Time Saver: Automated Course Journals

I’ve always had a terrible time keeping track of how well my classes run from one semester to the next. I always mean to make note of a typo on a handout, or an activity that needed tweaking, or a day that ran long or needed padding, but I never remember to make those changes at the time. I’ve tried to keep a course journal, both electronic and on paper, but by the time I’m back in my office I get busy with a hundred other things and forget all about it.

This year, I automated my course journals. And it’s incredible.

Now, 15 minutes after class is over, a text document automatically pops up, I type a sentence about what worked and what didn’t, and the next time I teach these courses I’ll be able to make the necessary tweaks without having to remember how things worked in the past.

Unfortunately, these instructions only work on a Mac. I looked around for PC equivalents and only found much more complicated instructions, but I’m hopeful a commenter may be able to help.

Mac’s built-in Calendar application will open a document at a specified time using the “alert” feature. But it didn’t work the first few times I tried, because there were a couple of tweaks I had to make.screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-7-52-59-pm

If you don’t already have one, you first need to make calendar that is just “On My Mac.” Calendars that are shared through iCloud won’t trigger the alerts properly. That wasn’t even an option for me initially, so I had to jump through an extra hoop – basically turning iCloud off and on again – to fix that.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-8-03-40-pmOnce you have your new calendar, create a new event at the time you want your document to open. Then click on “Addscreen-shot-2016-10-31-at-8-04-00-pm Alert, Repeat, or Travel Time.” This is also where you can make this alert reoccur every time you have a class. Click “repeat” and “custom” to set when the file will open.

Under “alert,” select “Custom…” Once the new menu opens, change “Message” to “Open File,” and change “Calendar” to “Other.” That will prompt you to select the document you want to open. You can also tweak the time you want the file to open.

And that’s it: you shoscreen-shot-2016-10-31-at-8-05-20-pmuld now have a document that opens automatically whenever you want. It was so easy to set this up, and I can already tell it’ll save me mountains of time when I teach these classes again. And this functionality seems to be crying out for other uses: opening a note after department or research meetings, opening my cv after a conference, reminding me to email people at specified times, or opening Automator scripts if I really need to do something more involved.

I hope some of you will find this as useful as I have. If you come up with other uses of this little trick, let me know in the comments!


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3 Responses to Time Saver: Automated Course Journals

  1. Beth Malmskog says:

    That looks pretty sweet! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Irit says:

    On a PC I think you can use the task scheduler function to do something similar. A quick google search will show how to open it.

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