This semester, skip the five-subject notebooks and three-ring binders and opt for a digital note-taking tool instead.
With the digital age in full swing, most students have ditched pen and paper for computers and tablets, finding digital note-taking to be a faster and more organized method for keeping up in class.
Note-taking apps are useful because you can access your notes from anywhere, making it easy to study on-the-go. Plus, all you need is a charged computer, tablet or electronic device to get started.
But with so many devices, apps and note-taking styles to choose from, it’s difficult for new college students to know where to start, especially if it’s been a while since you set foot in a classroom.
These effective note-taking tips will help you find the tools and methods that work best for you.
Find a Note-Taking Tool
There are many different digital note-taking tools available, but Evernote, Google Docs and Microsoft One Note are three of the most popular for students. All are available for iOS, Android and PC users, and they also offer free subscription options. Each tool allows you to choose from several note-taking templates, or you can opt to create your own.
Taking notes on an electronic device has a lot of benefits, the biggest challenge for students is avoiding distractions from email, social media or text message notifications. Not only do these interruptions affect your productivity, they also decrease the quality of learning.
It is important to mute all notifications until you can take a break or you finish the task. When you minimize opportunities for distraction, you’ll be able to finish your work more quickly and you’re more likely to retain information.
Choose a Method
Everyone learns differently, so it is important to choose a note-taking method that compliments your individual learning style. Three of the most popular ways to take notes include the Cornell Method, Outlining Method and the Sentence Method.
For the Cornell Method, you divide your notes into three sections. The right side is the “notes” section, where you write your notes from class. The left side of the page is the “cues” section. This is developed after class and includes “trigger questions” that will help you memorize the material for future review. On the bottom of the page, create a “summary” section and write a brief summary of all of your notes.
In the Outlining Method, you write the main topic or focus of the lesson at the top of the page. Underneath, you list bullet points for each subtopic, followed by additional bullets for the key points supporting each subtopic.
The Sentence Method is similar to the outlining method, but the main topic and all supporting points are written in complete sentences, rather than bullet point format.
Consider testing out each of these note-taking strategies to find one that helps you learn and retain important information from class.
Incorporate Color and Pictures
Although teaching materials and class presentations might include diagrams, pictures and other graphics, we often don’t include them in our handwritten notes due to time constraints. With digital note-taking, it is much easier to include multimedia in your notes – simply copy and paste an image from a PowerPoint or a website into your digital notepad.
You can also use color to your advantage by color coding different subjects and headers. Not only will your notes be more inviting and pleasant to look at, it will be easier for you to organize your notes when you sit down to study.
Digital note-taking allows for an efficient and organized approach to learning and studying and will help set you up for a successful semester. For more helpful tips, check out our blogs on preparing for a new semester and boosting productivity.