Visual Notes are Helpful for eLearners

Note-taking has always been part of the learning process 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 participating in online-based courses. The note-taking process has evolved along with technology offering upgrades and creativity as part of the change.

No Limits on Note-taking

Whether eLearners are making notes digitally or writing everything out longhand, learners should be encouraged to think beyond plain text notes. Handwritten notes take time, are easy to lose, and often hard to decipher when the writer is in a rush. Text-based notes do little for eLearners’ knowledge retention. A better solution may be the 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 Notes into eLearning

Promote the Process: Encourage learners to incorporate quick sketches, diagrams, charts, and other drawings into their standard text-based note taking routine. This reinforces the what-I-need-to-learn message by activating different parts of the brain.

Setup a Note Sharing System: Implementing visual notetaking as a regular and purposeful part of the training program requires some planning, but it can be done relatively easily. First, determine the notetaking expectations – 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 an 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’s notes, share their own knowledge, and even gain valuable feedback.

Make Note-taking Part of the Course: Give 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 training is delivered via eLearning, consider adding a screen that instructs the learner to take visual notes and upload them as appropriate.

Review and Provide Feedback: Just as learners need time and space to take thoughtful visual notes, 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 establishing and encouraging an effective culture of visual notetaking may energize current training programs and yield significant results organization-wide.

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