Rock Valley College

Chapter 13: Note-Taking Assistance

Assistance with note-taking is an accommodation that may benefit students who need to focus their attention and concentration on listening, or who find taking notes difficult due to a physical, visual, learning, or hearing limitation. There are a variety of options to consider for note-taking assistance, including the use of technological devices such as digital voice recorders, Livescribe Smartpens and a peer note taker as outlined below.

Digital Recorders

The Disability Support Services (DSS) office has a number of digital voice recorders available for students to check out on loan on a semester-by-semester basis.  Students can record lectures and other audio presentations so that they can be replayed at a later date.  Some recorders have advanced features such as the ability to download recorded content into a laptop or PC, notes indexing, and other playback functionality.

Livescribe Smartpens

The Livescribe Smartpen is a high-tech writing tool that records spoken words and synchronizes them with notes written on special paper. The Echo from Livescribe is one of the most popular smart pens.

A student can record everything an instructor says and then replay any part of it later by tapping the pen's tip to the word on the paper. Although it looks and writes like an ordinary pen, the Echo is actually a multimodal computer.

A Livescribe smartpen is about the size and weight of a large pen (5/8" x 6 1/8"), and is equipped with a removable ball-point ink cartridge, a microphone to record audio, a speaker for playback, The pen has a small OLED display, an infra-red camera, and internal flash memory that captures handwritten notes, audio and drawings.

The user can choose to record audio in addition to the handwritten text. Recorded audio is kept indexed with the handwritten text—tapping on a written word starts playback of the recorded audio from that part of the recording.

Students may submit a request to use a digital recorder or Livescribe pen via the DSS Accommodations Portal, or by contacting the DSS office at (815) 921-2371.

Student Responsibilities for Using a Recorder or Livescribe Pen

  • Students should make their request to use a recorder or Livescribe Smartpen at least one week before the start of the term.
  • Requests for recorders and Livescribe Smartpens are processed in the order that we receive them.
  • DSS loans the recorder or Livescribe Smartpen to the student on a term-by-term basis.
  • The student is responsible for the care of the equipment and agrees to pay all costs associated with any damage to the equipment or if the equipment is lost or stolen.
  • The student should inform DSS as soon as possible of any problems with using the recorder or Livescribe Smartpens in classes/meetings, uploading files to a computer or other technological issues.
  • When selecting a recorder or Livescribe Smartpen as an accommodation, students will sign an agreement to use the audio recordings of course lectures solely for their own educational purpose.  Students will also agree to not share recorded content with others without the consent of the lecturer, to use the recordings in any way against any lecturer or a student whose remarks in class are recorded, or to publish or quote recorded material without the express consent of the lecturer or speaker without giving proper identity and credit to the person. Recordings of class lectures or discussions are to be erased at the end of the semester.
  • Failure to return a loaned piece of equipment may result in a hold on the student’s academic account.

Peer Note Takers

Students should take an active role in attempting to secure a note-taker, and asking their instructor for assistance, when necessary. A tip sheet to share with note-takers can be obtained upon request from the DSS office. Volunteer note-takers are typically peers in the student’s class. Note-takers may be obtained by:

  • Informing the instructor of the need for a note-taker;
  • Having the instructor make an announcement when class begins; or
  • Asking another student in the class, who is reliable and has good note-taking skills, to take notes.

Peer note takers are typically another student enrolled in the class.  Note takers are expected to attend all classes, take neat detailed notes during the lecture and upload the notes (or provide a copy to the student) within 24 hours after the lecture.  Usually note-takers readily volunteer. They are already taking notes for themselves, so you are not asking them to do more than what they are already doing. Students having difficulty locating a note-taker, or who have concerns regarding the quality of the notes, should discuss this directly with their instructor. If, after talking to the instructor, the issue is not resolved, the student should seek assistance from the DSS office.

In some unique situations, note takers may be compensated. These situations are determined on a case-by-case basis, and must be preauthorized by the DSS Director. Students who are compensated must register via the DSS Accommodations Portal and complete all necessary paperwork.

Quality notes are a priority and DSS strives to provide note-takers with resources and training whenever possible. All note-takers referred to DSS are strongly encouraged to complete an online note-taker training. This comprehensive training is offered through the Described and Captioned Media Program on Postsecondary Outcomes and upon completion, students are provided with a “Verification of Training Completion” certificate. This certificate must be  presented to DSS in order for the note-taker to be eligible for any compensation.

Students using note-taking assistance are encouraged to review a sample of the notes taken by a student note-taker who comes forward during the recruitment process to make sure the handwriting and organizational method will work well. If two or more students volunteer to be note-takers, ask one volunteer to be a “substitute” note-taker in the event the primary note-taker is note available. It is helpful for students and note-takers to exchange contact information up front.

Students are responsible for all communication regarding missed classes, quality of notes, and other concerns. A note-taker is not a substitute for class attendance. It is not the note-taker’s responsibility to supply the student with notes for classes they missed. The student and note-taker should establish “up front” what the note-taker agrees to do in situations where the student receiving notes is absent from class.

Responsibilities for Students Using a Peer Note Taker

  • Request notetaking services using DSS Accommodations Portal at least one week before the start of the term. Students are encouraged to request accommodations within 48 hours of registering for classes.  Requests for notetaking services are processed in the order they are received.
  • Respond to requests for information from DSS as soon as possible.
  • Cancel notetaking requests if a note taker or notes are not needed for a course.
  • Students must agree that they will NOT distribute, post on-line, copy for others, or sell the notes provided by the DSS note taker or the faculty member.

Once a Note Taker is Assigned

  • The student can log into the DSS Accommodations Portal and click on notetaking services to see the note taker’s name and contact information.  The student will also receive an email notification stating that a note taker has been assigned to the class.
  • Students are encouraged to develop and maintain a working relationship with the note taker, either in person or via email.
  • Students must attend class in order to receive notes. If the student does not attend class, they should ask a classmate for notes.
  • Students should communicate with DSS as soon as possible any problems with notes, such as quality and timeliness of notes, notes not uploaded (or provided) within 24 hours or the faculty member is not providing notes when they agreed to do so.  Please note: it may take several business days to resolve a notetaking issue or to find a new note taker.
  • If students cannot access the notes, they can come to the DSS office for technical assistance. Students may wish to bring a laptop so that we can better assist them with any technical issues.

What happens if students are not matched to a peer note taker after the start of the term?

  • DSS will email the notetaking need to your faculty member, asking them to read the announcement in class or post an announcement on the course website (not mentioning the name of the student).  If you do not hear this announcement in class or see this announcement in Eagle by the first week of the term or within three days of requesting accommodations, please notify DSS immediately.
  • Consider recruiting classmates to become a peer note taker. Please note: Students who self-recruit are the most satisfied with the quality of the notes.  If you find a classmate to take notes, please direct them to the DSS office.
  • Students can also email with the potential note taker's name and email address and DSS will contact them. Please remember that the peer note taker must be enrolled in the class.
  • Contact DSS with any questions or concerns about recruiting a peer note taker.

DSS Responsibilities

Once students have requested their peer notetaking accommodations for their classes, DSS will email the students’ faculty member a notification letter, indicating the student has requested a note taker for the course.

  • If DSS does not have an assigned note taker in the class, DSS will take the following steps:
    1. The student will receive an email via the DSS Accommodations Portal asking for confirmation of the need for a note taker.This question is asked, as students may request a note taker before the beginning of the term and once they attend class they may find out the faculty will post notes online but they forget to cancel their notetaking request.
    2. If the student confirms they still need a note taker, DSS will continue with the recruiting process to find a note taker.
    3. If the student does not confirm the need for a note taker, they will receive a second email (via the Portal) 24 hours later asking for confirmation of the request.If the student still does not confirm, a third and final request to confirm will be emailed in another 24 hours.
    4. If there is no response to the third confirmation email, the request is automatically cancelled out of the system and DSS will no longer recruit for a note taker in that class.
  • If the student confirms the need for a peer note taker and no one has signed up to take notes for the class, DSS will take the following steps:
    1. Email the faculty asking for assistance in recruiting a note taker by making an announcement (without mentioning names) in class or via Eagle.
    2. DSS may also recruit a note taker by emailing students in the class with high GPA's.
    3. Ask the student to consider recruiting classmates to become a peer note taker. Note: Students who self-recruit are the most satisfied with the quality of the notes. Direct any potential note takers to the DSS office.
    4. If no volunteer, in-class note taker can be found DSS will assign a student worker to the class to be the note taker, or provide compensation to a student to be a note taker.