers can orchestrate a wide range of experiences depending on audience or learning situation. In addition to surveys, polls, and e-commerce integration, Absorb supports formal online learning and certifications standards such as AICC, SCORM, and Tin Can.

The user interface can also be modified to match the learner’s location, group, or department, allowing for a different look and feel for customers, channel partners, management trainees, and newly hired employees.

Absorb supports all personal computing devices from desktops to mobile phones. There are also native or hybrid apps for iOS and Android.

The only possible drawback to the platform’s powerful feature set is its pricing. The service reportedly implements a flat, one-time setup fee depending on your business and training requirements. According to the site, any plan comes with a dedicated success team for your account.

Although small companies are welcome to try, midsize to enterprise-scale organizations are probably the best segment to readily adopt this LMS solution.

Take a look at some examples of Absorb in this video:

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5. Watershed Collaborative

Created by a group of educators, this nonprofit rethinks the priorities of an LMS, asserting that too many systems miss the most essential elements of what makes learning stick. They promise a better user experience – emphasizing Learning before Management and System.

Watershed aims to support an inquiry-based learning experience through an integrated mix of online and in-person learning strategies and interactions designed expressly for teams – including collaboration, reflection, and dialogue.

While Watershed was founded initially to serve the K-12 education market, the company has since expanded its scope to cater to all types of teachers and learners with its video-rich, state-of-the-art platform.

If you’re a mission-driven educator, content creator, institution, or business, this LMS may be the one for you.

Watershed specializes in assisting you with the instructional design of courses and provides content production services to ensure top-quality video assets with lasting value. Their LMS makes it easy for course creators to continuously update and tailor content to support small and large groups, while ensuring the technology and instructional strategy supports communities of learners.

Pricing varies based on products and services, but revenues support the nonprofit’s ability to make its platform and courses available at little or no cost for high-need educators and educational settings.

Honorable Mentions

There are dozens of LMS vendors in this growing market and the brands included in foregoing list are by no means the only viable options for companies or learning institutions looking to upgrade their learning infrastructure.

Many other excellent services are worth checking out. These include:

  1. Docebo is an LMS designed for hyper-engaging students, employees, customers, and other learners. The system helps organizations identify and resolve competency gaps with strategic learning interventions.
  2. Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, training, and performance management solution offered as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). This service enables learners to create personalized playlists of instructional content.
  3. Lessonly is an LMS solution that makes it easier to recall and reinforce whatever skills or knowledge you have learned through quizzes, coaching, and constant practice.
  4. Skillsoft is an online training and corporate learning platform developed by a two-decade old and billion-dollar company with the same name.
  5. D2L BrightSpace is a learning management system that has all the basics for delivering excellent, rich-media experiences for classroom or workplace training.

Conclusion

There are many ways to learn but some are more effective and meaningful than others. Whether you are a teacher looking to enhance classroom learning or an HR manager creating a long-term talent development plan for employees, the key to impactful learning is to understand and bridge the needs of learners, the goals of your institution, and the actual capabilities of the learning tools you are considering.

Note that using multiple LMS platforms is possible although not recommended. On the other hand, adopting other learning solutions beyond LMS (such as podcasts, mentoring, and onsite in-person workshops) may significantly improve learning outcomes. Always go for products and plugins that seamlessly integrate into your core LMS tool.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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