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5 Ways Students Can Digitize Handwritten Notes

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When your papers start piling up and your class notes get disorganized, your college grades can suffer. 

There’s a reason that A students are usually hyper-organized. Rather than using precious study time trying to find their class notes, they’re using their time to study. 

Digitizing your handwritten notes is a great way to stay organized. It will also give you anywhere access because all of our picks for the best notetaking apps of 2020 offer cloud storage so you can access information from the library, your dorm or the study lab. 

There are a few ways you can digitize your class notes. Fully tech-based solutions provide tools for digital handwriting so you can ditch the paper altogether. There are also crossover options that give you easy ways to take notes on paper during class and convert them to digital files. 

Let’s review five great solutions for digitizing handwritten class notes. 

1. Write with a Stylus on a Touchscreen Device

This direct-to-digital option helps you avoid paper altogether. 

With smartpens like the Apple Pencil and other stylus alternatives, you can capture handwriting directly on a touchscreen device. You can spend your classes handwriting notes, working on math formulas, or drawing diagrams, and the result will be a digital file rather than stacks of paper. 

Stylus options range from about $10 up to $130. Choose one that’s the most comfortable for writing on a touchscreen. Look for real-time interaction so that your writing instantly appears on the screen without a disorienting lag. Some stylus pens also have palm recognition technology so that you can rest your hand naturally when writing without creating a digital smudge on your notes. 

The app you use in tandem with your stylus also has functionality options. It will determine how easy it is to switch from a pen to a highlighter or eraser. You may also be able to drag-and-drop text or add lines or graph paper to your page. 

Some apps also offer optical character reader (OCR) which is handwriting recognition technology that transforms your notes into searchable text. Even if you hand wrote “Abraham Lincoln,” you’ll be able to use the search bar to find that note. Plus, the app Google Keep will also transcribe your files into digital text so with a click of a button, you’ll have a typed version as well as a handwritten one. 

2. Handwrite Using a Smart Pen on Paper

If you’re not on board with the idea of giving up paper notes altogether, there are some crossover solutions. The technology lets you handwrite on paper, and then it’s instantly converted into a digital format. 

The first option is the Wacom Smartpads. Wired says the devices “have been around for a while now, but they still seem like magic.” 

With the Wacom, you’ll use the smartpen to write on any type of paper. (It has refillable ink.) The device tracks the pen’s location, and all you have to do is press a button for the digital file of the page to be sent to your device. 

It’s pressure-sensitive, so the digital handwriting file has a natural-looking variation of line weight. The downside of Wacom is if you forget to press the button after a full page of writing, your digital notes are useless with text from multiple pages overlaid in a single file.

Another option is the Moleskine Smart Writing System. Like the Wacom, it includes a smartpen that captures your handwriting motions to be transformed into a digital file. 

There’s also a companion paper notebook. On each page is a grid of dots that are technologically activated to recognize the smart pen’s position on the page. With the high-tech dot paper, you can avoid the disjoined digital capture that can happen with other devices if you accidentally shift the paper.

There’s onboard memory to store up to 1,000 pages of notes before you sync. You can use a Bluetooth connection to live stream your handwriting to your device.

Plus at the top of each page, there’s a small printed envelope. When you use the Moleskine pen to tap that envelope, you’ll get a digital file of the page that you can email to yourself or others. You heard that right — if you use the pen to tap a printed image on a piece of paper, you’ll get a digital file. 

3. Snap Photos of your Class Notes

If you prefer a low-tech option for digitizing class notes, you can simply use your phone’s camera and a cloud storage system. You won't need any gear or special apps.

Simply take a snapshot of each page of notes. Then you add the image files to Google Drive or other cloud storage, using folders to keep your courses and dates organized. 

Although it’s time-consuming, this basic note digitization can work in a pinch. If you accidentally left your backpack on the subway, you won’t be left without your full semester of hard work. 

4. Use a Note-Taking App to Scan Notebook Pages

You can also use a notes app to transform your class notes from analog to digital. 

You can use any pen and any type of notebook. Then the scanner feature on an app like Evernote can capture your class notes and store the digital files. 

The first advantage of using a note-taking app is its organizational features. The straightforward interface makes it easy to keep your information contained and organized by course.

There are also powerful search tools that can help you find information at the end of the semester or years later. With OCR technology (optical character recognition), the app automatically converts an image of your handwritten class notes into searchable text. 

5. Switch to Using Shared Class Notes

Most solutions for digitizing class notes start with the assumption that you’ll have to spend your classes actively writing down what happens during the lectures. There’s another solution that is helping students to study more efficiently. 

With OneClass’s shared notes platform, college students can access the class notes that have been uploaded by a paid notetaker. Rather than digitizing your own notes, you can access another student’s digital class notes. This can help you to study more efficiently by giving you on-demand access to the information you need. It also gives you freedom during lectures to engage in discussions or focus on your own learning. 

After using high-quality digital class notes, more than 90 percent of OneClass users have improved by at least one letter grade. Find out what class notes your classmates have already shared to OneClass. 

image attribution: Wayhome Studio -


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