Posts published in November, 2015

Obama Cracks Down On College Accreditors

The Obama administration is trying to ratchet up already growing pressure on accrediting agencies to focus more intently on whether colleges are graduating students with the skills they need to get jobs and repay their loans, Inside Higher Ed reports. Officials on Friday unveiled a package of “executive actions” aimed at cracking down on college accreditors, which the administration argues are not holding colleges to high enough standards when it comes to evaluating the success of students. The actions are far less aggressive than many accreditation experts had anticipated. But the relatively limited actions were accompanied by a much more aggressive set of proposals on the administration’s legislative wish list.

Source; Real Clear Education

10 Great Research Tools for College Students

By Antonio Tooley

It is fair to assume that all college students will spend the majority of their time between keg parties hunkered down behind their desks, writing, either in class, the campus library, or in their dorm rooms. All joking aside, writing in college is on a whole another level when compared to the writing students had to turn in while in high school.

In addition to being readable, concise and free of any grammar and spelling mistakes, college papers and essays need to be backed up by facts gathered from scientific or scholarly publications, papers, and books. This requires some extensive research on the students’ behalf before they even begin to write, which is fine, except for the fact that research is one of the most boring, tedious, and time-consuming aspects of writing.

While bending the space-time continuum is still beyond the grasp of today’s technology, there are other ways in which it can help students make their research process simplified and streamlined. Here are 10 incredible research tools designed to help college students do their research like pros. You can find more details about each of the tools in the following paragraphs.

1.      Mendeley

Perhaps it would be a bit inaccurate to characterize Mendeley as a research tool, because it is so much more than that. First and foremost, it is an online academic network which allows for college students, teachers, and scholars from every corner of the planet to get together and exchange ideas, research data, and collaborate on different projects. Apart from that, it is also incredibly useful as a tool with which you can manage your references, edit the documents you’ll be using during the research process, primarily in PDF form, and create custom bibliographies.

2.      Zotero

Every student will absolutely love Zotero, because it’s one of the most easy-to-use and intuitive research tools in existence. Once installed, it will act as an extension or an add-on for your browser, ready to organize, collect, and save all the research data which you will rely on later. Its party piece, however, is its ability to recognize useful content automatically, and store it into your fully searchable library with a single click. Capable of detecting PDF, as well as most audio, video and image formats.

3.      EndNote

Another multi-role research tool every college student should learn to use is EndNote. Its unique ability to help authors and students find full texts in databases based on just abstracts is truly impressive. Equally impressive is the feature which auto-completes, manages, and shares all of the research references with ease. EndNote also allows its users to organize their research data with the help of tags, which they can later use to search for the data they need, and write citations in pretty much all of the styles currently in use.

4.      Directory of Open Access Journals

The Directory of Open Access Journals is one of the best resources online which indexes and allows access to nearly 11,000 peer-reviewed journals, over 6,500 thousand of which are searchable at article level, with a total of over 2,000,000 articles indexed in DOAJ database. Open access means the students are allowed to read, download, distribute, print, share, and link to all of the articles they come across on DOAJ.

5.      CiteSeerX

If you are majoring in computer sciences, you will find plenty of reasons to use CIteSeerX almost every day. Acting both as constantly expanding digital library and a scientific search engine, CiteSeerX’s goal is to facilitate access to high-quality scientific journals and improve all aspects of that process, including functionality, immediate availability, comprehensiveness, accuracy and relevance. In addition to the data, users can gain access to scientific algorithms, metadata, tools and techniques.

6.      ScienceDirect

ScienceDirect is one of the industry leaders when it comes to providing access to scientific publications which include journals and books. With access to over 13,000,000 papers, 2,500 scientific journals, and 33,000 books, this online resource is essential for every college student, educator, and scholar. We like that fact that it offers access to full text articles in a matter of minutes through its simple and functional user interface which allows you to stay up to date with all the scientific news in your field of research.

7.      BioOne

BioOne is a nonprofit publisher which was created with one goal in mind: to make research data more accessible to students, professionals and scholars. The site aggregates full-text articles from over 180 peer-reviewed journals which focus on the fields of biology, ecology and environmental sciences, and is ideal for college students, because the costs of downloading and reading the journals are far lower than those of its competitors.

8.      Wunderlist

Because research is such a time-intensive activity, you will need an app which will allow you to manage your time, both when it comes to your personal obligations, and the work you put in on your projects, whether they are individual, or team-oriented. That’s where Wunderlist come in, enabling you to access it from your phone, tablet, or browser on your computer, and keep an eye on your deadlines, important dates, or notes.

9.      DataElixir

Data Elixir is one of the most useful content curator sites on the Web. If you decide to sign up for its weekly newsletter, it will keep you informed of all the breaking news and events in the field of science, as well as research data from high-quality journals and publications. Subscription is completely free, which makes it especially beneficial for college students.

10. PlagScan

Another crucially important tool you need to use when writing and relying on multiple sources is a powerful plagiarism checker, and PlagScan is the most accurate app on the market. Apart from scanning your work and finding duplicate content by comparing it with a database of over 1 billion documents, it is also packed with other useful features, such as fully adjustable accounts, and a responsive customer service.

We hope these 10 research tools will make your job easier next time you are given a written assignment. Not only will you avoid being buried under a mountain of information, but you will also gain access to the most relevant pieces of data, which will result in better papers.

Short Bio:

Antonio is a New Jersey-based hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world’s brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost. When not doing that he’s writing for Edugeeksclub. He will be happy to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.

“Aligning K-12 and college career pathways with workforce needs

From Fordham Insitute

by Stephen Shehy for Fordham Institute

This report, recently released by the Education Commission of the States (ECS), explores how states can better prepare students for successful careers by reviewing policies in thirteen states related to career and technical education (CTE). Specifically, its authors look at whether each state has: (1) facilitated collaboration between education and employer communities to promote CTE and close job gaps; and (2) created CTE learning opportunities and credentials that provide students with multiple pathways to gainful employment in high-skill industries.

Nine of these states do both, often by designating or creating groups responsible for providing these services. Some (such as Colorado) rely on state-level actors. Others opt for regional- and local-level institutions. Louisiana offers “Jump Start CTE programs” that are developed by “regional teams consisting of LEAs, technical and community colleges, business and industry leaders, and economic and workforce development experts.”

Ohio have taken a more interesting approach. In the Buckeye State, OhioMeansJobs disseminates workforce-demand data through the K–12 system. Schools then use this information to apprise the students of career opportunities via the Ohio Career Counselling Pilot Program.

Unfortunately, several states in the report fall short. Kentucky has no system in place for schools to collaborate with businesses in need of highly skilled workers. Nevada has yet to establish official CTE programs to provide alternative pathways to success. And New Jersey has failed to do either.

CTE programs—if implemented with rigorous standards, high-quality instruction, and collaboration with local business communities—can expand and improve a shrinking technical workforce. This report is a worthy addition to the growing literature on what steps are being taken throughout the country.

SOURCE: Jenifer Zinth, “Aligning K-12 and postsecondary career pathways with workforce needs,” Education Commission of the States (October 2015).


Competency Based Education May Disrupt College

By Dan Berrett , Chronicle Of Higher Education

One of higher education’s elder statesmen could see a shake-up coming.

An odd bit of administrative protocol, the credit hour, had outlived its usefulness, he thought. It forced students to bide their time for weeks, months, semesters — even if they had already mastered the material.

They should be free to move through college by demonstrating their achievement, he wrote, instead of deferring to time spent in class. A new day was dawning, wrote Walter A. Jessup, who was the leader of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching — the group responsible for creating the credit hour in the first place.

“American higher education,” he predicted, “appears to be well on its way to another stage of development.”

That was 1937.

American higher education still hasn’t gotten there.

Meanwhile, the concern that Mr. Jessup outlined has only intensified in the 78 years since, magnified by the growing conviction that a bachelor’s degree is now the ticket to the middle class, the escalating costs of earning a degree, and shifts in demographics that are sending more adult students and those from first-generation and low-income backgrounds to the nation’s campuses.

These pressures are intersecting with another mounting concern: educational quality. Together, these forces are feeding an unusual bipartisan consensus, and they are prompting higher-education leaders to take a fresh look at an old idea: competency-based education. It allows students to make progress at their own pace by demonstrating what they know and can do instead of hewing to the timeline of the semester. While this model has long been used to expand access and lower costs, particularly for adult students, it is now attracting attention as a way to shore up academic rigor.

But this surge in interest has also sparked questions. How effective a method is it for students with varying levels of preparedness, or is it really only suited for the academically talented who can learn on their own? Can it assure educational quality, or is it just being offered to the disadvantaged as a cut-rate version of the full college experience?

The story of how competency-based education has become the latest Next Big Thing after being around for four decades is a tale of timing, of money and politics, and of shifting academic norms.

Advocates for competency-based learning have seen Big Things get hyped in the past, only to flame out. Still, they hope that this model of learning can ultimately achieve a grand goal: staking a claim to, defining, and substantiating quality in higher education.

Just maybe, the new stage of development that Mr. Jessup envisioned decades ago may finally be arriving.

A generation or two after Mr. Jessup’s prediction, a different sort of challenge confronted higher education. The end of the Vietnam War and broadening opportunities for women meant that adults who were older than the core demographic of 18- to 21-year-olds were flocking to college. But with jobs and families, they did not have the luxury of spending hours each week in a classroom.

Competency-based education as a concept began in that era, the 1970s, with programs emerging to serve those older students. Places like Excelsior College (then Regents College), Thomas Edison State College, DePaul University’s School for New Learning, and the State University of New York’s Empire State College were among the first to offer such programs. They wanted to expand access.

Then, as state support for higher education dropped and tuition and student-loan debt rose, so did concerns about cost.

Those two goals, access and cost, have dominated years of efforts to remake higher education. Now, a third goal — educational quality — is driving change.

Competency-based learning may be able to achieve all three goals, say its supporters. And, they add, it is quality that matters most. “Its potential is for a much higher level of quality and a greater attention to rigor,” says Alison Kadlec, senior vice president of Public Agenda, a nonprofit organization that is playing a leading role in the growth of this model.

“The worst possible outcome,” she said, “would be that competency-based education becomes a subprime form of learning.”

Ms. Kadlec and others see historical parallels to past efforts that have hit snags. Online education comes up often as a cautionary tale. In its early days, its full potential, to connect students and make their learning visible, often remained unfulfilled; instead, many instructors simply replicated their lectures online.

Key Eras of Growth for Competency-Based Learning

Competency-based learning has been a part of American higher education for over four decades. Here are some key turning points.

The 1970s
Institutions like Alverno College, DePaul University’s School for New Learning, Regents College (now Excelsior College), the State University of New York’s Empire State College, and Thomas Edison State College are the first adopters. They seek to make higher education available to a growing population of adult students by using demonstrable outcomes and measures of previously acquired learning to assess what students know. The approach allows students to make progress at their own pace instead of following the traditional academic calendar.

Late 1990s
The governors of 11 states agree, in 1997, to create a virtual college to help students acquire training for in-demand jobs like information technology, teaching, and nursing. Western Governors University reaches 71 students in 1999, its first year in operation. By 2015, it enrolls more than 62,000 students. Its scale is enabled by online tools, a competency-based method, and the separation of faculty roles into those who assess learning and those who provide academic coaching.

Southern New Hampshire University, in 2013, becomes the first institution approved to award federal financial aid based on students’ demonstrated progress instead of the credit hour. That same year, the University of Wisconsin begins offering its own competency-based program, signaling mainstream acceptance of the idea. A year later, the Competency-Based Education Network forms. The coalition of 17 institutions and two state systems seeks to share information on this method of learning, guide its development, and stake out principles for high-quality programs. Now nearly 600 institutions are now seriously exploring competency-based education.

That account was echoed by Linda M. Harasim, a professor of communications at Simon Fraser University, who was an early adopter of online teaching and has chronicled its evolution. She initially hoped that online teaching would enable students to collaborate and network with one another, and make education more effective.

Instead, she says, administrators saw online learning as a way to cut costs, particularly in its early years. “Online was simply more efficient,” Ms. Harasim says. “We didn’t think about it being more effective.”

The trajectory of community colleges decades ago also suggests parallels to competency-based learning today. Community colleges dwelt for decades on the margins until their moment arrived, in the 1960s, with an average of one new community college opening nearly each week.

The goal of increased access inspired much of the growth, says John E. Roueche, president of the Roueche Graduate Center at National American University and an emeritus professor of community-college leadership at the University of Texas at Austin. “So many colleges got committed to notions of equity, access, and opportunity, and ‘Come on in the water’s fine,’” he says. But they paid too little attention, he argues, to ensuring that students succeeded once they got there. Quality suffered.

“The results of that were just pitiful,” he says. “Atrocious attrition.”

For years, access and affordability continued to be the chief goals for competency-based-education providers. They inspired the founding, in 1997, of Western Governors University, when the governors of 11 states signed on to a virtual college that would allow students, chiefly in remote areas, to acquire skills for in-demand jobs in fields like information technology, teaching, and nursing. People could gain inexpensive access to a practically focused education at a time of decreasing public spending. The model called for technology-enabled, self-paced learning using the competency-based approach.

The idea took a little while to gain traction. Enrollment didn’t crack 1,000 for four years, but then it took off.

A decade later, Western Governors had more than 40,000 students. This year, enrollment topped 62,000.

Western Governors has become the colossus of the field, and it has spawned, in unforeseen ways, much of the recent interest in competency-based learning.

A decade ago, during debate over the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Western Governors pressed the federal government to tweak regulations so that financial aid could be awarded to students in competency-based programs that weren’t tied closely to the credit hour. Instead, money could be made available for something called direct assessment. It meant that a college could measure what a student knows and can do, and allow the student to proceed and receive aid accordingly. Mastery of skills or content could be demonstrated by things like projects, papers, examinations, presentations, performances, and portfolios.

The tweak was one item among a slew of regulatory decisions made about accreditation. But it forced people to think through how a pure competency-based approach fits in the context of traditional regulations.

“It was,” says Michael J. Offerman, a former president of Capella University who advised the Education Department on the new rules, “the first time any of us had to wrestle with what direct assessment meant.” No groundswell of interest followed the change. Western Governors even declined to use it; the credit hour was still the common currency, and the government had yet to issue guidance to help colleges makes sense of the new language.

Seven years later, Southern New Hampshire University became the first institution to apply for consideration as a direct-assessment provider. It was approved the following year, and just a few others have followed. But what ultimately mattered most was the broader signal that the Education Department was receptive to innovation. Momentum has clearly accelerated since then.

In 2013, the University of Wisconsin started offering a homegrown version of the competency-based model, called the Flexible Option. It allows students to earn competency-based versions of an associate degree in arts and science, and bachelor’s degrees in nursing, biomedical sciences diagnostic imaging, and information science and technology. Nearly 500 have enrolled.

For many observers, Wisconsin’s foray into competency-based learning marked that model’s entry into higher education’s mainstream. For months, administrators in Wisconsin’s extension program fielded multiple calls each day from other colleges seeking advice.

Other public institutions, including Purdue University and the University of Michigan’s medical school in Ann Arbor, have since adopted competency-based approaches in interdisciplinary and health programs, respectively. Last year, the University of Maine at Presque Isle made this approach the standard for all of its programs.

Meanwhile, state and federal politicians have been trumpeting competency-based learning’s promise.

President Obama has highlighted it. In a major policy speech in Buffalo in 2013, he laid out his agenda for higher education. His ideas for rating colleges and tying students’ loan repayment to their earnings dominated the headlines, but the president also made a point of encouraging colleges to innovate. His first example was competency-based learning, referring specifically to what Southern New Hampshire and Wisconsin were doing.

“The idea would be if you’re learning the material faster, you can finish faster, which means you pay less and you save money,” he said, to applause.

Southern New Hampshire and Wisconsin belong to a network of providers that are working together to lead the competency-based model’s growth. Instead of being isolated actors doing their own thing, says Amy Laitinen, director for higher education at New America, a think tank, institutions are working together. “They want to affiliate and grow the movement and the field,” she says.

Ms. Laitinen’s 2012 paper, “Cracking the Credit Hour,” has been widely credited with crystallizing the shortcomings of the existing system and the need for an alternative (she also seized on Walter Jessup’s and the Carnegie foundation’s early recognition of the credit hour’s failings).

Persuasion alone won’t spark the growth of competency-based education. Its advocates have come to believe that it also needs a firm push. “It could play out organically,” Ms. Laitinen says, “but we want it to happen intentionally.”

‘There’s a real danger in being seduced by innovation without making sure the quality piece has been paid attention to.’

The Lumina Foundation has been a major player in this bid for intentionality, donating $13 million over the past two years, chiefly to support efforts to bring together institutions and policy makers to share ideas about how to spread programs and remove regulatory barriers.

In contrast to many past efforts to spark change, Lumina’s motivation to support competency-based learning grew out of concerns about educational quality, says Kevin M. Corcoran, Lumina’s strategy director. That mode of education emerged as a natural outgrowth of Lumina’s work in recent years to champion two efforts, the Degree Qualifications Profile, which sets out the skills and knowledge that students should achieve during their pursuit of different degrees, and Tuning, which seeks to determine the core material and skills for particular disciplines. About 600 colleges nationally have adopted these two efforts, and faculty members have been at their core, defining and assessing what matters in student learning.

Lumina and Public Agenda have modeled their work on health-care reform. Each quarter, they bring together academic leaders, usually at the Hilton at O’Hare airport, to kick off recurring 90-day cycles in which they design experiments, analyze the results, and report on findings. The group has focused on big questions: How can it identify good program design or assessment? How do colleges’ processes and business practices need to change? What evidence base do they need to demonstrate educational quality?

Some basic principles of quality and rigor have emerged, says Charla S. Long, a higher-education consultant working with Public Agenda. Among them: careful planning of courses and programs, with faculty members’ roles designed to take full advantage of their time and talents. Assessments, she added, should be reliable and tied to what matters to each discipline. They should be administered frequently, informally, and summatively, not as a single, high-stakes exam. “One test isn’t quality,” she says.

While these principles have been guiding many programs, the people who run them recognize that solid evidence is still needed. “We haven’t had enough players to substantiate data,” says Ms. Long.

But that is starting to change.

New programs keep emerging. A pair of participants in the Lumina-funded network started offering a degree together in organizational leadership last year, to stave off an anticipated shortfall of middle managers in the Rio Grande Valley. The partnership of South Texas College and Texas A&M University at Commerce has experienced unexpectedly strong demand, and some friction with faculty, both of which illustrate the model’s promise and the lingering barriers to change.

Students can pursue the degree on either campus. South Texas’s program began last year with 40 students, and 22 of them graduated. Administrators projected that enrollment this year would double, to 80. Instead, it hit 181.

Faculty members at both colleges worked together to develop curriculum, determining what students should be able to do at the end of their courses and then working backward to identify the learning outcomes for general-education requirements and for specialized subjects like organizational behavior and change management. Pearson, the publishing company, is responsible for providing the assessments and assignments for each competency.

Not all faculty members have bought into the idea. Five of the approximately 30 instructors who initially committed to the program have dropped out, says Kevin M. Peek, an economics professor and chair of the bachelor’s program at South Texas. “Even more problematic,” he continued, were the several others who were “unwilling to even consider the possibility of collaborating with us.”

Rosemond A. Moore, chair of the accounting, economics, and business-administration program at South Texas, often visited other departments to promote the partnership. Some of her colleagues loved the notion of competency-based learning, she said, and wanted to expand it beyond the joint effort with A&M. At other meetings, she says, “I’d go and literally take a pounding. I’d come out beaten and bruised.”

Professors asked her if the program was rigorous or of high-enough quality. It also seemed to unsettle their sense of their roles. “Because it was so different,” she says, “they felt like the power was being taken away from them.”

The pacing of the program is individualized, with students proceeding through the syllabus according to their own timeline, focusing on curricular areas they choose and as it fits their schedule.

Mr. Peek described a typical exchange of messages he has with students. “You might be talking today about banking. A little later you’re discussing imports and exports. With another, it’s supply and demand,” he said. “You have 10 or 11 students asking you different things at different times.”

It may not be the kind of professorial work he originally envisioned doing, but he sees its benefits for students. “The instructor ends up being a facilitator more than a traditional teacher,” he said. The program, he added, “is a logical, organic extension of how education is evolving.”

Rebecca Olympia Millan, an associate professor of English at South Texas, can see its value, too, as well as its shortcomings.

The model works, she says, for some students — the self-motivated, and those who already know the material or can teach themselves. There are those whose progress would be derailed if stretched out over time, says Ms. Millan, who has seen that happen plenty of times. Many students, she says, could have plowed through the material if given the option.

“They know this stuff,” she says. “A lot of times, they don’t need me.”

She also worries about when competency-based learning is not carried out effectively. When programs are too compartmentalized, they become examples of what she calls the “McDonaldization” of education, where the instructor does little more than check off a box affirming that a student knows the material. That approach doesn’t work for a lot of students.

“I see a dichotomous picture play out,” Ms. Millan says. “Either they succeed or they don’t.”

Many more competency-based programs are sure to come.

Hundreds of faculty members and administrators gathered in Phoenix this fall for what was billed as the first meeting of its kind, of a broad swath of competency-based providers. It was organized by Public Agenda and supported by higher education’s rising powers and old guard: Lumina, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Educause, the American Council on Education, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Nearly 600 institutions are seriously exploring this mode of learning, a huge jump from three years ago, when about 20 colleges were offering it, according to Mr. Offerman, who has studied the model’s growth and development. Seven colleges have won approval from the Education Department to award financial aid for students who earn credits on the basis of demonstrated learning instead of time. Another three institutions are being considered. Four state systems of higher education are taking a close look at adopting the mode of learning.

The conference seemed to fill a need; a majority of attendees were there as newcomers, hoping to connect to others and looking for help in building a program. For many longtime observers of competency-based learning, the conference marked an exciting and fraught moment. The meeting signaled energy and progress, and also risk. “There’s a real danger,” Ms. Laitinen said, “in being seduced by innovation without making sure the quality piece has been paid attention to.”

Perhaps, in a decade or two, every degree program will use the language of competency, and students will be working in a new currency of learning, one in which they are able to substantiate what they know and can do.

Short of that, some like Mr. Offerman hope, the legacy could be simpler, providing a model for greater experimentation with financial aid and more flexibility and innovation permitted by regulators.

But many government officials remain cautious, even as the Education Department has shown its willingness to experiment. An audit by the department’s Office of Inspector General in September raised concerns about the role of faculty members and about the frequency and nature of the contact between instructors and students. Similarly, some critics of competency-based learning fear its broader implications for education; while they concede that this approach may encourage faculty to set clear standards about what students know — thereby establishing a “floor” of quality assurance — it can also place a low ceiling on expectations.

Writing 78 years ago, Mr. Jessup’s colleagues at the Carnegie foundation emphasized how much teaching matters. It is more than a process of checking off boxes attesting that students learned, on their own, at some point.

“His business is not to check knowledge,” they wrote, describing the job of a professor. Instead it is “to put matters in true perspective, to explain less obvious connections and relationships, to open up fresh insights, and to trace unsuspected applications that will cause ideas to put down permanent roots.

“His purpose,” they continued, “should be to lead the way from knowledge to wisdom.”

Dan Berrett writes about teaching, learning, the curriculum, and educational quality. Follow him on Twitter @danberrett, or write to him at

The New SAT: A Primer

Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT


Here’s what experts say about the redesigned test, based on practice questions. Tip: Go to a good school and read a lot.

5 Pieces of Software Every Student Should Have

By Melissa Burns

Whatever you may think about your current situation, being a student in our golden age of tech is nothing short of awesome. Today’s students have so many tools aimed at making the job of studying quicker, easier, more comfortable and more exciting that it boggles the imagination –and, perhaps, makes choosing ‘the right one’ a little bit difficult. If you have trouble with gathering your own student’s toolkit, consider the options below – they are just a drop in the ocean, but even they can make your life a whole lot easier.

1.     LibreOffice

No matter which discipline you are studying, as a college student you will have to do a decent amount of reading and writing. Arranging stats and doing presentation is extremely likely as well. However, even with student’s discounts, Microsoft Office suite still costs a pretty hefty sum. Fortunately, times when we didn’t have a viable alternative are long in the past – today you can use LibreOffice, offering you analogs of Word, Excel and PowerPoint completely free of charge.

2.     PDF2XL by Cogniview

PDF is at the same time one of the most widespread and the most unwieldy document formats in existence. On the one hand, it can be read without much ado on almost any device without having to resort to any specialized software. Editing it, however, is an entirely different matter, especially if you are dealing not with texts but with spreadsheets. However, you can convert PDF to Excel using Cogniview software PDF2XL in a matter of minutes, even if we are talking about hundreds of pages. This software allows you to turn any PDF spreadsheet into editable Excel document, and analyze and arrange information the way you need – in other words, it provides irreplaceable help when dealing with large amounts of numerical data.

3.     Zotero

One of the most annoying and time-consuming parts of student’s life is collecting articles, managing your information sources and arranging citations. Zotero is a powerful and free tool that takes all these tasks upon itself. It helps you quickly bring order to your library, collect articles from the web, promptly find relevant information sources and much, much more.

4.     XMind

If you haven’t heard about mind mapping you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last fifteen years; however, there is a lot of difference between hearing about it and actually putting it to practice. XMind is a simple yet effective tool that will help you get into the spirit of the things and start making effective mind maps almost from the get-go.

5.     Evernote

Note taking has never been so easy and so efficient. At a glance, Evernote doesn’t look all that impressive, but once you’ve made a lot of notes in it, it suddenly grows surprisingly helpful. Find your notes quickly, synchronize them between devices with Evernote and always be ready to write down an interesting and promising idea wherever you are, whatever you are doing.

This programs won’t replace the process of learning per se, but they certainly can make it much easier and less stressful. So don’t hesitate to use them and be thankful for living in such a wonderful age!

Author’s bio:

Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she  is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented.

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