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Tips for Taking Notes in an Online or Fast-Paced Class

School's back in session and if you had trouble taking notes and being attentive in class, having online classes may sound like a nightmare to you. I've had so many classes online along with the traditional in-person that I figure I'd share my best tips with you.

For one, I'm a computer note gal. It lets me type so much faster and for the classes that are much harder and handwriting would benefit me, I simply re-write them in my notebook after the class. A lot of the following tips I use on my computer but of course, you can use them if you love the pen and paper notes. So let's get to sharing.

Write The Important Stuff

First of all, only write what's important. It's so much harder than people think. I know a lot of people will reply with: "but everything is important" or "but I don't know any of it". First of all, if you're in class and trying to write every little thing, you're likely not going to be able to actually succeed in doing so. Instead, write down only what the professor puts an emphasis on, what you truly won't remember and doesn't stick to you, or what seems like a tricky concept. If the concept learned in class truly seems difficult, either re-watch your lecture if it's recorded or go through your textbook or PowerPoints to add the extra notes. This method stresses me out way less rather than the entire time barely focusing on what the professor says since I am just trying to type everything.

Bullet Everything

You will never catch a whole paragraph in my notes, and often not even a whole long sentence. I try to keep everything as short as possible so if it means skipping unnecessary words, I will. I want my notes to take as little time to write but still make complete sense when I go back to read them whether in a few days or weeks later. Depending on how the class is laid out, I will usually further divide my notes by chapters, sections, or class meetings.


I always try to abbreviate anything I can, especially if I am writing my notes by pen. There are obvious common ones such as "btwn" for "between", "w/" for "with", or "aka for "also known as" but you can also start making your own and as long as you stick to them and can recognize them quickly, use it. I started often using "bc" for "because" and "wthn" for "within".

Ways to Take Notes

As I mentioned, I am a computer gal, so I'd always come prepared to class with my Word Doc app ready, but if the slides were available before the class, I always downloaded them and so that I can refer to something in the event my professor did go too fast as I was typing. I know others like to take notes directly on the PowerPoint or the notes section of the PowerPoint as well. I prefer my notes apart so that it's easier for me to print.

Even if you are one to like paper instead, use the same technique. You can either still have your laptop to have the Powerpoint in case the professor goes too fast or you can print out all the slides to take notes directly on them as well. A lot of people also take in their iPads so that they have the freedom to both type notes and handwrite when they choose to which is another smart method if you have one.

Picture/Diagram/Table Hack

My last tip is to never quickly draw out an entire picture, diagram, table, equations, or whatever else you may need unless you absolutely need to. I never even took pictures of them when the professor mentioned we could because more likely than not, they have the same diagram on a PowerPoint, or their lectures are recorded so I can easily go back to it that way as well. If I needed this, I would either note the PowerPoint slide number it is on (if I have my laptop with me I'll screenshot it right away) or I would note how long into the class we are and then go back to the recorded lecture and go to the timestamp and you should find what you're looking for at that time - maybe a few min before or after depending on when the class starts being recorded - and ta-da, you can access it easily.


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