How to Take Notes in an Online Class

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Posted on February 1st, 2011

Taking notes can be a difficult thing to get the hang of for any student. Finding a balance between attempting to write down everything the professor says and writing nothing of import at all can be tricky. For online students, things can feel even more confusing because video lectures can typically be stopped and started again. So, how do you know what to write? First, you need to be aware of the point of note taking.

Taking notes is your way to keep track of what has been covered in class, and remind yourself about topics that your professor has covered frequently. Your class notes serve as your own personal record of what happened in class and what was discussed. Students who take good notes are able to use them as substantial resources with it comes time to study for final exams. Good notes should be a thorough overview of what was covered most by your professor. This information can be used in order to prioritize your study time, so you can dedicate the most time to the most important topics.

In order to take great notes, you first need to figure out what the overall thesis of the course is, and how each section relates to that thesis. If you have some perspective on what the course is actually about, it will be much easier to understand what the important concepts will be. This allows you to take notes on topics that you know are important.

Next, you have to find a way to write efficiently. Try as hard as you can not to take notes that you won't need. If nothing else, just keep a simple record of what is covered in the lecture. Don't dedicate too much time to writing things that can be found easily in your text book or class documents. There is no need to use full sentences. Instead, try to develop a personal shorthand so you can shorten your words and sentences but still be able to decipher them later.

Don’t feel pressure to write as if someone else will need to read your notes. Your notes should be written for you only; this allows you to be able to write as efficiently as possible. Notes are your own personal tool, so don't worry about how they might come off to other people. Feel free to leave yourself reminders and notes about questions on the material. This will also help you identify personally with your though processes during different sections.

If you are able to watch your class lectures on video that can be stopped and re-wound, take advantage of it. If you feel like something important was just covered, but you missed it, rewind the lecture so you can take notes about what the professor was saying. Online students need to beware, though, of writing too much. Just because you are able to stop and start your lectures, there is no reason to feel like you need to keep perfect records of everything the professor says. Try your best to prioritize the information and move on.

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