How I make notes: From recorded lectures

Photo of Gloria, the author of this blog postby Gloria Bosi, Mechanical Engineering student and Bristol Futures Advocate

While a lot of us were lucky to make a long-awaited return to campus this year, hybrid learning means that pre-recorded lectures are still a core part of our academic lives. With new videos coming every week, efficient notetaking is an essential skill to have. It’s not always as easy as it seems! You want to write just enough that you can understand your notes when you look back at them, but not so much that you are just copying the slides. You may also want to pause the video occasionally, but without tripling the time it takes for you to watch it. It’s a delicate balance that needs to be mastered. Lucky for you, I am here to help.

I’m Gloria, a third-year Mechanical Engineering student and Bristol Futures Advocate. With almost 2 years of online university under my belt, I want to share my top tips for taking notes from recorded lectures. I recommend trying the following things:

1. Doing the prep work

Skimming through the lecture slides before watching a recording helps me retain information better. I don’t own a tablet or printer, so there’s no easy way for me to take notes directly on the slides. Peeking in advance allows me to get a better look at any complicated diagrams or words that I need to write down. Once I know what to expect from the slides, I can focus better on what the lecturer is saying in the recording. Most importantly, skimming through the slides helps me build a mental picture of how I want to take notes for the topic.

2. Pausing with caution

Continuously pausing a lecture recording is dangerous business. It can easily double or triple the time it takes to finish watching. If this sounds familiar, try to be pickier about when you choose to pause the video. Ask yourself: did you really miss something that will stop you from understanding the topic as a whole? Another way to save time and avoid pauses is to come up with your own shorthand notations. Remember that your notes are not a textbook, and they don’t need to be written in full sentences. You’re the only one who needs to be able to understand them! If something confuses you or you happen to get stuck, don’t let that stop you from finishing the video. Write a post-it note or mark the sentence that confused you and keep watching. When you finish the lecture recording, you can ask about this on Blackboard discussion forums and return to it when you get a response.

3. Don’t be afraid to use colour!

Try using different coloured pens to distinguish between notes taken directly from the slides and those based off what the lecturer is saying. If you’re a visual learner like me, this can really help with information retention and memory.

4. Writing summaries

After a long note-taking session, don’t forget to write a brief summary of what you learnt. If possible, check this against the intended learning outcomes of the lecture to ensure you didn’t miss anything.

5. Finding what works for you

Don’t be afraid to try new methods. Remember that there’s no single right way of taking notes! In fact, the same method might not work across different modules if the content delivery varies. In this new hybrid learning environment, it’s especially important to diversify your note-taking approaches and find what works for you. Finally, if you’re not sure how to structure your notes by yourself, you can try an existing method, such as Cornell notes. You can read more about this here.

Hope you enjoyed the post, and leave a comment to let us know your best note-taking tips!

Student Advocate tips for… starting uni

Student wearing bright orange hoodie that reads: here to help

Our Bristol Futures Student Advocates come from every faculty in the university, and are here to support you to grow your skills and become an even better student.

With a few years’ experience under their belts, we asked them to share their top tips for starting uni. Here’s what they said…

Get organised

Check your emails regularly, they often have opportunities and helpful information that is easy to miss. It’s a great way to find out what is going on at the university and to stay in the loop. Natasha, 2nd year History

It is quite daunting to have so many course materials at the start of the term, one thing that I usually do is to download all of the lecture notes, slides, homework, and other important document to the university OneDrive, and then organize it. That way, when you are starting to work on a project / homework, you will have the required material at the tip of your hands! Ryan, 2nd Year Mathematics

Find what works for you

Try and find out what time of the day you have the most energy and motivation to do your work. For example, I know I am most productive in the morning and I am awful at working past 8pm, so I make sure to get up early in the morning to get started on work so I can have my evening off. Others however prefer to work later in the evening and get a rush of energy. Find out what works for you and use it! Breanna, 3rd year Psychology 

When starting uni, especially first year, it’s a great time to experiment with different organization and note-taking methods, different ways to approach your learning. It’s a time to try new things and then picking what you like best. This way you’ll build habits that suit you that will stick with you throughout your studies.  Martina, 2nd year Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry

Get to grips with reading and taking notes

When tackling readings, don’t expect to immediately understand it after skim reading it. I’d recommend waiting a while and then writing out the key points you remember the most to find out what stood out to you.

Don’t expect to be able to remember everything from lectures or even understand. Reading around the subject (just bits you don’t know) is normal and don’t spend millions of hours doing.
Give yourself a few weeks (& different methods) of taking lectures/seminars information! But remember different lecturers give information in different ways. I would highly recommend a tablet to take notes on- lighter in weight and I was forever losing notes!

Look after yourself

Eat well, try to get enough sleep, make sure you schedule in time for rest and maybe even exercise. You will be better off for it later in the term! Emily, 3rd year Biomedical Sciences 

Whether it is a night out, or watching a film with a friend, make you sure you treat yourself at least once a day by doing something that makes you excited for the next day. Emma, 4th year Veterinary Science

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether it’s about your wellbeing or academics (your Study Skills peers and tutors!) are always there to help. Remember, you are not alone. There are a lot of resources available waiting for you to explore. Anaya, 2nd year Law 

Try new things… and have fun!

Try getting involved with as much stuff as possible, whether that is societies, sports, extracurricular classes – say yes to as much as possible and make the most of the opportunities on offer! Jago, 3rd year Maths and Computer Science

Feeling pressured to do well and get good grades come hand-in-hand with starting university for a lot of people, but I can promise you that studying isn’t everything. University is all about learning and experiencing new things, and of course, studying is still important – there’s a lot to learn from books! But lift your head out of those books from time to time, there’s so much more you can learn when you explore and try new things outside of the classroom. Become a volunteer to teach young students, try out that new salsa dancing class, go cycling by the harbourside, these experiences will stay with you for a lifetime so don’t let them go to waste. Since university is all about learning, learn to have fun too! Sabrina, 3rd year Biochemistry

The student experience goes way beyond what is taught in the classroom and in your textbooks, and whilst that should/could be a priority, make sure you are taking advantage of everything else the student life has got to offer whether it’s volunteering, working part-time, joining a society, or a mixed combination of things. There are so many resources at your service, that you can use much or as little as you choose to. That being said, make sure you take plenty of time to rest and look after yourself when needed. Tala, 2nd year Law

 

Bristol Futures Student Advocates run peer support sessions for students in their faculty. Check out the Study Skills Blackboard page to see what’s coming up.

 

 

Student perspective: Learning from your mistakes

Photo of Gloria, the author of this blog postby Gloria Bosi, Bristol Futures Advocate

Hello everyone, my name is Gloria, and I am back with another post (see Even STEM students need a creative outlet). This time, I wanted to discuss the importance of learning from our mistakes, both big and small.

One of the most difficult aspects of attending university is embracing the process of continuous change and growth. As we study to become professionals in our fields, we must be quick to accept our mistakes, adapt, and learn from them. When we are lucky, this requires little adjustment in our way of thinking. Other times, we may find that we have spent months consolidating our knowledge of a wrong idea or concept. We may learn something so significant, that it requires a profound change in the way we approach a problem or perceive a reality. Although this can be difficult, we must appreciate that it is part of the fun.

Having a strategy for learning from these mistakes can be quite useful. To help you with this, I wanted to share my process for ensuring that I do not keep falling for the same tricks. This can be summarized by the following steps:

1. Keeping a record for reference
I like to think of this as a sort of “diary of doom”, where I keep track of my most frequent mistakes. In reality, it is as simple as a bulleted list in the Notes app of my computer. This can be done in various other apps or websites, such as Quizlet. This list tends to grow when I am solving a problem sheet, for example. It this case, it is not sufficient to write down the number of the question I got wrong, but I must also supply a brief explanation as to why.

2. Identifying the source of the misunderstanding
Once you are able to look at the collection of your errors, you can try to identify some trends. Ask yourself:

  • Do these points have something in common?
  • Can they be traced back to a fundamental concept or idea that I missed

Pinpointing the source of the mistake can be time-consuming, but it is essential to stop it from recurring. To make this easier, you may need to scavenge through some of your old notes or resources.

3. Investing time to unlearn
After identifying the wrong idea that has been cementing itself in your brain, you want to get rid of it once and for all. Indeed, you must unlearn it. I find that this can be done in two steps:

i. Dissecting your mistake and breaking down all the reasons it was wrong. Convince yourself to reject the idea from this point forward.

ii. Recalling your mistake frequently as you study the subject. In fact, I find that reviewing my mistakes is almost as important as studying the subject itself. This is why keeping a record is so useful.

4. Linking back to the bigger picture
After unlearning the erroneous idea, it is time accept the correct one. Ask yourself:

  • How does this new idea fit within the rest of my existing knowledge?
  • In what ways has my understanding improved by rejecting my old idea?

In reality, this process is a lot less involved than it sounds. Most of the time, it is fairly easy to identify where we have gone wrong. The important thing, however, is what we do with this information. Every learner is different, so you should feel free to take this process and change it in whatever way suits you best. I hope it helps!

Thank you for reading! Leave a comment to let us know your strategy for learning from your mistakes.

Letter to my undergraduate self: Simon Gamble – ‘Don’t waste brain power on fears, spend the time studying’

In a nod to the Big Issue’s regular feature Letter to My Younger Self, we’re asking staff to think back to their own experiences as a student and tell us what advice they would give to their undergraduate selves.

This month we present Simon Gamble, Head of Study Skills.

Did you experience a culture shock when you started University?

Completely. I had no idea what I was doing, plus I didn’t really know if I should be there because I got pretty bad grades at A’ level. It all had a huge psychological effect on me and I was very unsure of myself for a long time, which is why I spent the first term getting drunk, doing no work, lying in bed all day and making friends with some real idiots. One day I was so freaked out I just wandered round the whole city feeling lost, instead of doing a practical session about fungus. I genuinely had no idea what was happening to me. It took me about four months to get over it, well into Spring term. Luckily I’d also made friends with some really great people, not just idiots. Those good people really helped me.

What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

I failed a unit in year two. It was my favourite subject and I loved all the lectures, but I spent all my time working on the subjects I found hard, just assumed I’d do well at this one and I tanked. That was when I had to relearn how to learn. It taught me that there are techniques and strategies for learning that I needed to apply, especially that testing myself was a huge help and that studying takes time and some organisation. In the retake I got a really good score, though it was capped at a pass grade. I didn’t care though, because the revision skills I gained were more important.

What are you most proud of about your time at university?

My time in France. There were two of us accepted to go to Université de Technologie de Compiègne on a placement year. We worked incredibly hard, but we had a brilliant time and we were trained very well. Some previous students hadn’t made much effort and we were going to be the last ones unless it went well, so we turned that placement around and even got our names on a research paper. When we got back the head of course knew our names, so obviously we’d made a good impression. I made some brilliant friends, learned to speak French really well, learned to cook, survived a car crash and kind of discovered myself. I came back transformed and it made the final year so much better.

What was the best bit of feedback you received?

“You’re enjoying yourself here aren’t you Simon? Well, if you want to keep enjoying yourself, do some work.” Head of School, January, year 1. I listened.

What advice would you give to your undergraduate self?

Don’t worry so much, just do your best. You have a perfect right to be here and to be doing this, so get on with it. Be kind, be helpful and friendly and say yes to anything that sounds interesting. All those things you’re scared of, they’re never going to happen because they’re extreme and life is mostly very mundane. Just don’t waste the brain power on fears, spend the time studying and talking to your fellow students about your subject instead. You’ve done really well to get here and that’s not going to stop, so just keep on at it.  And don’t move in with Gerry because he turns out to be racist and you end up really hating each other.