The Real Cost of Digital Learning: Reading Comprehension and Note-Taking Negatively Impacted

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It will probably come as no surprise for most parents to learn that reading comprehension is negatively impacted in today’s digital age.

What’s the main culprit?

While digital devices tend to make it easier for us to speed read through content, digital devices also make note-taking more difficult. For example, exactly how are students expected to take notes when they’re reading online textbooks on their iPhones or tablets? Remind me again how to use a digital highlighter to identify key content?

You get the point.

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Now combine everyday note-taking challenges with students who deal with executive functioning issues and it becomes readily apparent how some students can really struggle in classes where much of the content is delivered via online textbooks or videos.

Here are some of the comprehension and note-taking issues SOS4Students sees with students:


  • Comprehension can be compromised when reading on digital platforms.
  • When it comes to the classroom, instruction on note-taking is infrequent.
  • Handwritten notes tend to be more concise and focused, while retention suffers when notes are typed or copied and pasted on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet.
  • Scrolling content on a digital device leads to students losing track of what they’re reading, which can lower comprehension.
  • Online math is especially difficult, as students must transpose problems to paper, which can lead to copying errors, extra work, frustration, and overwhelm. 

Video Instruction

  • Overreliance on videos in place of in-person teaching can downgrade the quality of instruction.
  • Students are asked to “take notes” on video content without any templates or scaffolding to show them how to do so. This is especially problematic for middle school students.
  • Students do not have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to take away from instructional videos, unless their own teacher does the presentation and clearly articulates expectations.
  • Tempting online distractions before, during, and after video instruction mean key points often escape the attention of students. Many students don’t even finish videos or remember what was in them!

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Contrary to popular belief that our digitally savvy students find online learning easy, SOS4Students finds that many complain of being confused about what to focus on and scattered in their ability to learn from and keep pace with online books and videos. Logging in to scroll and navigate through different platforms can actually be quite overwhelming to many students — especially those with ADHD and visual processing issues. They take short cuts and miss information.

At SOS4Students, we are keenly aware of these issues, as many students who experience them walk into our offices daily! Helping students navigate the pros and cons of digital learning is a big part of what we do.

  • If your high school student is struggling with online learning and needs to better understand how to take notes in all forms, you’ll want to register him or her for our summer workshop, Secrets of Successful Note Taking.
  • For middle schoolers about to enter 9th grade, they can jump right into the digital world and learn strategies to organize information effectively online as part of our Nailing Ninth summer workshop.

We're Here to Help

If your child is falling behind the digital curve or faces other challenges in school with his or her studies, SOS4Students can help. We offer a number of Summer Workshops that focus on writing, note-taking, organizational skills, and study strategies for both middle school and high school, and our Summer Coaching is tailored to meet the specific challenges of students, such as reading comprehension, time management, organization, note-taking, writing, and more.

Signing up for an SOS4Students Workshop or Summer Coaching is easy and can be done online. Our workshops tend to fill fast and start dates will be here sooner than you think, so act now.

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  • All workshops are held at Lafayette Library (Oak Room) Lafayette, CA.
  • Summer coaching is available at our Walnut Creek and Montclair District offices, or online.

Middle School Workshops

6thgrade bluebulletMastering Middle School empowers students entering sixth grade. Students learn invaluable skills to tackle the demands of multiple teachers and more complex assignments.

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6th - 8th GradesWrite On esnures your child is prepared for the essay-writing challenges ahead by covering essay fundamentals for middle school students.

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7th & 8th GradeMiddle School Blitz gives your students the strategies they need to have control over their time and workload. Prepare your student to balance classwork, homework and outside activities.

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High School Workshops

9th GradeNailing Ninth Grade prepares your student for a successful transition to high school. Students come away with an invaluable toolbox of study strategies they will use every day.

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9th - 11th GradesWriting RX teaches students an easily replicable system for expository essay writing. Students leave confident and prepared to tackle the complex writing assignments that high school demands.

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9th - 12th GradesSecrets of Successful Note Taking demystifies the note taking process. Students learn techniques to take effective notes and use their notes to prepare for tests and papers.

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6th - 12th Grades


Can't make the workshop you need? Does your student benefit from more individualized attention? All ages and abilities benefit from the one-on-one summer coaching sessions with our seasoned coaches.

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