Note-Taking Tips for Online Classes: Handwritten v. Digital - MedCerts

Is Short-Term Online Career Training Right for You?

Despite the advent of online learning, note-taking is still an important part of student life. In this article, we’ll break down the pros and cons of different methods of note-taking so you can choose the method that fits you best between handwritten notes and digital notes.

Handwritten Notes vs. Digital Notes


Handwritten note-taking is a simple method that students have used for years, and its popularity is no surprise, as paper notebooks are affordable and easy to carry around. Research shows that students who take handwritten notes tend to retain information better than those taking digital notes – this could be because you have to focus on the information more when you're physically writing it down.

On the flip side, handwritten notes take longer than typing. Correcting mistakes can get messy, it's easy to lose or damage notebooks and organizing the notes can be difficult when they're spread across more than one notebook.


Typing notes on a laptop is quicker than writing them by hand, and the option to save backup documents on a USB memory stick or cloud server adds more security. Typed notes are more customizable – it's easy to type in different colors or highlight different parts of the text. Typed notes are also simpler to organize as you can save them in labeled folders that are divided by topic.

But laptops can be pricey, ranging from $150 to thousands of dollars, and you have to charge them regularly. What's more, typing on a laptop has been linked to a lower level of information retention.

Digital Handwriting

Tablets can be a happy medium between handwriting and typing because they enable digital handwriting, which is when you use a stylus or some other tool as a “pen” to “write” notes on a screen. You might need to download an app like GoodNotes or Notability to do this.

Tablets are more convenient than laptops because they're smaller. Note organization and customization are just as easy on a tablet as on a laptop, but tablets also share the same drawbacks as laptops, with less associated information retention than handwritten notes, regular charging needed and higher equipment costs.

Note-Taking Tips

Regardless of how you take your notes, here are some note-taking tips for online classes to help you learn better:

  • Write or type in phrases instead of complete sentences.

  • Paraphrase what's being said in your own words.

  • Structure your notes using headings, subheadings and bullet points.

  • Write or type your notes in different colors or highlight important parts.

  • Download and save a copy of the PowerPoint or any other digitally available materials.

  • Tailor your notes to your learning style:
    • If you're a visual learner, use charts and graphs in your notes to illustrate information.
    • If you're an auditory learner, consider recording your classes or reading your notes out loud.

All in all, studying is hard enough as it is, so it's important to opt for a note-taking practice that you enjoy and can keep up over time. MedCerts is here to make things easier for students with our online career certifications.

Portrait of Julie Campos
Written by Julie Campos
Vice President of Student Success and Career Services

Julie Campos is the Vice President of Student Success and Career Services at MedCerts. She brings over 14 years of experience in Online Higher Education in both Student Support and Enrollment and started her career at the University of Phoenix, serving most of her tenure as a student-facing leader.

Julie has her Bachelors of Liberal Arts in Political Science from the University of Texas at El Paso, and her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Her areas of expertise are student support in online higher education environments and working with nontraditional students. At MedCerts, she is focused on creating a pro-active student central support model for MedCerts students to reach their goals and has developed the MedCerts Student Support and Outreach Model, created MedCerts Student Success Advisor reports and Dashboards, as well as the Student Success Advisor Playbook. Her proactive approach to student support has been crucial in meeting MedCerts’ student’s needs, as well as completion and certification goals.

Julie has three children – a 10-year-old son and 12- and 4-year-old daughters, who keep her and her husband busy with sports. She is also an avid crafter with an entire room of her home dedicated to the hobby. In her free time, she enjoys teaching wreath making and even has a few “how-to” YouTube videos on the subject!

Published on November 7, 2022


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