Students, take note — or rather, don't.
Amory Bennett '14 and Clark Craddock-Willis '14 are working to create a website that will allow students to share notes from their classes. This fall, they will launch a pilot version of the site, called the Brown Scholars Club, that will include notes from a few classes across different departments. The complete website will eventually feature notes from all classes as well as past problem sets, essays and tests, given professors' permission, Bennett said.
"I think it could change the way people absorb lectures," Bennett said. With the information the website will offer, students will no longer have to worry about recording every detail, he explained. Instead, they will be able to absorb what is said in the classroom.
"We hope to eventually become the Facebook of schoolwork," Bennett said. "Brown students are very smart, but I don't get to hear what they say very much," he said. "Whereas with Facebook we can all see pictures of each other drinking beer on the weekend, with this I will be able to see Clark's essay on globalization and development."
Bennett said he envisions the complete site allowing students to build a portfolio that will show potential employers their course work.
Bennett and Craddock-Willis will determine whether they want to charge students for using the site after the pilot has been released, but Bennett said that they are leaning towards funding the site through advertising.
Currently, they are working to obtain money from investors to pay students who submit their notes and to build the website. So far, they have received a verbal commitment to provide some funding from one investor, whose name they did not disclose.
Bennett and Craddock-Willis have placed flyers around campus advertising the opportunity for students to receive between $20 and $50 for one course's notes.
So far, 20 students have emailed them in response to the flyers, Bennett said. He and Craddock-Willis have met with 10 students to review their notes, he added.
But some students are not comfortable with the idea of selling their notes.
"It's my work. If I am making effort to go to class and take diligent notes, I'm not going to sell out and help people who are too lazy to come to class," said Jackie Katz '14.
Supriya Das '15 said she would sell her notes at the end of the semester, but she would not pay for the note-sharing service because she could not trust the accuracy of the notes.
Bennett and Craddock-Willis recognize this concern and are working on setting standards for the notes they will accept. But Bennett added that defining standards for notes in subjects they are less familiar with is difficult. For example, "we're not really math guys," he said.
Sharing notes in this manner does not violate any Academic Code rules, said Thomas Doeppner, associate professor of computer science and former co-chair of the Standing Committee on the Academic Code.
But sharing problem sets and exams may constitute code violations, he said.
Sharing notes is "a gray area for intellectual property," Doeppner added. "The question becomes, ‘Are they profiting off the professor's course?'"
"The way I see it is when I pay for a class at Brown and am taught something, that knowledge is now mine to do with it what I will," Bennett said.