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Followup: Basecamp for Organizing Student Research

Moleskine Notebook

It has been over a year since I posted about my experience in using Basecamp for organizing student research. Since then, a couple of things have happened: I ran another summer’s worth of research for two students, and Basecamp has made some changes itself.  In this post, I will followup up about how Basecamp’s applicability to my need has changed.

First of all, Basecamp no longer offers a free version. (Pricing is available here.) In March of this year, the company announced a migration to a new version (while keeping the previous version running, at least for current users of it, and calling it “Basecamp Classic.” Find out more information about the transition and associated costs here and here.) The least expensive plan is currently $20/month for managing no more than ten projects. I fully understand the need for sites like this to have funding, but for my application – organizing two separate research projects that can involve several students over time and primarily using the site to help my students get used to more public accountability for work, not to mention the penny pinching I need to do to pay for research costs – I just couldn’t swing it.

So what did we end up doing? We went to classic paper-and-pencil. In my trusty Moleskine notebook, I reserved a page for each week of the term. Each of those pages were drawn off into a three columns – one for me and one for each of my students. Then rows were reserved for each day of the week. To organize the work of my students and me (who was working on other projects in addition to the students’), I simply put the information that needed to be tracked (plan for the day, things we were waiting on, experiments in progress) in the appropriate block, usually generating that information from the daily meeting I had with each student (and with myself in the morning.) Then I used the information to check back with the student (and myself) the following day to make sure we were staying on target.

Fancy? No. Effective? Yes. In the future, I probably will archive our notes by using Evernote’s Page Camera app (if it ever makes it over to Android phones, currently iOS only.) But for now, our paper-and-pencil system worked fine.

How about you? How has project management software worked (or not worked) for you in academia? Let us know in the comments.

[Image Creative Commons licensed / Flickr user jamesbastow]

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