Time To Toss Out The Notebook?

You show up to the first day of class ready to tackle the new school year. As your professor begins to lecture, you suddenly realize that you are still in summer mode. You find that you can’t focus enough to take quality notes and can barely understand what is going on. However, if you have a voice recorder and around $9.95 to spend on each hour of class, you may not have to stay in the dark.

Nonotes.com is an innovative idea started by Matt Whitteker, a graduate of Carleton University. The Web site allows any student with a voice recorder to sit back in class and absorb the lecture. All the student has to do is sign up for an account and purchase the number of hours they will need in transcribed notes. Hours come in one, five, and 10 – hour increments. Once the account is set up, they can then upload to the Web site an audio file of the lecture in either an MP3 or Windows Media format and will receive a transcript of that lecture in one to three days.

This Web site is based on the idea that students will be able to absorb more during their lectures by listening and asking questions instead of struggling to write every word the professor says. After all, their slogan is, “You do the learning. We’ll take the notes.”

Though this may seem like a useful tool, I couldn’t help but wonder about the practicality of the circumstances. My first worry came from knowing that those who use the Web site have to use their own voice recorder to capture the lecture then upload it to the Web site. I figured if someone is taking the time to record the lecture themselves, what is stopping them from returning to the recorded lecture to brush up on any missed information?

The other issue I had stemmed from the Web site’s Q & A section. The clarity of the transcript you receive depends on the quality of the audio file you upload to the Web site. So, what would happen if you were unfortunate enough to sit in an area where chatter overrides the lecturer’s voice, or have a lecturer who doesn’t know how to turn up the volume on their microphone?

In my interview with Matt Whitteker I gained some insight as to why he created this Web site and cleared up uncertainties I had.

The idea of starting Nonotes.com came from Whitteker‘s own college experiences. While in college, he would get frustrated due to the difficulty of paying attention in class, asking questions and trying to keep up with notes all at once.

Whitteker addressed my concern about the practicality of the services by stating that, “listening to a lecture twice may help but you are bound by time. A two – hour lecture would take four hours to listen to twice whereas you could listen once with 100% attention in class then selectively study your transcript when convenient.”

In response to the audio quality paralleling the quality of the transcript you receive, Whitteker said that though accents, speech impediments or subject-specific jargon may pose a slight problem to the quality of the transcript, his team is good at deriving meaningful transcripts. If a file is unusable, the student will not be charged and will be notified of the situation.

This is just another possible way to help further your studies while here at UCI. As always, there are opportunities on campus such as the Learning and Academic Research Center (LARC) or group study sessions with friends.