Ditch the Backpack: 100 Essential Web Tools for Virtual Students

While learning at home offers great opportunities for working on your own time and schedule, it can also offer drawbacks when it comes to working with others or getting immediate help on a problem. Whether you need help, collaboration, or just want a little extra knowledge when completing your assignments, these web tools will help you find what you need. From note taking to researching to staying organized, the following resources will have you making top grades in your classes.


Studying online doesn’t mean you have to lose out on the brainstorming and social connection. These tools will help you stay in touch with classmates while creating the best collaborative projects possible.

  1. Zoho Show. Don’t let the fact that you are a virtual student hold you back from making awesome presentations. Zoho Show helps you create a presentation and share it with anyone with a browser.
  2. meebo. Instant message with anyone using this tool. Just log in from the browser and start IMing your classmates no matter if they are on AOL, Yahoo!, Google, or MSN.
  3. Pidgin. Download this tool so you can IM with anyone on 16 different IM accounts.
  4. Campfire. Set up instant chat rooms with your study group or classroom using Campfire and make communicating as a group much easier.
  5. MeetWithApproval. Plan a virtual meeting with classmates or organize a face-to-face with this meeting planner.
  6. TeleFlip. If you step away from your computer, don’t worry about missing out. Send your email messages to your phone as text messages with this free tool.
  7. flurry. If you need to participate in a class group messaging session, this tool will allow you to do it on your mobile phone.
  8. Thinkature. Collaborate with classmates, organize your thoughts and research, and prepare your paper or project with this tool.
  9. Wizlite. Use this tool to highlight any text online and share with others while working on that group project.
  10. ProBoards. Create a discussion board easily and quickly so you can collaborate with classmates and leave the discussion for others to access as well.

Bookmarking and Note-Taking

Internet research is a great way to find information for your assignments. These tools will help you with bookmarking your finds and taking down notes so you don’t forget what you want to include in your project.

  1. Del.icio.us. Use this great bookmarking tool for research that you will be able to access again later or even share with classmates.
  2. Qipit. Fax, email, or store PDF files you create of any document with a photo you take from your phone.
  3. Google Bookmarks. Never lose your bookmarks again when you switch to a different browser with this helpful tool to keep and organize all your bookmarks.
  4. Google Notebook. Use this tool to save information you find while you are browsing around the Internet.
  5. mynoteIT. Upload Word documents, create and store notes online, track upcoming assignments, and create classes or study groups with this tools.
  6. Yahoo! Notepad. Make notes that are accessible anywhere you can get Yahoo! with this tool.
  7. NoteMesh. Create a wiki for your class where you can store notes and your whole class can access them.
  8. Clipmarks. Save text, images, and video from any place on the Internet and have easy access to them with this tool.
  9. Web-Chops. Similar to Clipmarks, this tool will allow you to take pieces of web pages and save them on your own page at Web-Chops.
  10. Diigo. Highlight portions of web pages, create sticky notes, and even have access to your notes from your cell phone with this tool.

Writing Tools

From spell checkers to bibliography creators to word counters, these tools will help you write like a professional.

  1. orangoo. Paste your text into this site and immediately find any spelling errors you may have.
  2. SpellJax. Here’s another spell checker. Just paste your text and check your spelling.
  3. Alphabetizer. Paste a list into this tool to immediately get a list alphabetized quickly and easily.
  4. The Biography Maker. This tool will step you through creating an informative biography on any person you select as your subject.
  5. Yahoo! Babel Fish. Translate any text or website into English with this tool. If English is your second language, use it the other way around.
  6. OttoBib. Create an automatic bibliography of any book by choosing the appropriate style and entering the ISBN from the book.
  7. EasyBib. Using MLA style, create a bibliography of a book, journal article, website, and more with this tool.
  8. ajaxWrite. Firefox users can download this free word processor that is a great substitute for Microsoft Word. Create compatible documents and even view Word documents.
  9. Writeboard. Create a web-based text document with this tool, then use it to either edit, share, or send yourself a text file of your document.
  10. Common Errors in English. Find out if you are using quotation marks properly, if you chose the correct form of a word, and so much more with this handy list of errors.
  11. Word of the Day. Expand your vocabulary with this great tool from Dictionary.com.
  12. Cliche Finder. Make sure you avoid those overused cliches in your writing in the blink of an eye by checking your phrase with this handy dandy tool.
  13. WordCounter. Find out if your 500 word research paper is actually 500 words with this online word counter tool.


Research is often a major part of your classes, so make sure you have all the tools you need to do the best research possible for your assignments. From reference material to managing sources, these tools will keep you on track.

  1. Google Reader. Use this reader to conveniently get all your RSS feeds in one place.
  2. Google Alerts. Get email updates on any specific topic you are interested in following.
  3. Google Scholar. Use this search engine to find scholarly results on any topic you select.
  4. Bartleby.com. Access several handy reference books at this site that has a very comprehensive library.
  5. Refdesk.com. Don’t worry about going to the library. Find over 40 encyclopedias here to learn about space exploration, psychology, and more.
  6. Online Etymology Dictionary. If you need to find the origin of a word or phrase, then this dictionary will let you know where it came from.
  7. Sparticus Educational. Study with this online encyclopedia to learn all about the American Civil War.
  8. U.S. House of Representatives Floor Summary. This real-time tool lets you know about the proceedings occurring on the House Floor every day.
  9. ANYDAY Today-in-History. Find out what happened in history any day of the year including any important birthdays, holidays, and religious observances and history.
  10. CiteULike. As you find scholarly articles on the Internet, use this tool to store, organize, and share them with ease from any browser.
  11. Footnote. Get original historical documents from the Revolutionary War to Project Blue Book UFO Investigations on this site.
  12. Zotero. Firefox users can take advantage of this tool that helps you collect, manage, and cite your Internet research sources.
  13. Connotea. Research is much easier with this tool that manages online references and is specifically designed for researchers.
  14. Wikipedia. While you will need to be careful relying solely on the information here for a research-based project, Wikipedia is an excellent place to get a basic understanding of almost any topic.

Study Tools

Everyone can use a little extra help when it comes to those difficult classes. Whether you need to be quizzed on your French vocabulary or want a summary of the Shakespeare play your professor assigned, these study tools will give you a hand.

  1. Quizlet. Use this interactive tool to help you study for almost any subject from foreign languages to history to math.
  2. SparkNotes. Get study guides in biology, history, literature, and Shakespeare at this site.
  3. Answers.com. If you have a question, you will probably find the answer with this tool that relies on a combination of reliable resource materials, user-generated answers, and articles from the editorial staff.
  4. WhatIs.com. For any technology questions you may have, this helpful site will provide you with the answer you seek.
  5. Yahoo! Education. Find a dictionary, thesaurus, math help, quotations, sample tests for many standardized exams, and much more.
  6. TutorLinker. If you need a real person to help you get ahead in your studies, use this online tool to find a tutor near you.
  7. Litsum. Get online summaries of literature to help you understand your next assignment in English literature.
  8. ReadWriteThink. Get all kinds of study help for reading and language arts from vocabulary to interactive reading.
  9. QuickMath. This tool solves algebra and calculus problems free so you can check your work.
  10. Cramster. Try practice problems, look up textbook solutions, or find study tips with this helpful resource.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a popular way to brainstorm and organize your projects so that you can ensure you are creating the best paper or project you can. Some of these mind mapping tools are also for groups to collaborate and plan projects.

  1. VUE. Created at Tufts University, this mind mapping tool is designed to help those specifically for teaching, learning, and research.
  2. Cmap Tools. Create concept maps with this mind mapping tool designed specifically for academic research.
  3. bubble.us. Start brainstorming with this simple online tool that creates bubbles and connects your ideas.
  4. Mindomo. This web-based mind mapping tool will have you organized and thinking clearly.
  5. Gliffy. Create flowcharts for a project or use this tool to help organize your ideas and steps to complete any assignment.
  6. FreeMind. Not only can you brainstorm and organize your ideas here, but you can also keep track of your project and see it through from start to finish.
  7. MindMeister. Collaborative mind mapping is easy with this tool. Try out the free version before signing up for the paid versions.
  8. WiseMapping. Create free mind maps with this tool, then share yours or browse other people’s mind maps.
  9. Mapul. Easily create organic-looking mind maps with this tool.
  10. View Your Mind. This mind mapping tool allows you to "generate and manipulate maps which show your thoughts."
  11. ThinkFold. If you have a group working together, it can get confusing and messy trying to track everyone’s ideas. ThinkFold allows groups to create interactive, real-time outlines without all the trouble.


Every successful student knows that organization is a key to getting ahead. You won’t forget assignments, test dates, or those brilliant ideas kicking around in your head with these organizational tools.

  1. Backpack. This tool can organize anything from just your own studies to that of an entire class. Make pages, use calendars, post announcements, get email or text message reminders, and more.
  2. Google Calendar. Use this tool to keep track of meetings, tests, deadlines, and more. Set up reminders so you will never forget anything.
  3. Jotlet. If your virtual class has a website, create an online calendar and share it with classmates with this tool.
  4. Remember the Milk. This to-do list tool will keep you on track with all your assignments and you can even use it with your cell phone, Google maps, and more.
  5. Bla-bla List. For a more simple to-do list, use this tool. You can also email it to yourself or update others via RSS feed.
  6. Ta-da Lists. Create lists, check off items as you go, and share with others with this tool which is accessible by most browsers and on your phone.
  7. Evernote. Capture an image of whatever you want to remember, then use this tool to make it accessible from your computer or phone with tags.
  8. Stickies 6.5a. Create virtual sticky notes on your computer desktop with this tool. Just like real stickies, they stay there until you remove them, but unlike the real thing, these can be iconified and remind you of tasks.
  9. Jotcloud. Similar to Stickies 6.5a, but with fewer functions, you can write down your notes on virtual stickies with this tool. No download is necessary.
  10. Joe’s Goals. This simple chart allows you to input your goals or tasks, then you check off each you complete daily. This is great for staying on top of assignments.

Math, Science, and Geography Tools

From calculators to an interactive periodic table to interactive maps, these tools will help you succeed.

  1. Universal Currency Converter. This handy tool will help you find exchange rates from many different countries.
  2. Algebra.help. If you need some algebra help, use this tool that has lessons, calculators, and worksheets.
  3. calcoolate.com. This online calculator will help you equate, save your history, and even replace your Windows calculator with this tool.
  4. calcr. It doesn’t get more simple than this tool. Type in your equation and hit return to get an answer.
  5. e-Tutor Graphing Calculator. Don’t spend your money on a graphing calculator; use this online version instead.
  6. Create a Graph. While targeted to younger learners, this tool is still helpful for anyone who has to create a graph.
  7. Martindale’s Calculators On-line Center. Find any type of calculator at all, from a slide rule to the nutrient content of food, with this tool.
  8. Create a Graph. Use this tool to custom-make any type of graph quickly and easily.
  9. Periodic Table of the Elements. This interactive, full-color periodic table is also available as a downloadable PDF file for printing.
  10. Visible Body. Take advantage of this incredible visualization tool to help you learn about the human anatomy from the muscular system to internal organs. You will need to sign up for a free membership.
  11. Visable Earth. View NASA images of the Earth with this tool.
  12. Google Maps. This interactive map program is great for geography and more.
  13. Google Earth. With Google Earth, where you can see real images of places all over the world.

Various Tools

Whether you need to store your documents, want to find websites recommended by educators, calculate your GPA, or need to find a great project for your science class, these tools will get you going in the right direction.

  1. Box. Manage, store, and share your files with this tool that will help you keep up with documents, spreadsheets, and even photos.
  2. Xdrive. Store your documents, track changes, and even share your documents with this online tool.
  3. Openomy. Like the other file storage sites, this one also allows you to manage and share your files, but it also offers you the opportunity to embed your file in websites also.
  4. Campusbug. This social networking site not only keeps you connected with other students, it also offers tools and resources for studying, homework, and projects.
  5. SiteTradr. Find out what sites educators are recommending with this cool tool that takes the worry out of Internet reading.
  6. Mindpicnic. Sign up for free online courses on a wide variety of topics here.
  7. learnhub. Use the experience of other users to find help with your assignments on this social networking site that shares education.
  8. Instructables. Learn how to make anything with this fun site that can have you creating an awesome project for class or anything else you want to do.
  9. GPA Calculator. Don’t be surprised when your report card arrives. Use this handy tool to figure out what your GPA is based on your grades.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 8:58 am and is filed under Educational Resources, Tips and Tools, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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