Digital vs Traditional Note-Taking: Pros and Cons for Student Success

Note-taking is an important part of learning. The vast amount of information students encounter in any university course is nearly impossible to remember without taking notes. The study says that students who take notes have, on average, better grades and university performance than those who do not. Keeping lecture notes allows them to remember more information and pass exams better. In the era of digitalization, the question arises, which notes are more effective: digital or traditional? Next, we will determine the advantages and disadvantages of these two options and which is more suitable for you.

Advantages of Digital Note-Taking

Digital note taking has become more popular among students lately. The method is quick and straightforward, combining information from lectures and textbooks. Now let’s move on to the benefits of digital note-taking and study materials.

The organization is customizable

Create unlimited documents and folders and sort them quickly. Each file can be given a name that clarifies what kind of file it is. Add tags to make searching and sorting easier. In addition, all your notes not take up physical space but will be stored in the computer’s memory. They cannot be lost or forgotten if stored in one folder. All these features make the laptop the best organizational device.

Easy to share and access

Instead of having people scan your notes, you can easily send them out. Similarly, you can access the notes of other students. Also, people may work on the same document remotely, for example, using Google Docs. Moreover, using the Keepnotes platform, you could share your notes and use the notes of others. Easily search class notes by university or course to get the necessary resources or study tips. Join a community of students and educators who share their notes to help you and everyone else succeed.


The procedure for backing up to any cloud storage secure your notes even if there are problems with your computer or laptop. At the same time, losing paper and non-digitized study materials is costly, especially before an important exam.

Faster typing

Writing considerable lecture material on paper will take much time and effort. Typing on the keyboard takes much less time. Therefore, you have time to include essential information in the lecture.

Disadvantages of Digital Note-Taking

Low memory retention

While fast typing is an advantage, it also comes with one disadvantage. Students are more likely to write down everything they hear in lectures from dictation instead of processing the information they hear and writing only the most important. The oft-cited study by Muller and Oppenheimer (2014) compared students who took notes on laptops with those who wrote by hand. Their study showed that the first group did worse on the Lecture Conceptual Understanding test than the second group. Does this mean that the approach is worse? Perhaps only in the short term. The study by Bui et al. (2013), in a series of experiments, showed that typists created notes containing more ideas than writers. Thus, typists will have more helpful information in the abstract, but they are more likely to be able to understand the topic worse than writers.

Limited editing options

You could change the color, highlight the text, or add some elements to your study notes. However, the text is strictly limited to headings and paragraphs. It provides less placement customization than just spelling words.

Eye fatigue

Sitting in front of a screen for a long time can lead to health problems. In particular, too long concentration on one point of the monitor screen could lead to reduced visual acuity or eye strain.

Pop-up notifications

Frequent notifications from messengers can be distracting, making you unable to concentrate. Your attention may also be drawn to other things you need to do on the computer, which could confuse your thoughts.

Advantages of Traditional Note-Taking

Paper notes are what students have been doing for centuries. The method is not only not obsolete but is still the most accessible and popular among old-school students.


Notebooks are easy to carry for making notes. They only take up a little space and do not need charging or a case. An excellent option for those who do not want to strain.

No restrictions

You may use the entire surface of the sheet to take notes. If you prefer non-standard recording methods, then this is a huge advantage.


Compared to a laptop, a notebook and a pen cost mere pennies. This is an excellent option to avoid going broke while making good notes.

Better concentration

You are focused only on the topic and are completely immersed in the work. There are no annoying notifications, pop-ups, etc.

Highest memory retention

When a student makes notes manually, he remembers more information. We dealt with this fact above, but there is something else. The Harvard Health Blog says doodling helps you take a break from the constant flow of information while your brain processes it. In 2009, psychologist Jackie Andrade asked 40 people to listen to a dull, incoherent voice message. Half of the group doodled, while the other half did not. When both groups were asked to recall the details of the call, those who drew could recall 29% more information. It does not mean you should scribble throughout the lecture instead of taking notes. However, doodling is a break your brain needs to keep paying attention without losing its overall interest.

Disadvantages of Traditional Note-Taking

Easy to lose

Notebooks sometimes get lost, wet, and even prey on your dog. If you don’t scan it, you risk losing all your records in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

It’s hard to fix the mistake

If you make a mistake, you won’t be able to erase it so quickly. Even if you use a pencil, you need to erase a lot of text, and you may accidentally tear the page.

Writing takes a long time

Compared to typing, writing notes by hand is too time-consuming.

Difficulties in archiving

Your notes will be in several notebooks, mainly if you write notes on many subjects. Notepads accumulate over time, resulting in a pile of old notes. In addition, specific notes are tough to find because they don’t have titles or tags and can’t be searched.


Thanks to the development of technology, we now have another method of taking notes. Digital note-taking has benefits in custom organization, ease of sharing and access, backups, and faster typing speed. However, this is not a replacement for the traditional one but rather an alternative. The choice between digital and traditional note-taking depends on individual preferences and learning styles. Remember, there is no perfect method. You may experiment with different options to find what works best for you. Also, remember the importance of developing good note-taking strategies to help you succeed in your studies, no matter your preferred method.