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Remote learning: Creating digital notes

“No matter what method of note-taking you use, the basic way to organise your thoughts is to check what you expect to learn against the information you actually receive and add any unexpected information”

Doreen du Boulay, Study Skills for Dummies

‘Notetaking’ should actually be thought as ‘note creating’ or 'note making'. This is because good notes are unique creations that represent your thinking, learning, understanding and questioning – all of which are active processes. In contrast, ‘taking notes’ that represent exactly what you have heard or have read are actually poor for learning. While they are great for capturing an experience (like a lecture), they are actually poor notes for learning as they are developed passively and this does not require much thought.

If you currently use the traditional pen and paper method for creating notes, then you might like to consider the powerful benefits of using digital devices for note-taking:

  • Audio recording: The more popular note-taking apps allow users to playback their notes, which is a great tool if you prefer to learn audibly. Additionally, you can record sound bites from your lectures, or even an entire lecture, as a backup to your note-taking. Some allow you to simultaneously take notes which sync with the audio recording - so you can replay sections of the lecture when reviewing your notes.

  • Simplified sharing: If you are involved in group work then digital notetaking simplifies the sharing process and means you can’t lose shared material. Notes can be shared with the click of a button, and as long as they are saved or backed up it’s pretty difficult to lose them.

  • Search functionality: An obvious reason for you to take notes is so that you can go back and review them later. But sometimes flipping through pages of notes to find one piece of information can be frustrating. Many note-taking apps offer search functionality where you can search for keywords and phrases to quickly find information. Some note-taking apps even allow you to search your handwriting.

Digital vs. paper


Apps for note creation


Microsoft OneNote gathers users’ notes (handwritten or typed), drawings, screen clippings and audio commentaries. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users over the Internet or a network. OneNote is available as a part of the Microsoft Office suite. It is also available as a free stand-alone application for Windows, Mac, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android. A web-based version of OneNote is provided as part of OneDrive or Office Online and enables users to edit notes via a web browser.

OneNote is available for free to all University of Hull students.

Google Keep

Google Keep allows users to make text notes, audio recordings, sketches, to-do-lists, and save images. 

Keep is downloaded on Android devices by default (except on Huawei) and is also available on iOS and online.

It is completely free to use and syncs across platforms; notes can easily be categorised, searched, and pinned.


Finally, if you want to combine the features of note-taking via keyboard apps with the inking capability of a sketch app, you might like to try Notability (available on the iPad, iPhone and Mac).


Evernote allows you to create a note which can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten "ink" note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched, and exported as part of a notebook.

Evernote supports a number of operating system platforms (including Mac, iOS, Chrome OS, Android, and Microsoft Windows) and also offers online synchronisation and backup services.

Evernote is available in a paid version or a more restricted free version. Use of the online service is free up to a certain monthly usage limit, with additional monthly use reserved for Plus subscribers, and unlimited monthly use for Premium customers.

Creative Commons License  The Remote learning SkillsGuide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. See embedded YouTube resources for their terms of distribution.