Taking Notes on a Laptop Isn’t All Bad – Here’s Why

If you’re a college student, you can’t deny the importance of taking notes during lectures. Notes help in remembering the lecture topic, for instance when you’re preparing for a test. The process of noting something down could itself be beneficial to learning, though the evidence on this is mixed.

As laptops and tablets are more ubiquitous and compact than ever, they’ve become a common thing in lecture halls. Some students are even ditching pen and notebooks altogether in favor of laptops, giving rise to the trend of electronic note-taking.

But the efficacy of electronic note-taking has been a matter of debate. Many experts suggests that taking notes by hand is more effective since it involves deeper mental processing. There are even studies at smaller scales that supports this idea.

So then, are laptops really that bad when it comes to note-taking? Well, not so fast.

Are laptops good for note-taking?

At a lecture hall in Missouri School of Journalism, almost everyone had a laptop turned on.
At a lecture hall in Missouri School of Journalism

According to a study, electronic note-taking may be less effective than traditional methods of note-taking. The study, conducted by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer found that students who took notes digitally retained less information than students who took notes on paper, and the digital note-takers faced more difficulty remembering what they’ve written.

“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can. The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”

Pam A. Mueller

But the study is quite limited, it doesn’t take a lot of factors into account. Plus the result is also nuanced.

Another experiment suggests that students using laptops can distract their classmates from learning. After all, it’s not so hard to minimize Notepad and jump into facebook, or youtube. Is it?

Despite all these factors, a laptop can actually be perfect for a lot of people. Here’s why:

Typing is faster

Touchscreen laptops and tablets are ideal for fast note-taking. Writing is a slow process, it’s hard to write and focus on the lecture at the same time. And then there are lectures who rushes through the whole class, making it hard to take notes and keep up with the lecture.

If you’re a fast typer like me, you’ll find that a keyboard works much faster than a pen. You’ll spend less time taking notes and more time concentrating on the lecture.

Besides, there are many people who aren’t exactly fond of writing. Many people have very slow hand-writng speed. For them, a keyboard can be the perfect alternative.

Some topics are better suited to typing

2019 survey of a few hundred undergrad students found that 74% of them took notes differently depending on the class they were attending. Maybe Organic chemistry can benefit from the freedom of a pen, but history’s infinite torrent of dates and facts may be better suited to keyboards.

Edit notes on the go

Sometimes you might wanna change something you wrote. Maybe because it wasn’t accurate, or maybe you think the phrasing could’ve been better. You can’t do that in regular notes, things get messy when you want to change things.

But if you took notes on a laptop using softwares like Notepad or Google Doc, you can change things instantly. You can create a final version of the notes for sharing with classmates, or for revision before exams.

Stay connected

Imagine you’re in the lecture hall. You don’t understand something the lecturer said, but you don’t wanna ask either (although you definitely should ask). If you’re on a laptop and connected to internet, you can search that on Google instantly, get a basic idea of it and then continue with the lecture.

Keep things organized

Normally, we use a separate notepad for each subject for taking notes. This keeps each topic organized and easy to access. But you’ll have to carry them everyday to the lectures, and it’s easy to lose them too.

By using a laptop, you can keep all your notes at the same place, and organize them however you want. And if you use a cloud storage, there’s virtually no chance of losing them.

One laptop for everything

This only applies if you’re an ebook lover. Books are heavy and takes a lot of space in a backpack. In college, you probably carry a few everyday with you.

These days, you’ll find a pdf version of any books you need. Instead of books and pads, you can just carry one laptop for everything: your books, your notes, and your assignments.

An essential gadget

These days, having a laptop or tablet is necessary for almost any college-goer. It’s very difficult to get through college these days without using any computers at all. A laptop helps you stay connected with your classmates, and organize your studies properly. Especailly if you live in a dorm or hostel, a laptop can serve you a whole range of purposes.

So even if you don’t need a laptop for taking notes, you still want to get one for college.

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