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Blended learning

Tips and advice for students for successful studying both online and face to face


With many of the traditional lectures now being recorded and online this has brought with it some new opportunities and challenges to study. We know that some of you are taking a long time engaging with this material and not finding time to do other aspect of study. Equally, we know there are others who are not accessing the videos. Students are also asking us how long they should spend on these videos, what sort of notes are effective and how to make the most out of this content.

This guide covers what you should do before, during and after you engage with your online course materials.

Before watching

Consider why you’re taking notes
Before taking any notes – be it from online videos or from books and journals- it’s important to consider the purpose of your notes. If you don’t know this then you’ll risk taking too long jotting everything down or miss important information. In general, when we’re studying, we’re taking notes for 2 reasons. Firstly, to help our understanding. This is often done best if we can spend some time thinking about what we are being told and then use techniques like mind maps to help connect these new ideas and concepts to those we already know. The second reason we take notes is to help us remember – an aid memoire which we can go back to – either to use in assignments or to aid our revision. 

Be prepared
Make sure you find a time in the day when you’re best able to concentrate, you have somewhere suitable where you can study and have everything you need. If your lecturers have put up the slides that go along with the recording, make sure you access and study these first. Some students, at this stage, get their note pages ready with pre-formatted headings, now they have knowledge of what’s to come. You may decide that you will write your notes on the slides.

When watching the video

Decide: handwritten or online notes
You need to decide how you want to take notes – online or handwritten. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, so you may want to experiment and see what works best for you. As the videos are online, you may prefer to handwrite your notes – it can be an added distraction to keep switching between screens. There are tools to support you with online note taking, like OneNote. This allows you to write directly on to the PowerPoint slides, capture your notes and organise them.

Take active notes
Remember these videos are designed to replace the content that would have been delivered in lectures – in which you would have attended and written notes, as the lecture was going on. Just because you can pause the videos and watch them numerous times, doesn’t mean you should. Try and watch it and take notes without pausing it. If you think you have missed something crucial, take a note down of the time on the video and go back and just watch that section again. It’s important that the notes have meaning to you, so jot down anything that springs to mind when your lecturer is going through the slides. You may also want to use the Cornell approach, where you write your notes on the main right-hand section. 

After watching

After you have engaged with the content, it is important that you spend a few moments thinking about what you have just learned. If you’re using the Cornell approach you could use the left-hand column to jot down key points or questions you may have. The bottom section is for you to summarise the main points. You might also want to think wider – how does this video fit in with others you may have watched for this module? How are the ideas connected? Doing some pattern notes in the form of mind maps or spider diagrams may help with this.

Finally, remember to organise your notes in a way that makes sense to you. If you’re writing them by hand, then a lever arch file and dividers may help. Or if compiling these online, you need an effective online filing system, perhaps by module and topic area.