Improve meeting session learning with this simple tip!

improve meeting session learningWant a simple way to improve meeting session learning? Provide a shared Google doc where all participants can take notes, ask questions, and get answers!

A shared Google doc is an easy, familiar tool you can use to facilitate and improve real-time conversation and learning around presented content. And when the session is over, participants have a convenient archive for reference.

The idea was sparked by discovering this deleted tweet thread.

improve meeting session learning

“I learned today that a group of students used a Google doc to take lecture notes–they all took notes simultaneously in a collective file.”

“As they took notes they would mark places they were confused or couldn’t follow the lecture–other students would see & explain, real time.”

“At the end of the semester, as they are prepping for finals, they have this massive document of notes, questions, & explanations from peers.”
—from a 2016 since-deleted tweet thread

Now this isn’t an original idea. I’ve used collaborative Google docs at meetings since 2010 to collaboratively brainstorm and solve a problem, for scribing answers to The Three Questions, and capturing the pluses and deltas in a group spective. And a quick web search will discover numerous examples of teachers who use this technique in elementary through college classrooms.

Here’s an example from a community college class…


A group of us did something similar in 2014, when we live-blogged the PCMA Convening Leaders conference. Offering the same technique to all participants at meeting sessions may be new. (If it isn’t, let us know in the comments below!)

How to do it

Before the meeting

  1. Create a Google doc for each session. Give it the name of the meeting session. Change the editing permissions of the Google doc so that anyone with the link can edit it.
  2. Create a short link to each Google doc. I use a link that combines an abbreviation for the event with a short version of the session title. For example, a session “Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” at the 2022 XYZ conference might have a link https://tiny.cc/XYZ2022ImproveDEI.
  3. Add the session title and the short link to the top of the linked Google doc.
  4. Repeat for all meeting sessions.
For meeting owners

Before the meeting publicize that meeting session participants can and are encouraged to create collaborative notes on each session. Right before the meeting provide participants with a list of links to the collaborative docs for each session. Also ask session presenters to display the URL for their session’s doc and encourage participants to use it.

For session presenters

Even if meeting organizers haven’t adopted the above approach, there’s nothing to stop presenters from incorporating this technique into their session.

After the meeting or presentation

Change the access for each doc to viewer (people with the link can see the document but not edit it) and then make the session notes available appropriately. You could share them on a private website, email the doc links to those who participated, or use any other distribution method that fits.

What do you think?

If you use this method to improve meeting session learning, or have ideas on how to extend it, please share your experience in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Improve meeting session learning with this simple tip!

  1. Hi Adrian,
    I’m intrigued by this idea, but wonder how the same notes – each in the author’s wording – don’t make the document large and very repetitive. Maybe it works itself out; I’ve not tried it. Also, I would be concerned that a few students may end up transcribing the presentations while lazy ones just benefit from it. Have classrooms required that all contribute, and if so, how is this tracked?
    Thanks and I love your blog!

    1. Hi Dan, good questions!

      When I’ve seen this done, there’s a certain amount of overlap in notes, but participants tend to notice in real time when someone else is covering a point so there’s less duplication than you might think.

      As a proponent of learning by doing, my experience is that note-takers learn much more during the process than those who merely read their notes afterwards. (They also learn more accurately and retain the learning longer.) Even if the lazy students learn a little from their peers’ notes, that’s more than what they’ve learned from the presentation itself.

      Having students contribute by name in realtime is an interesting possibility since the presenter (as well as other students) can see what they share post-session. The downside is for students whose language and comprehension skills are less than average feeling shame about their contributions. On the other hand, if questions are equally valued by the presenter, such students can provide useful feedback on what they find hard to understand.

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