The revelation that some students are posting their class notes on commercial Web sites has become controversial. Many professors are objecting to the sale of the contents of their lectures and the fact that some students consider the notes to be a substitute for attending class. Many students, however, appreciate the convenience of accessing notes from any location at any time. Professors and instructors can address some of these criticisms, though they should also understand the demand for and benefits of incorporating the Internet into their classes. The Internet can dramatically improve instruction for both students and teachers — only, however, when it is used properly.
Several commercial Web sites currently post class notes at several universities, though only one offers notes of University classes. The sites usually pay students several hundred dollars per class per term, or sometimes a fee per class session. Occasionally, these companies require students advertise the sites.
Additional information on the subjects taught in classes is usually helpful to students. When posted on the Internet, this information is more accessible and therefore more helpful. The most important problem with notes on commercial sites is that they are not approved by instructors, and are therefore often inaccurate. While most students recognize unreliable notes, some fo not. The other problem is that some students consider them to be substitutes for classes, which they cannot be. There are several components to most classes — texts, visual aids and informal instructor comments — of which lecture notes are only one part.
Instructors, however, should realize the demand for incorporating the Internet into their classes and the many benefits of class Web sites. Despite the precedents set by a few individual instructors, and the usefulness of ClassWeb, the Internet remains underused. Though few instructors use ClassWeb, even fewer fully use most of the features it offers. In addition to posting the syllabi, instructors can post a schedule or even random announcements as well as a class list for students to contact each other. One of the most useful features is an interactive calendar that contains the due dates of tests, quizzes and homework assignments. Professors concerned about unreliable notes being posted on commercial sites can post notes on ClassWeb — or even outlines or brief summaries — to discourage students from visiting these unofficial sites. The Carlson School of Management offers even more features on its classes’ Web sites, the most useful of which is a photo and contact information of each class member.
While there are certainly problems with notes posted on commercial Web sites, some can be solved by instructors. Although a laborious process, some lecture content can be copyrighted to prevent unauthorized duplication. Instructors can also explicitly inform students of the unreliability of commercial sites. Perhaps the most prudent solution — one that is even beneficial — is for instructors to incorporate the possibilities of the Internet into their classes. Until more instructors use the Internet, and information about their classes becomes more regulated, students will continue to spread misinformation on other Web sites.