Posted on 2023-12-24

Read Time: 5 minutes | 905 words

Project Management/Productivity Tools for Writing Program

Project Management/Productivity Tools for Writing Program

This was meant to be a response to a request for information on Notion, Trello, or Basecamp as a potential platform for a University Program in Writing and Applied Arts on LinkedIn. Surprising no one, I was too wordy for LinkedIn, so here it is.

Notion is a solid choice. It’s most useful for freelancing and contractors as it is flexible and versatile. Without oversight and planning it can become unwieldy, but it is a tool that students can actively use for their own projects after the class/program ends.

Trello has grown from the basic Kanban board into a fully developed PM platform. It is a good middle-ground between Basecamp and Notion. If built out, onboarding students could be done with ease. It will require planning and administrative work, though. Templates may also require coordination between classes within the program.

Basecamp is the choice if you are looking to mimic the experience inside a company. It is a complete project management platform with all the bells and whistles. It also will require significant administration work and time to manage.


The little planner that could. Notion is great and is popular in the freelance and contracting community for the fact that it is incredibly versatile and can easily be used to track multiple projects between multiple vendors without a lot of administrative overhead. It is also powerful and a great introduction to no-code/low-code toolsets that are all the rage right now with the PKM community (Obsidian, Roam, Anytype, etc.) and in the mid-tier space as an advanced Excel replacement (Airtable and its competitors).

I have personally found that Notion does require a bit of planning and discipline (like any tool of its sort) to implement well. You have to really think about how you want your platform to look and work. Otherwise, it can become a bit of mess. That is really true for any of these tools, though.

Group permissions and management in Notion is straightforward and not as feature-rich as Basecamp or Trello (or so it felt, I haven’t done a stare and compare), but could be easily setup for the structure you suggest. I like the idea of Notion because it is a tool that your students can take with them even after they leave the course. Last I checked, Notion was free for students.


Now an Atlassian product because no one liked Jira–even if we all had to use it (I am kidding..sorta)!

Trello has grown up a lot since its purchase in 2017 extending well-beyond Kanban-style boards and into a full-blown PM suite. Trello is popular in a lot of contexts and could be a great introduction for students. I really appreciate how Trello thinks about onboarding and project preparation (you can see aspects on their website, but definitely play with it first). It offers a good balance between Notion and Basecamp with some cool features of its own. The Trello board still sits at the heart of the product, but it has been adapted pretty heavily. There is certainly some lost flexibility for students, but it may also be easier for them to get focused on the work without getting bogged down in the details of your platform.

What that does mean is that the admin work is moved up the ladder, so there will more work for anyone managing the platform. It may also require more coordination between classes with the program if you are using templates to help manage and coordinate. That said (and this is personal opinion), but I feel like Trello’s templates are more robust than Notion. In that sense, Trello is more of a structured PM platform where Notion is more of a broad planning tool with support for PM and collaboration.


An indie-darling of the early aughts with a lot of the same issues as other indie-darlings of the early aughts (including 30% of its employees walking out in 2021). To its credit, Basecamp is a complete project management and collaborative platform. It would be the one most commonly deployed as a broad productivity platform in a professional space (a lot of Basecamp’s elements are also mirrored in other platforms that companies often use). It has integrations, but most of the work is centralized within the Basecamp platform. If you are planning on this new platform for long-term use across cohorts, Basecamp could be a good option. Students could be set up and then move between teams and projects as they transition between classes (I could see a similar flow with Trello). Managing that will require significant work in setup, configuration, and ongoing maintenance for instructors and platform administrators, though. I am not sure what you have planned from a support perspective, but that would be my biggest concern with Basecamp.

Full disclosure: I have only demoed Basecamp as a potential option for a company awhile back, and we didn’t go in that direction. I have not used it as heavily as I have used Notion or Trello.

Final Thoughts

Any of these will work for you, I would probably look at Notion and/or Trello first and definitely demo all of them. I like the flexibility of Notion and that it is a tool that students can take with them. Trello and Basecamp offer a more straightforward company experience, though. It really depends on what your goals are and how much support you have to manage and implement the platform.

Author: Geoffrey Gimse

Tags: #project_management  #curriculum  #education  #writing  #academia 

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