The Associated Students’ Office of the Controller is currently conducting research on how to improve student information gathering in the classroom through a new collaborative note-taking program.
The research, which has been in the works for about a year, aims to gather feedback on Google Docs to allow students to collaboratively compile their notes online during lectures. The research has taken place in several academic subjects including sociology and communication over the course of 11 total lectures.
According to fourth-year electrical engineering major and A.S. controller Amir Khazaieli, research is still in its experimental stage but the goal of A.S. is to eventually offer a medium that would allow one to become more engaged with their lectures.
“This is a very, very extensive project that has been in the works for over a year,” Khazaieli said. “Half of it is just providing new tools in lecture to gather information. The other half of it is to provide an interface for students to be able to collaboratively edit and review this information.”
Khazaieli said while the Google Doc program is still in its “inception” phase, the program offers a wide variety of benefits to students.
“The notes that come out of this kind of situation have proven to be a lot more complete, in the sense that a lot more thought-driven analysis goes into what they’re [students are] hearing rather than trying to frantically copy and paste everything that’s said,” Khazaieli said.
However, classics professor Helen Morales said she prohibits A.S. from passing out flyers promoting the program outside her Greek Mythology lecture because the program allegedly violates UC policy on lecture material distribution.
“In a nutshell, the A.S. shared note-taking initiative breaks UC Policy 102.23 which expressly forbids students from recording lectures or discussions and from distributing or selling lecture notes and all other course materials without the prior written permission of the instructor,” Morales said in an email.
Morales said the initiative seemed a lot like studysoup.com and other online initiatives which sell lecture notes to students.
“The bottom line for me is that students who use them don’t do as well as students who don’t use them,” Morales said. “It’s important to realize that the process of taking notes during lectures is as important as the notes themselves. … So I think that this initiative encourages students not to take their own notes.”
According to Khazaieli however, the research A.S. is doing is legal and unlike other online note-sharing programs Morales mentioned.
“I think some people are equating what we are doing with other services that get students to upload lecture slides, content and notes, which they sell to other people to make money,” Khazaieli said. “This is not what is being done at all.”
Khazaieli said the note-taking program would only allow access codes within the course to access the document if the program is introduced as an option for lecture attendees.“In order to access the Google Doc you need to get the unique link that we would pass out as you’re walking into class, so it ensures you have to be in class to first access the Google Doc, and then it’s taken down afterwards,” Khazaieli said. “It would also be moderated, so anybody who is not actively participating will be kicked off. So it’s not like you can access it and not take notes.”
Khazaieli also said the note-taking program’s collaborative nature is not breaking UC policy because it will give all students an equal opportunity to contribute to the Google Doc.
“We would not be taking lecture content and lecture slides,” Khazaieli said. “Its student’s interpretations and what they’ve heard. The only difference between this and taking paper notes is that this is online.”
According to Khazaieli, the A.S. Office of the Controller is in the process of finding the best way to implement the program to make it as easily accessible and function as possible.
“It’s been about doing more controlled research tests to figure out how to tune the cogs and the wheels so that when the final product comes out it’s something that everybody loves and can use effectively,” Khazaieli said.
First-year economics major Brian Lee said he would be open to any type of effort by A.S. to make information gathering in classrooms more collaborative, but said he would not use the technology himself.
“I think something like this would be useful for studying because other people could clarify ideas from lecture,” Lee said. “I don’t think I would use it because I feel like I get a better understanding of material by putting it in my own words.”