The online education field is rapidly expanding. There are old warhorses like Khan Academy, new educators like Coursera, and universities getting into the game, like MIT’s OpenCourseWare and CalTech’s many online courses. Indeed, you can actually consider getting a full education on the web, maybe even for free.
But while the “classroom” is going online, the tools we use to study often aren’t reflecting the changes. As a student, you are watching a video on a screen, and that makes it difficult to take notes and share them with your classmates — unless you want to go back to writing your notes on paper.
That’s where VideoNot.es comes in. It’s an online notepad designed to make it simple to take notes from your online lectures. It’s one of the few apps designed specifically for distance learners, and if you’re taking a course online, you should be sure to check it out.
Watch & Learn
Here’s how it works. VideoNot.es lets you play a video file on the left side of the screen, while giving you a blank note-taking space on the right. The video itself can be from any source: Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy, or even YouTube. Just grab the video link and paste it, and you’ll get the same embedded interface you are already used to. Since Coursera makes it a little difficult to find its video links, there’s also a quick tutorial to help you out.
Once the video is playing, you are free to start taking notes. The genius of VideoNot.es is that each new line that you start writing on is time-marked with the video, so you can later just click on that line and the video will automatically jump to the when that note was taken.
This, in my opinion, is the killer feature of VideoNot.es. I’ve tried a few of these online educational videos before, and while I really appreciate the knowledge they impart, I often lost track of why exactly I made a note in the little notepad I used to keep open. It’s weird, because in a physical classroom, I always remembered why I had made a note in my books; but perhaps it’s the online, virtual interface that made it difficult for me to connect and remember.
VideoNot.es solves this one issue, and it does a great job at it. That in itself makes it worth using, if you ask me. And the inclusion of keyboard shortcuts for pausing and resuming the video is one of those features that any student will be eternally grateful for.
And There’s More
Remember the point about sharing notes with fellow classmates? Well, VideoNot.es automatically saves all your notes to your Google Drive, and you can even set it to sync with your Google account. Thus, much like with Google Docs, you can share these notes with your friends and work with them in real-time.
That’s right, VideoNot.es is kind of like a collaborative notebook, except it does more. Now, you can take down a note and “pause” your professor while you discuss that note with your friend. Once you have both understood the point, you can resume the video. It’s actually pushing the envelope of online learning — and makes “collaborative learning” something that might actually be a reality!
Still Some Way To Go
However, while this is the theory of how VideoNot.es should work, note-syncing didn’t work well for us in our tests. When I typed a note, it didn’t show up on my friend’s screen till he manually reloaded the whole page, and vice versa. Sure, this let both of us still see the collective notes we were making, but it wasn’t the cohesive, seamless experience we were looking for.
Also, another thing I found missing was the exclusion of a chat interface. In a classroom, my academic note-taking would be different from the few odd conversations I had with my classmates. I hope VideoNot.es figures out a way to incorporate Google Chat/Hangouts in its interface, or perhaps just adds its own chat system to make that leap.
So Should You Use It?
Despite these few misses, the app is great purely for its ability to enable e-learners to take notes while watching videos, and save those notes to their Google Drive. If you are someone who has signed up for online education, or even if you often talk about a video with your friend, you should give this a whirl. Or, if you ever have to transcribe videos, VideoNot.es is killer for that.
So, if you’re taking summer classes online — or want to pick up some extra knowledge for free through online courses — this is the app you should try out. You’ll likely end up wondering how you lived without it if you take a lot of notes while watching online videos.