VIP Notebooks

In AY 2017-2018, a VIP Faculty Learning Community looked at VIP notebooks and notebook options:

Key purposes for VIP notebooks:
  • Facilitate learning (organize thoughts, think about work, reflect)
  • Documentation (document work, track progress, etc.)
  • An assessment tool (shows individual contributions and collaborations, tangible item to grade)
At its most basic level a notebook should show:
  • What the student did that week.
  • What they plan to do in the coming week.
Each week students should take time to:
  1. Check items off the previous week’s to-do list;
  2. Write a short paragraph (or more) explaining their specific contributions to the project over the last week (including documentation of failed efforts!);
  3. Create their to-do list for the upcoming week.

Students may also use their notebooks to take notes at team and sub-team meetings, record ideas as they arise, make sketches and diagrams, and so on.

Based on the Faculty Learning Community’s recommendations, we developed a simplified rubric.

Notebooks should be collected and graded in the middle of the semester and at the end of the semester. The mid-semester grade is meant as feedback to help students understand how best to use their notebook.

Electronic Notebooks

Georgia Tech VIP uses LabArchives, which can be used to protect intellectual property.  It is free to faculty and TAs, and $15 per student per semester, with refunds available until the drop date.

An instructor who uses LabArchives with his VIP team gave an overview at a faculty luncheon.
  • Background
    • The team has a strong student leadership and reporting structure (single student lead, student subteam leads, etc.)
    • Goal for different platforms was to minimize instructor busy work (flipping through notebooks), and to avoid the crunch in midterm and final grading (only time you’d see hard copy notebooks).
  • LabArchives used in place of VIP notebooks. Strengths:
    • Instructor can see student activity at any time
    • Active notebooks and pdf exports are searchable
  • Different students had different interpretations of how an electronic notebook should be setup/managed. Had subteams develop/pilot different formats.  Found best approach to be:
    • Students create folders for each week.
    • Log to do lists, work done, notes, images, reflections, links.
    • At midterm and final evaluations, students export pdfs and upload them to Canvas.
  • Notebooks are individual, so it doesn’t replace a central documentation system (wiki, etc.)
    • Use Canvas as a class wiki
    • Can set permissions so students have editing privileges
    • Copy old semesters over each semester
  • Use Canvas for announcements from instructor

We don’t require instructors/teams to use LabArchives.  If they use it, the instructors setup their own courses through the LabArchives website.  The classroom order can be off-putting, so below are simple instructions.

LabArchives Course Setup – Instructions for Instructors
  1. Go to and create an account
  2. Complete a classroom order form (still free) page.html
  3. A real human from LabArchives will create your course
  4. Once the LabArchives course has been created, you’ll be able to invite students to join
    • Students should wait for your link (they shouldn’t start their own notebook, as it won’t be linked)