Note-taking service grows

If you have an exam approaching this semester, a message from GWClassNotes may be waiting in your inbox.

The company, which was formed last year, is sending e-mails to students in select classes only hours before scheduled tests – offering an entire semester’s notes for 75 cents a page.

“Your ANTH 001 Midterm Tomorrow,” reads one of the subject lines of a GWClassNotes e-mail, followed by an offer for a free sample. A link directs students to the company’s Web site, emblazoned with their motto: “Cause Learnin’ Ain’t Easy.”

The expanding company employs a team of student note-takers who compile class lists from BlackBoard and receive payment for each page of notes, said GWClassNotes CEO Josh Sacks, a junior.

The company’s president, Corey Cohen, a junior, said several hundred students purchase materials from the service each semester. Many of them buy multiple sets of notes, he said, with the average customer making 2.4 purchases.

Sophomore Daniela Sirkin said she received e-mails from the service for several of her classes.

“I’m not creeped out about it,” she said. “They’re obviously just trying to market their stuff.”

Upon receiving the message, she purchased notes for her world history course.

“I probably could have done it better myself,” she said. “But I didn’t have time.”

GWClassNotes recently adapted its business model and added the automatic uploading and downloading of notes to its Web site and moved from a commission-based system to paying its note-takers per page. Sacks said the service’s revenue has risen since the last academic year.

The service’s target customer is someone who missed a class or who is unable to take comprehensive notes while also listening to their professor, Sacks said.

But as the business grows, some faculty members are concerned that students use the company to avoid attending their classes.

“As an educator, it concerns me that some students will be tempted to use it as a substitute for attending class,” said professor David Silverman, whose American history class is featured on GWClassNotes. Silverman said people learn best through a combination of listening, speaking and writing.

“There is a fundamental difference between attending a lecture and hearing it … and simply looking at an outline,” Silverman said.

Professor Shira Robinson, who teaches history and international affairs, said the service encourages passive rather than active learning and would prefer that notes from her History of The Modern Middle East course were not available from the service.

“I’m delighted when students work together,” she said. “I’m a little uncomfortable that they would be selling” the notes.

Sacks said going to class is still important and that the service’s materials should be regarded as supplementary.

“I would not be able to do well just by reading the notes,” he said. “This is just to enhance learning.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.