Do I Need a Note Taker in College?

Most college courses are not designed with the LD student in mind. Many of them take place in large lecture halls and feature a professor, or graduate student, who stands at the front and lectures while students furiously scribble notes. The fact that most courses are over an hour-long makes paying attention and keeping up even more challenging. By hiring a note taker, you can focus on listening to the professor and paying attention to what is going on in class while someone else takes the notes for you.

University-Provided Note Takers

In order to comply with Federal and State laws regarding assistance for students with documented disabilities, such as Section 504, many colleges and universities offer their own note taking services. To access note taking services, you must contact your school’s Office for Students with Disabilities and follow the proper procedures for setting up a note taker. Many schools hire a student in your class to take notes and meet with you after class to provide you with a copy of the notes or allow you to copy the notes yourself.

For most of your courses, however, an official note taker may not be necessary. Many professors maintain websites or online course hubs where they post lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations and other resources to help students keep up with class material. Often, when this material is already offered by the professor, the university will not provide a special note taker for the course and will direct you to use the same materials as other students.

Alternatives to a Note Taker

Since universities do not provide note takers for all courses and the note takers they do provide are regular students whose note taking abilities may not adequately fit your needs, it may be better to look to alternatives to a traditional note taker.

Recording Lectures

Recording a class using a traditional audio or video recorder is a simple way to allow you to focus on the class and take notes later. You can simply take the recording back to your dorm room or wherever you like to study and replay the lecture while taking notes, pausing the recording where necessary. For students who like to take notes or need to take notes during class to concentrate, but find it difficult to keep up with the pace of the class, it may be worthwhile to invest in a smart pen.

A “SMART PEN” – by Lifescribe or other pens that do the same thing can record all of the notes a student takes as well as the audio in the classroom. Students can then playback their notes and add to them as they hear information they missed or transfer their notes and the audio to a computer. When transferred to the computer, notes become searchable, allowing students to search for key information without having to flip through pages of notes and easily organize information from their notes to make it easier to study or access key information.

Computerized Note Taking

If you think you can keep up with the pace of the class, but taking notes by hand slows you down, bringing a laptop or other computerized note taking device into the classroom will allow you to take notes faster. For example, Microsoft OneNote, part of Microsoft Office, allows you take notes on the computer, offering simple shortcuts to make note-taking easier and automatically saving any notes you take. Notes can then be highlighted, tagged and rearranged to help them make more sense or searched by tags and highlighted portions to make finding information easier.

If you have a Mac, you can use Microsoft Word’s Notebook Layout feature to record audio while you type notes. Much like a smart pen, you can then playback the audio to add to, highlight or review the notes you took. The audio file of the notes is converted into an .mp4 file which can be played back on an mp3 player or other audio device.

Smartphones and Tablets

With apps such as Notability, SoundNote and Moleskine, if you have a smartphone or tablet, you may not ever need a human note taker. SoundNote and Notability allow you to take audio or written notes, organize them and upload them to a computer. Apps such as AudioNote and Audio Class Notes allow you to take an audio recording of a class, without a text component, and then tag the audio to highlight important parts or make it easy to find information later. Moleskine is a tool for more visual note takers, allowing you to draw pictures, and then add notes on top of them later.

Take Control of Your Learning

If your school offers a note taking service and you qualify, it may be worth taking advantage of the service. However, with the general resources most professors offer and the technology available to help you keep up with your classes, a note taker is not your only option. Combining a few different methods for taking notes and organizing class information will help ensure you do not miss important points and give you a better chance of experiencing success in your college courses.

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