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Digital notebooks are perfect for students with the desire to be more organized with their work and more efficient with their time. Who doesn’t want to feel organized and efficient? Well, this is the tool that will get you there.

In this article, you’ll read the benefits of using digital notebooks for all your classes and why these PDF annotation apps have a leg up on binders and using typewritten apps for notes. In addition, we’ll show you how these can be your most economical and eco-friendly tool. Plus, you’ll find a few tips on how to keep all those handouts and syllabi organized inside your app. Read on.

As a student with multiple classes, several sets of notes, and a pile of assignments, you may be struggling to keep everything organized. Without a doubt, failure to organize can lead to missed deadlines, disorganized assignments, and at worst, failing grades. One of the best ways for students to keep up with everything is by using digital notebooks. 

How Digital Notebooks Help Students Learn Effectively & Efficiently

Writing by hand has been proven to help students organize and retain information. However, most texts, lecture notes, course outlines, and syllabi are now in digital format. The vast majority of students are now typing and copy/pasting their notes from texts and handouts. Since the emphasis is not on active handwritten notetaking, much of the material is easily forgotten.

However, while handwriting helps you learn, it’s inefficient to take all of that information and put it down on paper. This is especially true for students with virtual or hybrid classes. You’re basically transferring from digital to paper and then typing it back out again to turn in your assignments.

Take Written Notes in Digital Format

Annotation apps are more convenient and efficient than paper notebooks. All of your digital documents organized and on hand when you need them. You can take handwritten notes directly on your digital documents. This notetaking style can increase your learning, as you’re actively engaging with the material instead of just copy/pasting. Annotation apps are the perfect bridge between digital information and taking notes by hand. 

Making the most of digital notes:

To make the most of your annotation app, use these features to make your notetaking more effective and efficient.

  1. Import Documents into your Notebook
    When you receive a PDF or online article to read, import it to a section of your digital notebook. Take notes, highlight, and annotate directly on the assignment. This helps you make connections as you read, and as a result you will be able to better retain and analyze the information you’ve read.
  2. Transfer Handwritten Notes into Typewritten Answers
    Most annotation apps have a writing to text feature that you can use to transfer your notes into typewritten text. This makes it easy to transfer notes into assignments you need to submit online. Next time you need to post a response to an article or answer questions about a reading, try taking all those handwritten notes and transferring them to text. Then, easily edit the text in your class app and smash that submit button.
  3. Keep Track of References
    In addition, you can easily copy and paste to pull direct quotes from online articles or digital texts to refer to in your assignment. Grab a link or details for your bibliography page including title, author, copyright date and all that good APA reference info. Paste this into your app or write it down and transfer it to text and format it later.

Digital Notebook Organization for Students

Beyond handwriting, organization is one of the most important determiners of your success as a student. Getting organized can be difficult with online or hybrid model classes. Your school may have online platforms that are clunky and difficult to navigate. You may have different professors using different platforms. One professor may be highly organized in their methods of distributing information while another may be throwing documents at you from every direction. 

While you can’t change your school or your professors, you can change the way you organize everything. You can set up your own system to organize notes, digital files, and outlines. You’ll be able to process and retain information more easily, and you’ll always be able to find whatever you need. 

Since most notes and files are now being distributed virtually instead of being handed out in class, a digital notebook is the best way to organize them. It’s much easier than battling a printer and setting up a physical notebook. Here are a few tips for organizing your student notes and paperwork in a digital notebook.

Digital notebooks for students

Keep Track of Handouts & PDFs

Whenever you receive a handout or PDF, take a moment to insert the document directly into your notebook. You most likely will have to download an attachment to see it, so instead of downloading to your files, select “open in GoodNotes” (or whatever app you’re using). This way, you will have all of your handouts, syllabi, and assignments on hand when you need them. No more digging through your class app or searching for old emails!

You can create one big digital notebook with a tab for each class or use individual digital notebooks for each class to keep your handouts organized by subject. Use a system that works for you!

Create a Digital Binder System

Organizing all your paperwork sometimes means building a massive binder. If this is a system that is familiar and comfortable for you, replicate this in a digital notebook. Tabbed digital notebooks give you the freedom to organize your notes and papers the way you like them.

Create one digital notebook for each class. Label tabs or sections to separate lecture notes, assignments, outlines, and whatever other pieces you need. Setting up and using a system to organize your notes and papers from each class will help you stay organized while you work and make it easy to reference what you’ve learned down the line.

Keep Your Notes for Future Use

Since all of your notes are organized digitally, you won’t have to toss them at the end of the semester or keep up with an ever-growing pile of notebooks. After all, a digital notebook is at its core a PDF that takes up very little space on your cloud and no space in your apartment!

When you finish up a class for the semester, export your digital notebook into a PDF and save it on your cloud or drive. This will help keep your app organized and make room for your next round of classes. In addition, if you ever need to look back, your notes are organized in one, easily accessible, hyperlinked PDF document.

Digital Notebooks: Getting Started

It’s no secret that school supplies can be costly. Most students are likely already required to have a base level of technical equipment, such as a tablet or laptop, to access online portions of courses, write and turn in papers, etc. 

We’ve seen the benefit of handwritten notes, but adding the cost of disposable supplies on top of your tech costs may seem like a waste. Pens, highlighters, notebooks, folders, binders, dividers, and planners – the costs can add up quickly. All of these supplies have a short life span and usually end up in the trash after the semester ends. 

Digital notebooks for students

If you already own a tablet and stylus

Digital notebooks for students are a no-brainer. The app you need is inexpensive – under $10, and digital notebooks run around $5. Using one template for multiple courses is a cost and time-efficient way to use digital notebooks for students. If find a digital notebook you love, you can use the same original PDF template again and again. Plus, creating and using your notebook will become quicker over time if you’re using the same set-up.

If you don’t have the equipment

Now is the time to look into investing a little more to save money over time. My personal preference is using an iPad and an Apple Pencil, which you can use for your digital notebooks, reading, attending virtual classes, entertainment, and more. The current lifespan of an iPad is over four years. You can also buy used or refurbished to save money. (Many of these had little or no problems and might even be only a few months old.) You can get an iPad and Apple Pencil for under $400, which winds up being only a little more than a decent quality laptop, which might last about half the length of time.

Check out our beginner’s guide: Digital Journal Template Set Up

Beyond the Classroom

You can use your digital notebooks beyond the classroom as well. You can use the same app for digital planners to organize your time. Schedule classes, meetings, work, social time, and self care so that you’re never missing anything important.

You can also compartmentalize paperwork for school, bills, social organizations, and more. Furthermore, if it’s something you need to keep, you can easily store and find it in your digital notebook. You can have everything you need right on your iPad.

The more you get used to opening up that app and using it consistently, the easier it will be to stay organized. This goes for organizing your schedule, personal time, classes, and all that life throws your way!

Digital Notebooks for Students

If you’re ready to go digital with your notetaking, we have affordable, eco-friendly notebook templates designed with students in mind with flexible, tabbed sections to keep up with all of your work. Take notes your way with lined, blank, dot grid, and graph paper. These templates work with your favorite PDF annotation app, including GoodNotes, Notability, Xodo, and more.

Start using digital notebooks for students and get ready to revolutionize your school career!

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