If you went to university before the 1980’s, you probably took lecture notes by longhand, before computers become accessible and mainstream. But with the advent of tablet devices many students today are typing their notes. So which method is better for learning?
Research suggests that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand for learning. Previous studies have shown that laptops, especially with access to the Internet, can distract students, but more recent studies show detriments due to differences in note-taking behaviour. Participants using laptops were more inclined to take verbatim notes than participants who wrote longhand, impacting on their learning. The students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. Writing notes by hand generally improves your understanding of the material and helps you remember it better, since writing it down involves deeper cognitive-processing of the material than typing it.
Typing notes verbatim, rather than processing the information by writing it in your own words by hand, is thus detrimental to learning. This may be because longhand note taking helps us engage more in processing the information, selecting the important information to include, which could enable them to study this content more efficiently. While typing notes may enable you to take more notes, and this could be beneficial, if the notes are taken by mindlessly transcribing content, then the benefit disappears.
Reference: The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking Pam A. Mueller1 and Daniel M. Oppenheimer