The Great Dilemma: Handwritten vs. Digital Note-taking

About one week ago when classes really got started, I came across a dilemma - how should I be taking my notes this year?

See, if this was 2018 and I was in first year, I would be taking digital notes in lecture in order to keep up with professors or annotate PowerPoints. I would then handwrite study notes for tests and exams. This is because like most students, I type faster than I write, and when I create study notes I need to take my time to reabsorb the information. 

However, now I’m in fourth year and the majority of my classes do not have PowerPoints to follow, its mostly discussion based. Instead of supplementing lectures with readings, my readings have become the entire basis to seminars. There is also the fact I don’t have 'typical' exams - assessments are now presentations, and major research papers.

I felt as if I was at a crossroads. So, I did what any rational person would do -- I googled it.

Searching "Is handwriting notes better than digital notes" in Google

Did Google help?

Not really, I combed through articles, YouTube videos, TikToks, and frankly, I’m pretty sure I just overwhelmed myself. What I did learn though was I had absolutely no time to make my notes as aesthetically pleasing as some of the people in those videos, both handwritten and digital. 

I also realized that everyone is most definitely going to have a bias. If you have a preferred note taking style -- of course you’re going to promote it!

After my google search, I had to sit down and stop myself from overthinking. I took the time to really consider what I needed and not what the StudyTok influencers were saying.

What did I come up with?

It's going to have to depend on the class.

I know, all that build up for something so simple.

Some classes. I'm going to need to create study notes for discussion and that's it - digital makes sense because I save paper instead of annotating a print out of a reading. For this I use an app on my iPad called GoodNotes, it is a paid app that costed me about $12.99 when I downloaded it. It's easy to upload pdf files to annotate as you read, or even PowerPoint presentations.

The GoodNotes App - Available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and MacBook

Another a great free option would be Microsoft One Note, an app we can download through the U of T access to Microsoft Office. 

For classes that require me to absorb information, I'll be handwriting.

My handwritten notes

For me, I think it's not about purely digital or handwritten notes. I think it's about finding a balance of both that helps you retain the information best or prepare your classes best.

I hope my experience with this dilemma helps to show folks it doesn't have to be just one -- how are you taking notes this year?

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