Take This Down

Unauthorized Lecture-Note Sites Draw Profs’ Fire

But the services defend their products as study aids, akin to the Cliffs Notes used by previous generations. "Students pay big money for their classes," says notetaker Phillips. "They are not cutting because we post notes. But they may be getting more involved in discussions or need to clarify a concept they didn't get."

Phillips says it's "stupid" for users to assume notes can replace the professor. "People borrow and share notes all the time, and any student with a care about grades knows someone else's notes cannot replace sitting in class."

Critics maintain that the companies' legal "outs"—small-type disclaimers which state that they are not affiliated with or licensed by any of the colleges they cover—mean that notes meet no standard of accuracy. On a more basic level, many opponents say using the services is cheating.

illustration: A. Skwish

"School is supposed to be hard, you're supposed to work hard to get a degree," says Deflem. "Floating in this bubble of e-commerce, these companies are relying on a particular culture of getting it easy."

Frustrated, Deflem claims to have made repeated efforts to have mention of his classes removed from Versity.com. (The company was looking for someone to write notes on his lectures.) After publicly criticizing the company, he claims, he was first denied access to the site, then offered the chance to participate in a contest to win a promotional television. When Versity finally contacted him, it was not to let him know the ads had come down, but to say they were willing to work with him.

Versity CEO and chairman Chuck Berman disputes Deflem's claims, saying, "We don't have a mechanism for blocking his access to the site."

In response to criticism of the current services, Versity is working on a "permission-based" pilot program at the University of Michigan, in which professors have jurisdiction over the notetakers' material. The company, according to spokesperson Janet Cardinell, is changing its mission. Instead of simply helping students with notes, it "will recognize the value of the professor and the student."

"The critical issue is that you aren't going to create a high-quality product without the cooperation of faculty," says Berman.

More important, when professors agree to participate in this program, copyright to the lecture notes will "transfer" back to them. Prior to professor involvement, Versity claimed ownership to the students' notes. For signing on, Versity is also considering royalties in the form of stock options.

"They kick you in the balls and then ask if they can help you," says Deflem of the catch-22 that the note services offer professors.

The controversy is just starting, as note sites continue to pop up at the local and national levels. Competition is stiff, and the demand for notes—and work within the note-taking industry—is increasing. Proponents brush off the objections. "They tell you as a freshman that you can't have a job and maintain a full course load," says Phillips. "With the note services, you can study and make money. Why do universities have a problem with that?"

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A selection of online lecture notes

San Francisco State University
Asian American Studies 370.01

Quiz on Monday!

Sino-Vietnamese (Chinese Vietnamese)
These people had a different culture, language, experience, and historical perspective than Vietnamese people.

Chinese Diaspora (1800's)
This was a time where everything was corrupt.
These people could only get away from Canton by boat.

Columbia University
Mass Media in American Government/Politics

Two ideas came about among the media at the turn of the century:
1. Modern man didn't have time to go through bunches of information.
2. The idea of the "Invisible Hand" providing for free marketplace of ideas did not work anymore.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Philosophy 020

Argument of Diversity:
Disagreement—can turn out to be disagreement about factual issues.
Ex. Many want to follow will of God; much disagreement about that will and what it is.
Then, we did a review on Wednesdays and Fridays: Subjectivism—refer to those notes.

Ball State University—Psychology 100
Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

Dr. Ebbinghaus forgetting curve is unique in that it falls off very very steeply. The reason for this is that what was remembered was nonsense syllables that were devoid of meaning in his language. He found that nonsense is very difficult to remember. The other reason that the forgetting was so rapid is that he studied thousands of these nonsense syllables and he studied too many.

West Virginia University
History/Western Civilization Antiquity-1600

Professor covered syllabus and sitting arrangements. Be sure not to sit in that far back corner. Come to class Thursday because she will cover 3000 years of history.

Boston University
English: Hamlet—Act II, III (Part V)

The 1st soliloquoy [sic]—can't commit suicide *damned
The 2nd soliloquoy—maybe it was the Devil to damn me
The 3rd soliloquoy—To be or not to be (kill myself?)
Constantly mentioning conscience
How does this and "enterprises of great pitch & moment" fit into suicide?
Enterprises = momentous acions [sic].

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