Student disengagement in lectures is a global issue in higher education. Our approach is to apply a student-centred collaborative learning pedagogy into the lecture environment through a mobile real-time collaborative note-taking application, which allows a small self-selecting group of students to proactively keep each other engaged without disrupting others in the lecture venue or requiring changes to the existing pedagogy. We first present the application interface, which enables students to follow principles identified as good practice in undergraduate education while still allowing for the individual to contribute and interact with regard to their own ability and preferred learning style. The interface provides an individual virtual workspace to each group member, which is shared with and may be viewed and edited by other members in the session using their own mobile devices. A pivotal design goal is to accommodate students’ diverse cognitive abilities by spatially separating their workspaces and allowing each individual to choose the most suitable way to interact with their peers’ workspaces. We then discuss the results of experiments that compared between individual and collaborative note-taking and between using shared common workspaces and spatially separated individual virtual workspaces. The results show that students are more engaged in the lecture with collaborative than individual note-taking and more satisfied with sharing spatially separated workspaces than a common workspace.