Online courses can be very engaging, usually featuring video lectures and other multimedia, and in general are more entertaining than just reading a book. Some courses are better simply being enjoyed by sitting back and taking it all in. However, other more fact-heavy courses where you are expected to assimilate a very large volume of information may lend themselves to focused note-taking.

One useful method is to open a word-processing program that has a search (or “find” feature). Using the outline layout of the program, summarize each 3-5 minute section of your course with just a couple of key sentences. By labeling each entry with its corresponding page, section, lecture slide, or chapter, you will make it much easier to cross-reference back to the original content when review time comes.

As you build your summary record key definitions, specific values or concepts likely to come up on the final exam and supplement it with images or explanations you might come across on online searches. You can expect this process to be slower than simply sitting through the course but every extra minute spent doing this will be money in the bank.

When the time comes to review the entire course you’ll just have to access the “find” feature of your word processing program, enter the key word and you’ll instantly have access to every note mentioning the term of interest. And if you need to see the original information then you check out the cross reference.

One more thing, be sure to back up your notes at the end of every study session. So if your dog eats your notes, it won’t be the end of the world.

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