Northwest Missourian Opinion

The projector hums to life, backpacks are collectively unzipped and notebooks and laptops are taken out. Word documents are open and pencils are ready.

Students try their best to keep up with the slides and the professor as they frantically transcribe what’s on the board. Hopefully, this will be useful information to take note of and not useless jargon that will never appear on a test or quiz. 

Taking notes, a crucial element to academic success at any level beyond middle school is heavily controlled and scrutinized - even in college.

To take notes on paper or with your laptop is often a question many students must answer, yet many professors try to control that decision for students. The professors’ choice normally leans towards the notes being taken on paper with a frequently cited study from the Association Psychological Science that said taking notes on paper leads to the students having better test scores and memory retention. Forcing students to take notes a certain way is exclusionist and takes control of a student’s personal education away from them. 

Both laptops and spiral notebooks have their advantages and disadvantages, but the student should be allowed to choose which method they prefer.

Taking paper notes is better for memory. Writing is more effective as a learning tool because it is more difficult; just as the more weight when lifting increases muscle growth, the more struggle when transcribing something increases memory.

Spiral notebooks are also cheap with a simple college-ruled notebook from Dollar General costing less than a dollar.

College students today still choose this approach with many lecture halls full of students jotting down bullet points on notebook paper.

Professors rely mostly on laptops for students to complete and turn in work, and it makes sense that many professors rely solely on Canvas for classwork at Northwest. The Northwest laptop program ensures that every student has access to a usable laptop with full support service and, thus, an avenue to Canvas. 

Alongside this, cost, both environmentally and monetarily, convinces most in the class that assignments are best handled online rather than in print form. 

For the aforementioned reasons, many students want their notes in the same place as their assignments for ease and convenience.

Another reason to choose to type over handwriting is speed. A 2011 study from Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners in occupational therapy found that adults write an average of 14 words per minute. The average typing speed is between 38 to 40 words per minute according to statistics gathered from users of a popular typing test on Live Chat Inc.. 

This is clearly evidence that people type faster than they write which is why many students choose to type notes in order to keep up with lectures. Students are also utilizing the tool that is included with tuition at Northwest, and that is provided to benefit their education. 

An argument against notes being taken on a laptop is the obvious array of distractions that are present with a laptop, not only for the user themselves but those around them. If a student is distracting others with their laptop, then, by all means, ban that student from taking notes on a laptop but not everyone else. 

As great as it would be if the world was “High School Musical,” we are not “all in this together.” Education is oftentimes individual, and blanket rules made to stop one person from being distracted don’t benefit the group.

At the end of the day, the burden for education falls on the students, not the professor. 

Taking proper notes, showing up to class and turning in assignments are all things that will make or break a student’s education and are entirely up to that individual. Whether they were forced to take notes on paper or not will not be the reason students do not graduate; it will be the work that they were willing to put into their education.

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