Note-Taking Tips For Online Students

Train The Brain has some experience helping online students achieve success. One of the most useful skills online students will use during their courses is note-taking. No matter what style of notes you like to take, here are some tips you may find helpful:

  • Take handwritten notes
  • Take notes while reading
  • Review your notes according to a schedule


Take Handwritten Notes

The first step to be sure your notes are effective is to take handwritten notes. All you need is a notebook or looseleaf paper, your preferred writing utensils, and maybe some colorful pens or highlighters. Sure, it can be tempting to use your laptop or tablet, but research has proven time and time again that students who take handwritten notes get better results than students who type their notes digitally. Starting in the 1970s, study after study has shown the same results.

Because so many students have begun taking typed notes, researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University and the University of California wanted to know the effectiveness of taking notes digitally versus taking handwritten notes. Their study found that if students didn’t use their notes for studying, it didn’t matter what type of notes the students took; neither produced a positive result.  However, if students used their notes to review the material, the students who were studying their handwritten notes performed better.

Although it can be tempting to copy and paste your notes from the text, in the end, the results will not be as productive. If your plan is to be successful and gain important knowledge for your future, then paper notes are the way to go.

Take Notes While Reading

Often, courses have a combination of text content as well as videos.  Some courses have features where you can have the course material read to you. In those cases, you might be tempted to skip the reading and just go straight to the video or audio. Although these aspects of your course content are helpful, when it comes to notes, the best approach is to take notes over the reading first.  Reading the content and taking the notes at the same time engages multiple parts of your brain that otherwise are missed.  Additionally, when you’re reading, you can take the information in at your own pace, organize your notes more easily, focus on the heading and subheadings, take note of the highlighted vocabulary and key concepts, and really interact more efficiently.

After you’ve taken your initial set of notes for any section of content, that’s when the video or audio come into play. Go ahead and start the video or audio, follow along with your notes, and add any additional information that you missed or didn’t quite understand before. By adding a second layer to your notes, you’re not only reviewing the information a second time, but you’re being challenged to make sure you truly understand the material by interacting with your notes.

Review Your Notes According To A Schedule

As shown in the study by Mueller and Oppenheimer, no matter what type of notes you’re taking, they’re no good to you if you don’t use them. That’s why our next tip is to set a schedule for reviewing and interacting with your notes. Scientists have found that without intentional review a significant amount of information is forgotten within 20 minutes of covering a lesson, and about two thirds of information has completely left our brains within a day. 

What does that mean for students? Time for reviewing your notes is as important as the time you’ve spent taking them. If your schedule allows it, you should be spending a little bit of time each day reviewing your carefully organized notes. If you re-read your notes each day, spending a little more time thinking about more complicated content, then you’ll never find yourself in the predicament of “cramming” at the end of a chapter or course.

Reviewing moves information into your long-term memory and gives you the opportunity to connect old material with new material, solidifying concepts in your brain and making essential connections to help that information last a lot longer than a day or two.

At Train The Brain, we want to see you succeed and we try to provide all of the resources one could ever need to make that happen. However, the number one predictor of your achievement is you. By taking notes and spending time reviewing them, you’ll be well on your way to learning and growing as a student, prepared for whatever academic challenge comes your way. It’s okay to need help. That’s why we’re here!  Sign up today and see what a difference our professional tutors can make!


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