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Making notes online

Open University (OU) study material is largely delivered online and in formats such as PDF. Digital note taking is a convenient way of making notes on your computer, smartphone or tablet that allows you to access your notes whenever and wherever you are.

There are advantages to making notes online. 

  • Digital notes are searchable making them easier to find. 
  • You can organise your notes more easily allowing you to quickly find what you want to go back to, particularly useful when revising. 
  • You’ll still have live connections with video and other resources that you wouldn’t have with printed material. 
  • You can include links making them easier to revisit for future references. 
  • Adding images can make your notes more descriptive and easier to remember.
  • You can edit as you write. 
  • Saving your notes to cloud storage will allow you to access them wherever you are and on different devices allowing you to study flexibly. 
  • You can share and collaborate on your digital notes. 
  • It reduces the risk of losing your notes.
  • Making notes on your smartphone or tablet when you’re on the go means you won’t have to carry paper and books around with you. 

Don’t fall into the habit of copying and pasting chunks of a document into another file and calling them notes.  Active reading, with active note-taking, is critical to understanding and retention. Try to rewrite the text in your own words so you’re sure you understand it and are more likely to remember it. 

Some people find that audio recordings of their notes are useful. Read Making audio recordings for an assignment for some tips and techniques. 

Also see Note-taking techniques, which will give you further guidance on note-taking in general. 

There are several tools available to save, manage, share, and annotate digital content. As an OU student you’ll have free access to Microsoft 365 which includes OneNote.

Other tools you might want to look at include: 

  • Apple Notes 
  • Evernote 
  • Google Keep 
  • Notion. 

If you want to annotate online PDFs, Adobe Reader allows you to add margin notes, comments, highlights and sticky notes. Adobe Reader is free to download. There's more information in Working with PDFs. However, the best place to find out about using Adobe's features is by visiting the training materials in the Adobe help centre

The Computing Helpdesk can offer some help with Microsoft 365 and Adobe Reader, however if you choose to use other applications and software, it's best to check what support is available.

Last updated 5 months ago