APU Careers & Learning Editor's Pick Online Learning

Organize Your Notes with a Table of Contents

note-table-contentsWho writes notes by hand anymore? Anyone? Well, I still do but a majority of the online population will take notes in various word processing programs. Virtual notes can be easily shared, stored and referenced from multiple locations. Hand written notes on the other hand allow for better absorption of the material, but can be easily lost or ruined. Since online learning is meant to be more available and convenient, shouldn’t your notes be as well?

One way to simplify the note taking process is by creating a table of contents. In middle school I was the nerd that created an appendix in my composition book so I could easily reference certain items for class. You won’t need to go that far, but you can make things easy by giving your notes descriptive titles. Create subheads as you move along through the class, and highlight certain key terms. There are many great features in cloud based apps for note taking. In Google Drive there are numerous add-ons you can apply to every word processing document you create. You can create highlights, comment clouds and mind mapping tools. In Evernote you can create your own table of contents through Note Links. All you have to do is create a New Note in your notebook and copy and paste the hyperlink to the desired note location.

If you prefer sticking to home based docs like Word you can create a table of contents there as well. Simply create an anchor link at important sections throughout the document, and then create a list of the subheads at the start of the paper. If you’ve ever written a book report before then this process will be easy for you. For those that don’t have experience, or the desire, to be this organized then it’s time to start. The reason for all this preparation is for ease of use when midterms and finals come around. For those students that don’t have timed tests, like writing majors, you will want your notes organized for when you have to write an essay response.

In the programs with a large writing component there is a lot of information to retain and apply. For my humanities classes I create subheads for time periods, story lines and concepts, and elements of writing. Since there is a lot of reading in my program I’m constantly taking notes. What helps me is summarizing what I learned from each passage. It works better to analyze the reading while it’s taking place, instead of trying to visit it later. After I’ve completed my assessment for each writing assignment I add a new hyperlink to my document to quickly reference it. This will also help you create a great portfolio as you move toward the end of your program. This way when it comes time to market yourself to potential employers you can share concrete examples of concepts learned, instead of grasping for ideas to share with the the person interviewing you.

A table of contents is included in your textbooks for class, manuals for equipment, and instructional books. They are created to guide the reader through a process or narrative. Create your own narrative for classes through the cloud based approach, or go old school with an offline tool. Whatever you do get organized!

By J. Mason
Online Learning Tips Editor

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