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How to Study in the Digital Age: An Easy Guide

Hand on mouse to study in the digital age

Going back to school used to mean buying pens and pencils, getting fresh notebooks, and picking up colorful folders. Today, the same can be true, as I explained in a previous post. However, with the popularity of my online courses, I am once again reminded that when course materials are online in a digital format, traditional study habits may be different. Here are tips on how to study in the digital age.

Identifying key information to print

Participants often ask if they should print out all the course materials for my online courses. Honestly, one of the benefits of an online course is conservation of paper and ink, and you don’t need to lug as much stuff around.

That said, yes, there are things you’ll want to print out to study in the digital age. I recommend printing key documents for the upcoming exam. Generally, these are legal/ethical mandates, lengthy public health recommendations, and instructor-generated materials. Let me give a few suggestions:

IBLCE Materials

Public Health Documents

Instructor-created Materials

  • Outlines; I give outlines for topics that are especially important, or especially lengthy. My aim is to save attendees from writing their fingers off. Print these out.
  • Materials that are designed to give you feedback. More on that — keep reading!


  • Anything that is a PDF within the course might be something to print out.
  • Organizing materials
  • Protocols from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
  • Statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Developmental Milestones for Infants and Toddlers: I find that exam candidates have a lot of trouble recognizing age-appropriate developmental milestones. This is a fabulous resource that most people will want to print out.

At least for my course, if you print out more than what comfortably fits into a 3-inch or a 4-inch binder, you’ve probably printed too much.

Taking notes or making outlines

Students who hand write their notes learn more than students who use laptops, according to a study by Mueller and Oppenheimer. But if I want to take copious notes, or if I’m simply feeling the need for speed, I use my iPad™. In that case, I’ll use this keyboard with my iPad Air 2 and go as fast as my fingers will fly. (I type fast!) When choosing a keyboard, make sure to find one that is compatible with your device.

However, I might not type at all, and you might not want to either when you’re studying in this digital age. I can write handwritten notes on my iPad. I love NotePad+ which allows for handwritten notes using a stylus. You can try NotePad+ for free. If you like it, you can get the paid version.

I love making my own outlines. It helps me to see how to ideas “fit” with one another. There, I use my iPad with OmniOutliner. I love all of the Omni products, but this is definitely my favorite one, because it allows me to do all sorts of stuff with making an outline, dragging around the topics, inserting links, inserting notes into the topics, and more. I can even attach PDFs.

Things change fast and technology is ever-evolving. A newer product that might aid you in studying in the digital age is the Rocketbook. This paperless, reusable notebook allows you to scan notes directly into the cloud service of your choice, even into specific folders, and then erase your notes to have a fresh note-taking space.

Engaging with content

What’s that? It sounds silly to engage with a computer? Not at all! Even a simple activity like highlighting can often (not always) be done with the computer.

More importantly, print out information that is meant to give feedback. For example, I give some written exercises where the participant has to match one term to its meaning. Items like that, which require written responses, should be printed out, and written on.    


With so much information at your fingertips while studying in the digital age, staying organized is vital. If you want to organize key pieces of information digitally, programs like Evernote and OneNote can be helpful. I don’t like OneNote at all. But I consider Evernote essential for keeping track of information related to courses, recipes, knitting patterns, or just about anything else. Think of it as big electronic filing cabinet that organizes random notes you jot to yourself, links to important documents, or PDFs you want to find later. I love this thing.

Have you found it more difficult to study in the digital age? What tips and techniques can you share? Tell me in the comments below!

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