3 tips to help you master note taking for online classes

Posted on Monday, September 21, 2020

Author: Bobby Wong, 4th year B.Com student

Two students on computers

Did you know that just 30 minutes after class, you’ve already forgotten 30% of the information that was presented?

Mastering the art of efficient note-taking means finding a strategy that works, and a system that prevents information loss. With classes being held online, this can become more challenging. But worry no more. Here are three tips to help you master note taking for online classes:

1. The gather & glean method (using virtual tools)

Did you know Google Docs offers a voice typing feature under “Tools” on the header bar? You can activate voice typing and the tool will recognize voices and write out the words for you. 

At the end of class, you should have a complete written transcript! However, the best way to get results from this method is to then go through the content and filter out unnecessary details. 

This method works best for students who take notes more slowly than the speed at which the professor speaks. 

2. The communal-striving method (using group collaboration)

This method, which also uses Google Docs, allows multiple editors to collaborate simultaneously. 

Taking notes alongside friends on a shared doc helps you optimize time. By skipping points covered by teammates, you can prioritize your time taking notes no one else has.

This method also uses the chat function in Google Docs. If you have a question, you can share it in the chat room and get a response from friends without interrupting the class presentation.

So go ahead and form a study group. It’s also a great way to meet new peers!

The Cornell method (writing longhand)

Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to work in online classes is to stick with the classic method, taking notes longhand. According to studies, this helps keep your notes concise rather than copying the prof’s words verbatim, and thus also improves memorization. 

The Cornell method involves dividing your page into two columns, with one row at the bottom of the page. The right column is where you write the bulk of the content, the left column is where you write extra insights, keywords or specific facts,  and the bottom row is for summary statements.

This format can form the basis of a broader strategy to help you study more efficiently.

Example of Cornell method

Illustration of Cornell Method

By finding a note-taking strategy that fits your style, you can optimize the amount of time you spend taking notes and improve their quality. Just remember that like all new processes, it gets easier and more efficient the longer you stick with it!

Need more academic support, resources or even advice from a mentor? 

Check out the Academic GPS for more information.

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