Taking Notes in College & Class: How to Create a Better Learning Experience

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on November 15, 2021, 7 min read
note taking templates

Regardless of whether you’re in virtual classes or in-person classes and practicing the proper social distancing techniques, taking notes is crucial to succeeding in your studies. Without taking notes, you’ll be unable to recall the more detailed aspects of the lecture notes from the professor’s various lessons throughout the semester.

Why Should You Take Notes in Class?

Taking class notes during lectures will help keep you focused during the lesson and review key information later on. Without taking notes, you’ll be relying on your memory when you go to study for midterms and finals. Having a great collection of class notes from each lecture provides a solid base and a great starting point when it’s time to study for exams or work on group projects.


Tips for Taking Study Notes in College and Classroom

Of course, in a technology-driven world, taking notes in class should be done digitally. Long gone are the days of shorthand writing to keep up with how fast the professor talks. To have the best quality class notes, going all-digital is the only way to keep up. By going digital for your class notes, you’ll be able to go back and reference them easily. Of course, picking the best tools for taking notes in class is the critical first step.


Digital Study Note

When looking at taking study notes in college or high school, there are a handful of features that are absolute necessities when choosing the right app for your device and classroom needs.



Online Sync

For a digital class note-taking tool, being synced continuously to an online service is key. Computer failures can happen at any time, and a student cannot afford to lose even a single class’ worth of notes. When a note-taking tool is backed up to a ”cloud service”, students will be protected against hardware failure, theft, or an application crash. In the event of a problem, their class study notes can be restored.



Real-time Collaboration

Students usually work better together, so collaboratively working on lecture notes will add to the knowledge base. When using a real-time collaboration tool, students who may have missed class can easily catch up and stay up-to-date with what the professor covered. The days of copies of class notes for handouts are over, leaving students with less to lug around (bye-bye elephant-sized backpack) while being more environmentally friendly. With a digital lecture notes system, everyone always has the latest version.



Revision History

As multiple students work on the same notes, having a clear revision history will ensure that you can always see who did what when adding notes, links, images, etc. When working on group projects, a revision history will show students how much each person contributed to the project and when.


Online Notes vs. Handwriting



Digital Tools


Redundant Backups

Requires no upfront purchases

Shareable with other students

Faster editing

Real-time collaboration


Best Class Notes Templates

Note taking methods for school


We’ve put together a couple of study notes templates that you can use when preparing to take notes in classes. They work great with Spike, but you can copy and paste the template into the digital note-taking tool you prefer to use in class.

The Cornell Template

The Cornell Template is useful because it allows you to break down classes into bite-size chunks, so class notes are more manageable when reviewing later. At the top of each Cornell note is a spot to write the class’s essential question: what is it that each day’s class was meant to answer?


Get the Spike Template

General Class Notes Template

Our general class notes template is one you can easily recreate for each class to keep you on track with what needs to be done after the class. Don’t rely on remembering what the homework assignments are – write them down!


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The Next Action Template

The next action template is a great template for students who have a lot of follow-up after each class. By building in a ‘next action’ section, students will know exactly what their attention needs to focus on after class and before the next class.


Get the Spike Template




How to Prepare to Take Good Class & Study Notes

  • Read the assignment before coming to class.
  • Get organized by keeping a separate set of study notes for each class, title it properly, and include the date so you can easily reference it in the future.
  • Develop a system to review your notes immediately after class and fill in the gaps on what you didn’t write down but still remember so it can be documented.
  • Add questions to the note that you want to ask the professor during the next class.
  • Use a template.

Miscellaneous Tips to Take Better Notes in Class

  • Setting yourself up to be successful while taking study notes is all in the preparation. The first step should be to turn off all electronics not being used and close any instant messaging apps. Distractions can cause you to lose focus and miss out on important details.
  • Color code your headings, so you have easy breakpoints with separating units of study.
  • If you’re using Pages or Microsoft Word, make sure you have a backup system. A solution like Backblaze, iCloud, or Microsoft 365 will create cloud backups for your local documents. If your notes aren’t stored in at least 2 places, you risk losing them.
  • Organize your notes, so they are searchable by date, topic, and class. Most modern file management solutions offer a robust search so you can quickly find what you need.
  • Lastly, sit up front! Sitting up front shows the professor that you are ready to learn, and it will also help keep you focused.


Reviewing Your Notes

If you take the best class notes, they’ll be of little use if you don’t review them. After your class is over, make a few minutes to sit down in a quiet place to review them within the next day. By reviewing them within a day of class, you’ll be more likely to implant the notes into your brain for easier recall in the future.

Note Taking FAQ's

Taking notes in college allows you to document what the professor says and recall it for later. When studying for midterms and exams, being able to study from notes will improve grades. Without good college notes, you’ll be relying on your memory for the entire semester.

When the class is finished, it is good to scan the old notes into a digital organization system. If you started with a digital tool, archive them in a way that allows you to get to them in the future, should the need arise.

College study notes should be organized by the unit during the semester, but after the class is over, it should be organized by the class. If you use a digital tool to take notes, you’ll be able to archive/hide them in case you need to reference them in the future.

When scanning old study notes, PDF format should be used so an OCR scanning can allow the PDFs to search the content of the document. If you started with a digital tool, focus on keeping it in a text format that can be edited or copied in the future in case you need to move notes to a current class.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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