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Best 11 Tips for Taking Notes While Studying Online

11 Tips for Taking Notes While Studying Online

Note-taking skills are a must for any grade and mode of learning. Writing your own notes that you can read whenever for exam preparation or future reference will make a huge difference in your grades. You won’t have to surf through pages of information. Noting down only the necessary information and organizing it into easy chunks is an art. 

Ahead, we will explain 11 practical tips for taking notes while studying online. After practicing our tips, you can successfully prepare for exams, steer your focus towards learning, and retain almost everything you have learned. 

Tips for Taking Notes in Virtual Classes

Whether you study with a private online tutor, are homeschooled, or enrolled in a virtual school, read the following tips to make good notes.

1. Note the major facts

Whenever the teacher states that this is an important point or repeats particular information, note it down immediately. Sometimes, higher-grade teachers also mention key points of every lecture on the board. Note these down, too. Here are some examples:

  • Literature plot, characters, and themes.
  • Scientific and mathematical formulas.
  • Opinions or theories.
  • Sample problems.
  • Definitions or vocabulary.
  • Main dates, locations, and names.

MTS tutors also share important information and notes after each lesson.

2. Paraphrase information

Writing points in your own words comfortably strengthens meaning. It also urges students to pick up new words and get deeper into the subject knowledge. Add abbreviations or fragments in your paraphrased notes, but you should be able to remember what they mean. It’s okay if you prefer complete sentences, too.

3. Discover note-taking methods

There are plenty of note-taking methods. They differ based on the mode (digital or paper). Ahead, we will discuss various note-taking tactics depending on the student’s grades.

Digital notes

(ideal for high school and middle school students)

The digital note-taking method works great for prodigy elementary students who are experts in typing. However, students should use their critical thinking skills to know when technology will help.

For instance, typing notes on a laptop is quicker than writing them manually. However, copying and pasting your notes will exclude the paraphrasing and summarizing process. The latter is a must in understanding major concepts. Here are some perks of digital notes:

  • Works better for memory and understanding.
  • Quicker notes.
  • Digital notes can be searched, shared with others, and backed up.
  • Easier to write a lot of notes.
  • Easier to manage and edit.

Handwritten notes

(Ideal for Elementary, middle, and high school students) 

Yes, this is old-fashioned, but handwritten notes can get rid of many computer instructions. For example, you won’t have to make back-and-forth clicks on the document while being in class. There is also no need to pause lectures or videos. All you need is a notebook and a pen.

Manual notes are great for elementary students who are learning how to write. However, high- and middle-school students can take advantage of it as well. Read the following perks of handwritten notes:

  • Students can remember and understand conceptual information.
  • Illustrations and diagrams can be written, too.
  • You won’t be distracted by devices.
  • Great for visual learners.  

Hybrid notes

(Ideal for middle and high school students) 

Hybrid notes include both digital and handwritten notes. This method works best for a digital-savvy student. These days, it is common for students to have a tablet and stylus. Technology is helping students make the best notes. Lenovo tablets, iPads, Microsoft Surface tablets, and Samsung Galaxy tablets are some examples.

Although these are expensive options, giving digital devices to students will make a positive difference in their studies. 

Copy Another Method

(Ideal for middle and high school students) 

Students should consider their organizational and personal style when taking productive notes. It’s a good idea to explore famous note-taking methods, like the Outlining or Cornell Method.

4. Maintain a personalized organization

When you write too many notes, it’s hard to find the relevant ones at the right time. So, we have mentioned helpful tips for organizing your notes.

Have one notebook for all classes

(Ideal for elementary, middle, and high school students) 

If you can’t keep track of many notebooks for each subject, try writing all notes in a single notebook. This is a good tip for minimalistic students. Afterwards, students can copy the notes in distinct notebooks for all subjects. This strengthens what they have learned while having to manage just one notebook.

Have a separate notebook for each subject 

(Ideal for elementary, middle, and high school students) 

Some students keep a separate notebook for every subject. They even decorate notebooks for a specific subject accordingly. Simply write the topic and date on every new page to find notes later.

Use a digital note app

(Ideal for middle and high school students) 

There are many digital, text-based software programs available. Students make use of it to search, share, and write detailed notes anywhere, anytime. Even if you prefer to manually jot down notes, it’s a possibility that you will want to or have to save them on the computer later. Take advantage of the following apps:

  • Evernote

This is a popular software for iOS, Windows, Android, and MAC devices. It is equally effective for typed and handwritten notes. Some Evernote features include web page bookmarks, pictures, quick sharing, video and audio storage, email integration, optical character recognition (OCR) that scans papers, and more.

  • Microsoft OneNote

This is a simple and free app! It is part of Microsoft Office. Students can use Word and Excel with OneNote due to default integration. The software is also present as an iOS, web, and Android app.

With Microsoft OneNote, users can search, create to-do lists, record audio, and create images with a stylus. Students can also add images or tables in notes. This app is best for making organized notes. Your notes will sync across platforms and devices. Plus, folders and tags can be added. 

  • Google Keep

This is Google's version of a notes application. iOS, Android, and web users can use it. Google Keep is basically a cross between OneNote and Evernote. The features are free and intuitive. 

This software operates with Google Docs and Google Drive, both of which are also great platforms for students. Google Keep provides audio recording, storage, text and image scanning. Students can also store URLs for websites.

  • Simplenote

Just as the name suggests, this is a basic software solely built for text storage or making ‘simple notes’. The free and simple program is great if you are a beginner at such software. Simplenote is available for iOS, Windows, Android, and MAC systems.

Use physical tools 

(Ideal for middle and high school students) 

Do you prefer manual handwritten notes? Then consider using physical tools, such as page markers, colored pens, post-it flags, or highlighters. These make it simpler to customize your notes or textbooks. Using visually appealing tools also makes notes searchable, particularly in big books.

Digital books often have an in-built bookmark or highlighter.

5. Make sure that notes are accurate and clear

Once you are done writing notes after an online class or reading, proofread them to make sure that all notes are easy to understand and correct.

  • While reading assignments, compare your notes to your reading resources. Keep adding points in your notes as you read other topics. 
  • Give attention to italicized and bold words and headers.
  • Focus on images and illustrations.
  • Ask your teacher or fellow students to improve your notes.
  • Give attention to the first and last sentences of paragraphs. This is where the major points are mentioned.
  • If you have any questions about the reading sources, write them in the note margins.

6. Don't write everything down

Studies have proven that students tend to write everything while making notes in a virtual class. This is particularly due to the absence of traditional learning resources, such as handouts and books. 

But writing down all the information will make it hard to study them later. An abundance of notes can result in an information overload. You won’t be able to remember all that afterwards.

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7. Prepare before the class or lecture

Try to anticipate what a lecture will cover and be well-prepared in advance. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Download or print any lectures or slides online.
  • Go through the curriculum, know the name of the lecture, and how it fits inside the bigger picture of the course.
  • Guarantee that you have completed the relevant coursework or readings. This way, you will already be familiar with the core concepts and vocabulary.
  • Think about what you already know regarding the topic and ponder what will be studied later.

8. Listen Actively

You do not have to record the entire lecture, particularly if you can simply go back to the material afterwards. As previously stated, it is impossible to transcribe every idea and word. Writing down everything will cause a huge barrier to listening. 

Don't write everything down

Ideally, only hear the lecture to know the connections between concepts in classes, texts, and lectures and the main points. Give attention to cue words like most importantly and especially. This will help you in knowing where to put your focus.

Tip: Since hearing online lectures comes with many distractions, break it down into small segments. Listen to a lecture for 15 minutes and take a break rather than continuously listening for 2 hours.

9. Write notes while reading

Plenty of online courses depend on seeing the lectures and reading resources independently. Research has shown that being an active reader will offer more benefits from notes. Students can write notes while reading a topic instead of skimming through it and taking fewer notes afterwards. 

Jot down what catches your attention during reading. If you’re confused about something, mention the question at the margin and come back to it later.

10. Use images or diagrams 

It’s difficult to make notes of some topics in words. For instance, if a student needs to make notes on the human body’s anatomy, making a visual representation and labeling with brief descriptions will be easier for learning.

Likewise, diagrams allow students to jot down concepts in an understandable and memorable way. If you come across diagrams in your online material, save it to your device and print it out. You can also add it later to your notes.

11. Review Your Notes

Whether you write notes on digital software, on your computer, or in your physical notebook, it is a good idea to review them once the class or online lecture is over. Whatever information you have seen, listened to, or read will remain fresh by doing so. This is how you can make the most of your notes.

Why Students Need to Take Notes

Independently taking notes means that a student is actively engaged in their learning instead of passively listening or reading. Taking notes while studying online is essential as it helps students to recognize major points and summarize information. Here are more benefits:

  • Smoother and quicker learning.
  • A chance to practice listening skills while watching educational videos or hearing lectures.
  • Leads to better organizational skills.
  • Students develop multitasking skills by listening and writing simultaneously.
  • Better understanding since students gain information from different sources.

Final Thoughts

So, which one of our tips for taking notes while studying online caught your eye the most? We hope that you’re now confident to take notes in all classes.

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With over 3 years of experience in teaching, Chloe is very deeply connected with the topics that talk about the educational and general aspects of a student's life. Her writing has been very helpful for students to gain a better understanding of their academics and personal well-being. I’m also open to any suggestions that you might have! Please reach out to me at chloedaniel402 [at]