Remembering the good old days of face-to-face classes brings back an image of everyone rushing into the room – and hastily taking their laptops out, turning them on, looking for a spot to charge them… The quirky minority, however, takes their notebooks out and are set to go – those are mostly the same people that still happen to have a pen on them when the whole class needs to sign their attendance.
While laptops have taken over the note-taking process, there are some pros and cons to consider when it comes to choosing between the two. Convenience, level of organization, as well as actual benefits and information absorption all should be taken into account. Below, we will list a few pros and cons of using a laptop in your classes instead of a notebook.
- Speed of typing: If you are an average student, your keyboard skills are a lot more efficient than the old fashioned pen-and-paper approach; therefore, writing down whatever is being said in classes is much quicker on your laptop. If a lot of information needs to be noted down for further revision, a laptop is superior.
- Organization: Organizing your notes can be a lot easier on the laptop, as you do not need to keep endless amounts of physical notebooks around. Whatever notes you might need for yourself at the moment, finding them on your desktop is significantly easier than digging through your shelves, cupboards, and (most likely messy) desk.
- Access to instant information: If you already are on your laptop as soon as the class starts, looking something up can be easier if you need to fact check some information instantly. Also, if something useful is found online it can be preserved in your notes for you to look into when revising later on.
- Information can be safely backed up: While, sadly, the „dog ate my homework“ excuse does not work anymore, at the same time our notes and other academic work can easily be backed up online. Nowadays, many options are available and some of them can be provided by school online environments, such as One Drive from Microsoft Office, while others can be taken care of by you. It is worth looking into options of backing up your entire laptop, which will highly depend on the operating system you use.
- Lack of mindfulness: While taking notes on the laptop is significantly faster, it can result in writing things down as they go, without actually thinking the information through. Taking notes in your notebook can be slower, but it forces you to listen more actively and filter out the key information that deserves being written down – which might increase your actual understanding of what you learned in the class.
- Increased screen time: If you are looking to reduce your exposure to screens, taking your notes with pen and paper might be a better idea, as using your laptop just adds up to it. However, blue light blocking glasses are becoming increasingly more popular, and those who wear them report fewer headaches and other screen exposure caused problems. This might be an alternative for you if laptop note-taking is something you would not like to sacrifice.
- Distractions: While our smartphones are something hard to entirely avoid during classes, laptops can become another extra source of distraction. If you have never seen someone watching Netflix (or watched it yourself) during a lecture, are you really a student?
- Technology (still) can fail you: As rarely as it happens, technology can sometimes fail you – laptops can crash before backing up your work, internet connection can make it impossible to retrieve your notes from a cloud and leave you wishing you kept your notes in a physical form.
There are many more aspects to consider, the main of them being one’s personal preference. If taking notes by hand helps you memorize the information better and allows you to get more creative with your notes, it is an option for you. On the other hand, if you would rather write down everything presented to you and are capable of resisting the urge to check your Facebook feed, a laptop in classes will help you immensely. Whichever one you choose, beware of technical difficulties – or dogs and messy desks.
By: Viktorija Tuzaite, NHL University of Applied Sciences ’21