Do you like to take notes? If so, how do you take them? Since the pandemic, there has been a spike in virtual learning and a shift to more remote work altogether. This has led more and more people, especially students, to take notes on a computer rather than on paper. Are handwritten notes a thing of the past? Below I have compiled a list of pros and cons to compare virtual note-taking to traditional pen and paper notes. 

Typing notes has become a pretty common way that students take their notes nowadays. Teachers and students have analyzed whether it is better to type notes or write them on paper and it is often still a debate. Bottom line is that it depends on the person and how they learn. There are many benefits to typing notes. It is faster, easier to edit and reorganize, easy ability to search for keywords while studying, is easily shareable with classmates, and is much neater. While there are many pros, there are also many cons. Some of these cons include that virtual note-taking is not budget-friendly compared to a notebook, technology has lots of distractions, you have to remember to charge your laptop, and it has been found that most students have a lower retention rate when they type their notes as opposed to when they write them down on paper. Click here to view the best laptops for note-taking. 

As for handwritten notes, there are pros and cons as well. Handwritten notes are much cheaper than typed ones, they also have no distractions while taking them and a higher retention rate than typing. A Clearvue Health article states that “the researchers found that writing notes led to significantly more short-term retention. When the students were tested to see whether they remembered what they wrote down, students who wrote their notes remembered more than typing.” 

When writing notes by hand, there is a higher retention rate and fewer distractions, but is that worth it when you don’t have any backup copies? It is also much harder to correct mistakes on paper than it is to do on a computer. Writing is more time consuming and you may not get as much information written down as those who are typing. Click here to view the best notebooks for note-taking. 

Student, Adam Morrison taking handwritten notes
Photo By: Luke Ortolani

Researchers, students, and teachers are still debating this, but I think that it comes down to how you learn and the topic of the notes. Math and science courses tend to be more paper-note kind of courses whereas English and history tend to have a high rate of people typing their notes. More fact-based information is better to handwrite for memorization purposes and more interpretive information is usually not a problem to type. Some students thrive on having everything neat and customizable, while other students have much more success writing everything down on paper and studying it that way. At the end of the day, notes are notes, but it is a very interesting shift to observe. Handwritten notes seem to be less and less common every year and it’s just a matter of time for handwritten notes to be even more “old fashioned” than they already are. 

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