Digital Productivity for work, study and life.

The Technology Enhanced Learning team recently ran a bitesize online course for University of Sussex staff looking at Digital Productivity. This blog post will explore some ideas around that topic.

The course was conceived as a way to introduce staff to ways of working that take advantage of digital technologies to enhance or expand on practices they would previously have carried out manually. These techniques are equally useful for students and for ‘life admin’ for everyone.

It is very tempting to launch into lists of so-called productivity apps – and there are very many lists of that sort on the web – but if you are really going to find new, better ways of working then it is important to spend a little time thinking about where you are now and what you want to achieve. For example:

  • Do you work alone and/or as part of a team?
  • What devices do you have access to (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone etc.)?
  • How do you currently keep track of tasks and notes, communicate and collaborate?
  • Are there any problems / pain points in your current way of doing things?
  • What would you like to improve?

Once you have an idea of what you might need or want, you can start to explore what is going to be most useful to you and/or your team. Digital productivity can be split roughly into 3 main areas: communication and collaboration; managing and organising tasks; making and organising notes.

Communication and collaboration

During the course we used Slack as a platform for sharing, discussing and supporting participants. If you have not seen Slack before this video will give you a quick overview.

What is Slack? video from Slack on YouTube

Slack would be useful for:

  • Collaborative research projects
  • Students working on group projects
  • Replacing email lists for connecting with team members
  • Community discussions such as the Flipped Learning Slack Community

Slack also integrates with hundreds of other apps (see the Slack App Directory) so if you are already using some of the apps listed in the Slack App Directory there is scope to bring things together in one place.

For University of Sussex staff and students Office 365 which includes OneDrive for storage and OneNote for notemaking and organisation is an obvious choice. With free versions of Microsoft Office for computers and mobile devices it offers an extensive package of collaboration tools and training courses are offered by ITS.

Sussex staff and research students also have access to a Box account which allows you to share and collaborate on files.

Cloud services like this, with mobile apps, allow us to keep track and organise our lives using phones and other mobile devices.

Managing and organising tasks

A previous post, 3 steps to improving your time management with digital tools looked at ways that students and staff can be more organised, and hence productive, with their ‘to-dos’. At the time, we suggested Wunderlist as a useful app, but as Microsoft have taken over Wunderlist and have announced that it ‘will eventually be retired you might want to look at something else – Any.Do and Todoist are both good options that will let you organise all your tasks, from work to ‘life admin’, in one place.  

For a more visual display of tasks Trello is still an excellent choice for individuals and teams (see our previous review of Trello), but MeisterTask now offers similar functionality.

There is very little difference between Trello and MeisterTask, but the latter will let you track time spent on tasks. If the people you work with are already using one or the other it is probably best to choose that one to make sharing tasks possible. If you want to give MeisterTask a try, there are many useful videos on the Meistertask YouTube channel

Making and organising notes

Most of us need to make some sort of notes – for example, a shopping list, notes on reading, ideas for a journal article or reflection on teaching practice. Paper notebooks can be fine, but digital notemaking tools offer the ability to:

  • capture more types of ‘notes’ (images, websites, audio, video etc.)
  • organise notes
  • easily find notes with search tools
  • access, create and edit notes using all your devices
  • share notes with collaborators.

Staff and students at Sussex have free access to OneNote as part of Office 365 and there are many ways it can be used by students, teachers and administrators.

Further Resources and Support

Here are some previous blog posts that you might find useful:

The Technology Enhanced Learning team are happy to advise and support staff at the University of Sussex in developing their digital productivity. You can contact us on tel@sussex.ac.uk.

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We are the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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