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Resources and ideas for learning when students don't have access to campus or personal printers.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
excludeTable of Contents


Creating Documents

PDFs were designed by Adobe to format documents and have them look the same on any device. Almost all major platforms allow someone to produce PDFs from their documents.


If you’re starting with a paper file that you’d like to make digital, the camera of most phones and tablets is good enough to act as a scanner. Android owners can utilize Genius Scan or ScanPro to scan and organize documents. Apple’s Notes app can scan documents and supports text recognition, making the contents of those notes discoverable with a search.



Sometimes you may need to draw something. In the past this was done with an external tool, such as a drawing tablet, like those made by Wacom. These days touch screen devices can utilize a stylus. Wacom and Adonit make a variety of stylus including models which don’t require batteries but are capable of producing a fine line. The pricey but highly acclaimed Apple Pencil is considered by some to be better than the real thing.

Reading and Reviewing Documents

Retina Displays

If you’re not accustomed to reading off a screen, it can be difficult to do. When possible, read off of devices with a high resolution. Apple’s Retina display and and other high resolution displays, where you do not see the individual pixels, make reading from a screen easier.


Dark Mode

If you don’t have access to a high resolution display or you just want to give your eyes a break, there are other options. Dark mode can save your devices’ battery life and is thought to help to reduce eyestrain and improve focus. Apple users can enable Dark Mode on their Mac or other devices. Windows users can change their color settings to achieve a similar result. 


Text to Speech

Some people may find it easier to have the text on their computer or device read to them. “Text to speech” features exist on all major platforms including iOS, macOS, and Windows 10.

Alternative Formats

Files shared within Canvas now have the option to download in multiple "alternative formats." If a professor adds a Word Document file, for instance, you now have the option to download it as a PDF, EPUB, or even an Audio file. 

For files shared outside of Canvas, you can use the File Transformer tool from Blackboard Ally to change it to the file type that's easiest for you to use (free through the end of Spring 2020 semester). 

Scanning Notes or Assignments

See the Creating Documents section for more Information on digitizing paper notes or assignments.

Studying from Flashcards

If you’re used to studying from flashcards there are a varity of apps for all platforms. Some notable examples are Anki, Quizlet, and Tinycards


Taking Notes


Pro Tip

Notes can grow exponentially so don’t forget to keep them organized

Notes Apps

Sometimes you just need to take some notes using tools less complicated than a Google docs or Microsoft Word. Some are small and feature light like Google Keep or Apple’s Notes. Others are more feature rich like Evernote or Microsoft's Office 365 Product, OneNote. All of the above services sync notes by default so you can access your notes from any of your devices.


Give your wrists a break and enter your text by speaking to your computer. Dictation has become an easy way to enter text and is available on iPhone and iPads, on Macs, and in Windows 10 .

Annotate existing documents and Completing PDF Forms

Many different applications offer the ability to annotate a variety of files such as PDF, Power Point slides, or other materials. This experience is particularly natural on tablets with a good writing tool.


For Windows, Adobe Reader DC allows you to annotate and draw which you can then highlight and make comments on in reader for free.

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