Hi everyone! I am Robin from @robinrevises! I am 21 years old and just graduated from the University of Amsterdam, where I did a Bachelor in European Studies. I majored in European Economics and did two minors: American Studies and Law & Economics. I will be sharing my studying experience with you today because, for the majority of my Bachelor’s, I studied digitally.
What is digital studying?
So, what is digital studying? There are many different ways to study digitally, but it always involves the use of technology. With the pandemic forcing us to follow classes from home (for example via Zoom), many students experienced at least some aspects of digital studying in 2020 and 2021. There are many different ways in which you can study digitally, for example by taking notes on a laptop instead of writing them in a notebook, taking online classes or using digital flashcards for revising. When it comes to digital notetaking, which is one of the biggest aspects of digital studying, there are a lot of advantages:
- When you take your notes digitally, the possibility of losing them is reduced significantly in comparison to taking paper notes. I would always lose notebooks or single sheets of paper, and storing your notes on your electronic device means you can’t lose them and you have them with you at all times.
- Another advantage of digital notetaking is that you don’t have to purchase new notebooks every semester. This saves you money! Of course an iPad or laptop is a big investment, but because they can be used for so many things and so many years they will save you money in the long run! Quick bonus: digital notebooks never run out of pages!
- Something I personally really like about digital notes is that you can automatically search them. A simple ctrl+F is enough to search all of your notes for anything you need. No more flipping through your notebook searching for that one definition or quote!
My experience with digital studying
Most of the courses I took had lots of reading material and also required detailed notes and summaries. This required a steady and organised study routine, to prevent falling behind or losing any information. I struggled with this quite a lot in the beginning, but once I switched to digital studying and found a system that works for me, my study results increased significantly.
When I started university in 2017, I didn’t have a notetaking strategy at all. I write relatively slow by hand so I used my laptop during lectures and seminars, but not in an efficient way. I made one Microsoft Word document for every class and added all of the information of that class in that one file. I couldn’t find a way to organise this so I was always endlessly scrolling through my notes to find a specific lecture or summary.
I experimented with quite a few different methods, but eventually switched to using Microsoft OneNote. This app is perfect for organising your notes because it allows you to create folders, subfolders and notebooks. I completely reorganised all of my notes and made separate folders for lectures, seminars, summaries, reading notes and homework. The effects of this were a lot better than I had anticipated: I never lost any of my notes again and because I was more organised, my overall study experience increased as well. I was feeling more confident about my notes and about all of the information I collected because I could easily see how much info I had and also what parts were still missing. Over the course of time, I expanded this more, by creating separate folders for terminology lists, sources, etc.
Even though my OneNote system was working really well, I decided to purchase an iPad for studying. I did not have a Studygram yet, and also didn’t follow any, so it was completely new to me and I didn’t have a solid plan. I started looking for guides on how to use an iPad for studying on Pinterest and Google, and I came across the app Goodnotes. At first, I didn’t use it that often because my handwriting was slow and I couldn’t figure out a good layout for my notes. However, now it is my favorite app ever and I use it for almost everything!
Aesthetics or functionality?
When I started my Studygram in October 2020, I was introduced to the concept of ‘aesthetic notes’. I never focused on the layout of my notes before, so this was exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I also wanted my notes to look pretty and organised, but I was afraid spending time on that would take my focus away from studying. So, I started out small. I experimented a lot and found a way in which I can make my notes look pretty, without changing the functionality or shifting my focus away from studying. Here are some of my tips and things I did!
I took notes twice: once during a lecture and once directly after. My biggest concern was losing focus during a lecture if I wanted to make my notes look pretty. My lecturers always talked fast and I couldn’t keep up when focusing on aesthetics too. So, during the lecture, I took notes in a plain Microsoft Word document. After the lecture, I took my time to reorganise and rewrite these notes into a pretty Goodnotes summary. Not only did this allow me to dedicate all my focus to the professor during a lecture, rewriting the material immediately after was also a great method of revision.
I focused on the content instead of the aesthetic. Even though I wanted my notes to look pretty and cute, they are still study materials and should help me prepare for an exam. I had lots of great ideas about using doodles, textboxes and colors, but this did not always fit the content. Throughout the entire notetaking process I kept reminding myself that above all, my notes had to be functional. If including doodles would be distracting in a certain summary or grey highlighter would be better than a bright colour, I’d let go of the aesthetics and focus on the content.
I reminded myself that my notes had to be functional. If doodles and bright colors did fit my notes, I would still be mindful about using them. I made sure that only a small part of the page would be dedicated to non-study things, like cute titles and subject-related doodles. I wanted to prevent myself from getting distracted by all of the extra’s added onto the page while studying and didn’t want my focus to shift away from the contents every few lines. This relates to the second tip because the contents and functionality of my notes have always been more important than the aesthetics.
All in all, I am very happy that I switched to digital notetaking and that I purchased an iPad for this. I have noticed significant improvements in my grades, focus and studying also became a lot more fun for me. I became proud of the notes I created and was extra motivated to pay attention during the lectures, so I could create a detailed summary. I have experimented with lots of different methods along the way, and I also realised that what works for someone else, might not work for me. Switching to digital studying is the perfect opportunity to assess your study habits, adjust your methods and build a new routine. I am very happy that I started using Goodnotes and I would really recommend switching to digital studying if you’re interested!
Lots of love & stay safe,
If you would like to see more of my digital notes and check out all of my best study and notetaking tips, make sure to check out my Instagram page @robinrevises!