On any given day, any lecture hall on campus has students either typing on laptops or writing in notebooks as professors discuss various subjects.
Both options for note -taking come with their advantages and disadvantages.
Jennifer Robinson, an associate professor in the department of psychology, said handwritten notes can allow the user to have a deeper understanding because it forces them to put the material in their own words.
“You can type a lot faster than you can handwrite,” Robinson said. “So what it forces your brain to do is to try to consolidate the information that you are given and encode it at a higher level so that you are only writing down the things that are very important.”
The main difference between the two, she said, is that laptop note-taking is more of copying notes while handwritten note- taking requires both interpreting and copying.
“I tell my students every semester I really discourage them from using their laptops and I know other neuroscientists do the same thing because you will retain more information if you handwrite your notes than if you type them all out,” Robinson said.
There are two aspects to note-taking to consider: writing the notes and reviewing the notes. Students should consider which form they are more likely to engage with, she said.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Alyssa Kelley, a sophomore in professional and public writing, said she prefers handwritten notes because it helps her improve her writing speed, and she feels having a physical copy of her notes will increase the likelihood of her looking back at them.
Some professors at the University have a “no technology” policy, which means no cellphones or laptops should be used in the lecture hall while class is in progress. By handwriting notes, this won’t affect her, and Kelley said this also keeps her from getting distracted.
“It would take five seconds to switch to another tab on my laptop and check my messages or go on social media,” Kelley said. “If I just write my notes, I will be screen-free and not be tempted to focus on other things because my focus is on writing my notes.”
Katherine Burd, a freshman in pre-business, said she chose to type her notes because she can be a lot faster in getting information down.
“I think it’s easier and more efficient,” Burd said. “It’s easier to type than write.”
Although the no-technology policy does affect her, Burd said she will handwrite notes for just that class. Overall, however, she is more likely to engage in note-taking with a laptop because with handwriting, you can get cramps, and it’s harder to keep up.
According to Samantha Ansley, a coordinator of academic coaching, the method they recommend in their department is dependent on the students’ preference.
“The method that the student will use is the method that we recommend,” Ansley said.
Laptop note-taking is good for classes with immediate recall testing like true/false or multiple choice, she said, however it can be harder to achieve the more in-depth learning when using a laptop for note-taking.
“It doesn’t lend itself to that deep understanding, which is where a lot of our Auburn University professors and instructors do test in: deep understanding and applying concepts outside of what was discussed in class and beyond what is expected in the homework,” Ansley said.
Ansley said because handwritten notes aid in deeper learning, it can be good for short answer style tests, but if information is given quickly, it can be overwhelming, causing the notes to be messy and unorganized and difficult to read later on.
As to which form is more effective, it will depend on which one the student is more likely to engage with and the testing format of the class, she said.
“I really encourage students to think about their notes as just one aspect of their tools available to them for studying,” Ansley said.
Ansley said it’s important to do the pre-learning, like reading over the chapter before class and studying with the notes in an interactive way.
If they need further assistance, academic coaching programs are available through the Office of Academic Support to help students with developing an effective note-taking process along with other study strategies.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman