Passing Notes

8 August 2016

You pay for your subject, your laptop, your textbook. Would you pay for someone else’s notes? Note­selling websites such as StudentVIP and NoteXchange are becoming increasingly popular, with StudentVIP featuring enticing promises of ‘download and learn’ and ‘upload and earn’, and NoteXchange’s homepage showcasing several testimonies of success.

The main benefit of selling notes is quite obvious: recouping the time and effort spent labouring over them throughout the semester, in the form of a monetary return. Conversely, student Ellie Lockard found her purchased notes to be ‘invaluable because [she] had something to compare and cross reference [her] own notes to’, saving her a significant amount of time. She has prepared for the upcoming semester by buying “summaries to help [her] understand topics better throughout the semester ­ rather than just at the end”.

When it comes down to it, attending uni really is about two things: contributing to a wider body of knowledge, and being financially challenged while doing so. Selling notes allows students to not only gain some extra cash, but also help others in terms of subject content and confidence.  However, potential sellers should realise that while moderators may check the accuracy of the notes, it is difficult to protect from misuse once they have changed hands. For example, even though notes are sent as PDF files, anyone who receives them could reproduce its contents and profit themselves.

If you intend to sell your notes, two things should be kept in mind. The first is accessibility – as Ellie points out earlier, a reason for purchasing someone else’s notes is to be able to see the bigger picture of the semester’s work. The second is plagiarism – sold notes should be sufficiently original in content. As StudentVIP explains, “as long as the subject notes are a mixture of your research and thinking from multiple sources (e.g. lectures, textbooks, private research), you are legally the author of a new work and have the right to sell it”.

This is good news, since Dr Sarah French and Professor Gregor Kennedy of the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education recommends that students ‘synthesise’ for effective note taking – that is, join the conceptual dots with your information, rather than writing or copying word­ for­ word and scrambling to keep up.

Note passing has certainly evolved from the good old days of fluro-Post­its to your primary school love interest – but it is important to engage in this practice responsibly.

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