Encourage Visual Note Taking

What is Visual Notes Taking and How Can it Help Your Learners?

Note taking has been part of the learning process since time immemorial and the standard method has not changed much over time. Many learners use pencil and paper or a word processor (like Word, Google Doc, etc.) to take notes while attending online-based courses.  It’s time to take the natural note taking process and upgrade it in a new and more creative level.

Why limit note taking to plain text?

Whether your eLearners are making notes digitally or writing everything out longhand on a sheet of paper, learners should be encouraged to think beyond pain text notes. Handwritten notes especially take time, are easy to loose, and often hard to decipher when the writer is in a rush. Text-based notes also do little for eLearners’ knowledge retention. A better solution may be to take a visual notes approach.

What are Visual Notes?

Visual notes take more than one form and all methods have proven to offer significantly better knowledge retention for many learners. According to Brooke Sheridan of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, “Visual note taking is a more active task of processing information (like audio/visual eLearning content) into a final product that will serve as a useful memory-jogger. If you can create very basic shapes and write legibly, then you can create visual notes. And just like with traditional note taking, the more you practice, the better you’ll get – and you’ll have your own style, as well.”

How to Incorporate Visual Note Taking into eLearning

  1. Promote the Process: Encourage your learners to incorporate quick sketches, diagrams, charts and other drawings into their standard text-based note taking routine. This will reinforce the what they are learning message by activating different parts of their brain.
  2. Setup a Note Sharing System: Making visual note taking a regular and purposeful part of your training program requires a little planning, but it can be done relatively easily. First determine how you expect learners take notes – meaning what devices, software and other tools should be used. Next, set up a system whereby learners can save, store, share, and access their notes. This could be your existing Learning Management System, a shared folder on a network drive, a specific note-sharing forum online, etc.  By sharing visual notes with others, eLearners are able to benefit from other notes, share their own knowledge and even gain valuable feedback.
  3. Make Notetaking Part of the Course: Give your learners time during the training process to reflect on what was learned. Note creation should take place during or immediately after completing a lesson, so be sure to allow at least 15 minutes of extra study time for learners to sketch out thoughts, ideas and concepts before completing the lesson. If you are delivering training via eLearning, consider adding a screen that instructs the learner to take visual notes and upload them as appropriate.
  4. Review and Provide Feedback: Just as your learners need time and space to take thoughtful visual notes, your trainers / facilitators need time to review learners’ notes to assess how they are doing and provide coaching and feedback as appropriate.

Investing a little time and effort in to establishing and encouraging an effective culture of visual note taking may energize your current training program and yield significant results for you and your organization.

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