4 Annotation and Note-taking Tips



Online courses are becoming increasingly popular for both mature students as well as students who are starting their university experience at 18. Online courses offer students several fantastic options: The opportunity to study from home, the flexibility of logging into courses at any particular time of day or week, and the ability to maintain employment. However, many students become lost in a sea of disorganization when learning outside of the traditional classroom. There are, however, many ways that students can maintain organization and note-taking skills to increase their chances of success throughout the online educational experience.

1. Use a split screen

Most students find it frustrating to have to tab back and forth between one screen and another when using a laptop or desktop computer. The inability to simultaneously open up a Word/Pages and research document increases the amount of time spent on note-taking and will eventually cause students to take less specific notes or stop altogether. Students who use multiple electronic devices should consider setting up a split screen on their study space. Students can view the course material on one screen and take notes on another. Although a very simple solution, it’s effective none the less. Students who prefer not to be confined to a desk can take notes on their iPad or other mobile electronic device.

2. The tried-and-true paper method

Just because something isn’t new doesn’t mean that it’s obsolete. Students who originally learned to annotate and take notes with paper, pencil, and highlighter may find that it’s still a great way to maintain organization. Students can color code using different highlighters for different classes and create a reference key to let them know which symbol means what. For example, a circled word indicates that it needs to be looked up in the dictionary later, a boxed phrase refers the student to an extensive list of notes written on another page, and an underlined passage can indicate that a concept needs to be reviewed with a tutor or study group for further explanation.

3. Multi-user documents

Google, as well as other companies, offer simple yet highly effective ways for multiple people to edit a document. For the most part, online students will want to work with other members of their online class to discuss new concepts and study for exams. A study group can create and title a document for taking notes on each section of a textbook or cover varying topics from the course. Additionally, students can connect to the document at a time of their convenience and also provide edits and suggestions to their peers. Because multi-user documents can become confusing as time goes by, students are advised to assign each member of the study group a different color for their text. Also, each student can underline or make notes on different parts of the assignment to help decrease the overall workload. This decreases frustration and increases success. The beauty of editable documents is that students can be online and interact at the same time but they don’t have to. One student can sign on at 8 a.m. and another at 8 p.m.

4. Voice-to-text technology

Although voice-to-text technology still contains a few glitches here and there (students will find that the programs often type out the words “comma” and “period” instead of producing an actual punctuation mark), it’s a great way to take notes during an online course. Students can simply open a new tab and use any number of free online dictation programs directly on their laptop or they can use a mobile device to take voice notes. While reading through the content of their online course, students often come up with multiple questions, comments, or general thoughts. However, many students don’t have time to write down or type out each question before losing their train of thought. As an alternative, students who use voice-to-text can quickly jot down questions without breaking the concentration needed to focus on new material.

In Short

Online courses are a great option for students at college whether they take a 100% online program or a hybrid (partially in-person and partially online) series of courses. Additionally, the quality of education in internet-based courses has vastly improved in the past 10 years. The last step to making the online learning experience great is to determine which type of note-taking and annotation methods work best for our innovative 21st century students.

Author: Robyn Scott with TutorNerds

Robyn Scott is a private English tutor at TutorNerds. She attended the University of California, Irvine as an undergraduate and the University of Southampton in England as a graduate student.


Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/josecamoessilva/9000678112/

Author: SmartStudent

SmartStudent is an educational portal that provides information & advice to aspiring students. regarding applying to university, choosing a course, what to take to university, finding student accommodation and much more.

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