Tech Fundamentals: Academic apps to keep you on track

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.

Students studying computer science, multimedia journalism or anything in between (including university studies), should be familiar with common online tools and resources that are crucial to succeed as a Hokie. Here are some resources every new student should be familiar with, including some new ones.

Hokie Spa is where students applied for admission to Virginia Tech. It is also where students update personal information (phone number, address, etc.), register for classes (timetable, drop/add, course request), access academic records, set up housing and dining and allow others to access information (such as parental access to finances).

Scholar is an online resource center for professors and students to share information, including syllabi, assignments and grades. Depending on the course and the professor, students may also take quizzes, submit assignments and participate in virtual class discussions in designated class sections. Each class is given a section with information the professor may or may not choose to post. Most teachers utilize these resources (especially online classes), but some choose to stick to pencil and paper or to use their own website.

In the library, Virginia Tech offers Rosetta Stone as a free online resource to all students using their Virginia Tech login. There are over 20 available languages, from Mandarin and Dutch to Hindi and Turkish. This is found on the second floor of Newman Library, in the Language Lab classroom. It’s located near the elevators for use as a quiet spot for Rosetta Stone, equipped with personal tables and chairs.

An essential app for those enrolled in a Math Empo class is BT4U; this app is available on the computer and mobile devices. Blacksburg Transit might seem a tricky at first, but familiarizing oneself with the bus system and schedules eases travel in the long run. Search by route name and stop code to find the bus nearest you to get where you need to go. You can also view the LiveMap to find routes and stops.

There are several mobile apps with bus schedules, but this site has been the most reliable and accurate from personal experience.

For those looking to plan their schedule visually, myEdu helps you to choose classes and view them on a weekly schedule by day and time. Sign up for free and input university information to access automatic searches by class and time information.

Hokie Mobile is an iPhone app that features campus maps, directories and university news. Its best feature is “My Courses,” which allows users to input their class schedule into the iPhone calendar, so alerts can be set up.

Free on iPhones and Macs, iProcrastinate can be set up to match both devices and has a simple interface to set up subjects, assignments and alerts in a list format and calendar view. Assignments can be rated by importance with added details and organized by subject. This electronic planner is especially helpful in classes where professors announce homework quickly (and sometimes after students are halfway out the door).

As an overly ambitious aspiring morning person, Sleep Cycle alarm clock has been a lifesaver in helping me to not miss early classes and train myself to have a consistent and healthy sleep schedule. Worth the $1.99 on Apple or $1.69 on Android, this app analyzes movement during sleep and sets a 10 to 90 minute range for wakeup time with a customizable alarm and vibration. It also has other smart features, including a sleep aid to assist in falling asleep and sleep notes to aid in statistics it takes on rest.

Multitasking may be a great skill, but not when a 20-page essay is due in two hours. Free on Mac, SelfControl will ensure productivity no matter what — even if it’s deleted. Set a timer to block a list of sites and access is denied if the computer is restarted or if the app is deleted.

If SelfControl isn’t enough to stop the distractions, Isolator blocks out all other applications except for one. View is customizable to help the user concentrate on a single application, whether it’s finishing a lab report or submitting a test.

Perfect for group projects, Join.Me allows connection and productivity without the hassle of scheduling a time and place to meet. Users can share screens and communicate through audio. This app is popular for business professionals, as well.

A completely student-run website, Course Pickle is a simple and free notification service that sends email or text message alerts when a class opens in Drop/Add. Email notifications are free and texts are $1.00. Simply search and select courses, input email and wait for the alerts to arrive and grab the class. No spam or tricks here.

For many classes, the professor can make or break the subject. Before selecting a class, try to do research on the professor on Koofers, a site featuring student reviews of teachers, with comments, GPA average, teaching style, level of difficulty and more. For those unsure of what professor to enroll with, Koofers allows users to search by not only name, but also best, worst, difficulty or class.

With these tools and apps, you’ll be ahead of the curve when August rolls around.

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