What Happens for Students when Old School Meets Cyber School

We are all on the same page – online learning is great. Our IVLA courseware platforms are excellent and engaging, appealing to many learning styles. Our students have successful educational experiences and build crucial independent learning habits as they watch videos, complete interactive activities, and submit work to teachers to be graded.

So if online learning is so great, why go “old school” with notebook and pencils?

Simply put, taking notes is crucial to learning success. Our observation at IVLA is that students who take notes are more likely to succeed; an observation that is verified by a document prepared by the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (http://hilt.harvard.edu/files/hilt/files/notetaking_0.pdf).

As mentioned in the Harvard document, the cognitive interaction required for note-taking creates a deeper connection with the material, resulting in improved mastery and improved recall.

Improved Mastery

Taking notes is not as simple as copying verbatim a text they are reading or passage they are hearing. To formulate notes, students have to think about what they are reading or hearing, analyze the main points, decide on important details, and then reconstruct this on paper. All those functions increase interaction with the material and enable the student to better understand. In addition, students taking notes are more likely to recognize not only what they understand but also what further information is required to understand. In other words, taking notes empowers the “OK, I get that” and “Wait – What?!” thought processes which are important blocks for building mastery.


Improved Recall

Similar to improved mastery, increased interaction with the material helps to cement it better in our long-term memory. Because we have analyzed it (when we decided what to write down), synthesized it (when we put it in our own words), and used multiple modalities (reading, perhaps hearing, and the tactile effort of writing), the information is not more deeply ingrained. Also, a review is important to build recall abilities and notes become an essential tool for reviewing and studying for assessments.

Of course, learning goes beyond the ability to spit back information in a recall situation. True learning is about processing and applying the information. Taking notes, as already mentioned, can engage the higher level thinking skills, bringing learning to the level where information can be more readily processed and applied. Many assessments in our courseware ask questions that require students to apply the information presented in a lesson. Some students are apt to say, “That wasn’t covered in the material” and they are correct! The angle or approach to the assessment question requires the student to think about the material in the lesson and apply it in a new way. This requires higher level thinking about the information you know. Note-taking can assist with both honing thinking skills and retaining information.

In future articles, we will explore specific types of notes and helpful note-taking tips.

Stay tuned and happy learning!