Notetaking is a part of everyday life for students but it can also present challenges, particularly if you have a disability, a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD, a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression or a long-term health condition such as diabetes, epilepsy, RSI or hypermobility.
Taking notes in fast-paced lectures requires a great deal of multi-tasking; listening to what is being said, writing at speed, deciding what information is relevant and organising notes in a logical way.
When we are bombarded with information, it can become overwhelming and even more so if you struggle with maintaining focus, reading and listening comprehension and difficulty with motor skills.
If you want to make notes faster and spend more time actively participating in lessons, we’ll show you some examples of the assistive technology that you could get as part of your personalised support package with the Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs).
Typing versus writing
A laptop, iPad, smartphone or good old pen and paper – whatever your preferred method of making notes, you’ll encounter similar problems.
No matter how fast you write or type, it’s impossible to capture everything that is said. Then there’s illegible handwriting, sheets of paper to lose, distracting noises, notifications on your laptop…
If you can find a technique to take down information in a way that works for you, it’s a powerful aid to understanding what you have learnt and remembering it in the future. Effective notetaking isn’t just important for your studies – it’s a transferable skill that can be applied to all areas of your life.
There are other methods of notetaking that could be better suited to your needs so you can be more confident, productive and independent in your studies. Let us take you through a few of our favourites:
If you’re a fan of handwriting notes, the Livescribe is a natural fit for you. This clever smartpen allows you to record everything you hear, say and write, helping to improve your notetaking and saving time. Being able to record audio and write at the same time means you can capture a lecture or conversation at a meeting, alongside your own written notes. Audio can be quickly replayed from your Livescribe paper, a computer or a mobile device by simply tapping your handwritten notes.
Do you spend more time and effort writing notes than taking on board what is being said? Sonocent Audio Notetaker would be a good choice for you. This programme allows you to record complete sessions which you can interact with at the same time; colour-coding important chunks of info and adding images as you go. You can either use the software on a laptop to make recordings and type notes during classes or lectures or the companion Sonocent Link app on a smartphone.
For iPad fans and more visual students, this iOS app is a great option as you can use it like a virtual whiteboard, using the Apple pencil to make notes, annotate material and record audio all at the same time. Notability allows the user to combine handwriting, photos, pdf documents, typing and recording in a single note making it ideal for jotting down your ideas, creating on the go and organising all areas of your school, work and home life. It’s simple and convenient to use with the additional benefit of writing your own notes and a great way to keep everything digital.
This digital notetaking app is free and already available through your college or university’s Office 365 subscription so is well worth exploring. OneNote makes capturing, storing and sharing information easy and has a multitude of features such as recording audio and video, the ability to highlight your notes, scan your handwritten text and convert it into typed text and even draw using your stylus or finger. It can also be used on any device meaning you can access your notes and create new ones wherever you are. Some students report that it’s tricky to get to grips with at first due to the sheer amount of options, but it’s user-friendly and once you get familiar with it you may find it becomes an essential productivity tool.
If you like the sound of the specialist software mentioned and feel it could help you study better, jump to our guide to DSAs to see if you are eligible. And to discover more recommended assistive software, check out our comprehensive guide.
For more information and for advice on your individual situation, call us on 01252 721095 or email us today.