This semester I made the transition to taking notes on an iPad with the Apple Pencil, and as a long-time lover of note taking and office supplies, it was a big change. This may not sound like anything substantial, but notetaking is a large part of my daily routine as a college student, and now that I have made the switch I will likely never go back to pen and paper. Despite this, it is a big decision and investment to start virtual note taking, so I have compiled a list of my pros and cons after transitioning to virtual notes three months ago.
One of my favorite things about virtual note taking is that all of your materials are in one place. I use GoodNotes 5 which allows me to have multiple notebooks, PowerPoints, and readings all on one app. When I go to a coffee shop to study, all I really need to bring is my iPad.
2. Environmentally Friendly
Now that I exclusively take notes virtually, I have no need to buy paper, notebooks or pens. While these items seem small, the plastic and paper from school supplies can add up, and that is virtually eliminated with digital notes.
3. Readings and PowerPoints
Another incredibly useful tool in GoodNotes 5 is the ability to import PowerPoints and PDFs of readings from Canvas. As a history major I read about 100-150 pages a week for class readings and being able to annotate directly onto the text without having to print them out helps me absorb the material much better. In my business courses I also like to download PowerPoints from class to study or directly take notes on.
With virtual learning, open-note tests have become much more common. In most virtual note taking apps, you can search for keywords or terms both in PDFs and in your own handwriting, making it incredibly useful during a timed test.
1. Initial Cost
One of the aspects that put me off from starting virtual notetaking was definitely the initial cost to buy a tablet. Although it can seem like a big investment, I have found it to be incredibly worthwhile. Additionally, older tablets can still run many note taking apps, so if you have one from a few years ago it could be something you already have lying around.
I often get to a Zoom lecture and realize my iPad is about to die, and I usually end up scrambling for a charger. This is one of the more annoying parts of digital note taking, but I am usually able to keep a charger close by or charge up my devices at night.
Much like having your laptop during in-person lectures, it can be easy to get distracted when you could start online shopping or scrolling through social media on your tablet. I have found setting screen time restrictions on certain apps allows me to stay focused during class.
Overall, I feel the pros of digital note taking have outweighed the cons. Although there was definitely an initial investment adjustment period, I have felt my note taking and reading retention has improved with the digital method.