Clear and concise notes support learners to prepare for lessons and learning activities, study more efficiently, and complete assessments more effectively. However, many students struggle with effective note taking and do not end up with the course resources that will serve them best. In addition, note taking accommodations are among of the most common for students with disabilities, and it can be challenging to implement accommodations for this need, for both learners and educators.
There are a number of ways educators can proactively support all students to have complete and comprehensive course notes, including:
- Posting lesson/course notes
- Posting lesson presentations
- Crowdsourcing lesson notes
- Audio recording
Posting Lesson Notes
By posting lesson/course notes to the online course site in advance of class, learners can proactively review lesson content and prepare for class. Providing notes in advance also removes the individualized accommodation barriers for students with disabilities, as well as educators.
Lesson notes can include:
- Complete lesson notes
- Notes that include blank spaces where students can complete notes during the class
- A series of questions about the lesson that learners can answer in class and/or using weekly resources/readings
- A detailed outline of the lesson, with completed notes to be posted after the class
As indicated on the Content Options webpage, greatest inclusion is achieved when content is provided in at least two formats. These formats could include copying and pasting the notes into the HTML editor and proving a link to a Word or PDF document. If educators require support to include links to downloadable Word documents, connect with the Educational Technology Specialist for your area.
- Post lesson notes, in advance, to the online course site.
- The posted notes can be organized; however, the content is organized, for example by week, module or chapter.
- Advise students that lesson notes have been posted and provide them with explicit instructions on how to use the notes effectively.
- The instructions could include reviewing the notes prior to class, printing or downloading the notes to complete them in class, using the notes effectively to study, etc.
Posting Lesson Presentations
Similar to posting lesson notes, lesson presentations can support students with note taking and preparing for class.
- Post the lesson presentations, in advance, to the online course site.
- The presentations can be organized however the content is organized, for example by week, module or chapter.
- Advise students that lesson presentations have been posted and provide them with explicit instructions on how to use the presentations effectively.
- This could include reviewing the presentations prior to class, printing or downloading the presentations to write additional notes from lecture directly on the slides, etc.
To support inclusion and the accessibility needs of all learners, posting the lesson notes in two formats is ideal. For example, include the PowerPoint presentation and a link to a PDF version or creating a video of the lesson and providing the original presentation as well.
Crowdsourcing Lecture Notes
Crowdsourcing of lecture notes was an idea originally developed by Dr. David Rose from Harvard. It was designed within the framework of UDL to support the note taking needs of learners and to minimize note taking efforts of educators. Crowdsourcing lecture notes has the capacity to:
- Support all students to double check content and improve their notes and note taking skills
- Encourage every learner to have complete and effective study notes, with minimal additional effort for the educator
- Allow educators to see what students are taking away from lessons
- Reduce the need for peer note taking support for students with disability related note taking accommodations
Crowdsourcing lecture notes involves having learners, who are attending lessons and taking notes anyway, to share them. This is most easily done by students posting their notes to a designated space on the online course site. Once posted, any learner in the course can access the notes and use them to study, correct their notes, catch up on missed classes, etc.
There are a variety of ways that educators can provide space for crowdsourced lecture notes in the online course environment:
- Create a collaboration page for each module/unit where students can post their notes from each lesson.
- Recommend the Discussion area be used to post notes.
- In order to let students add documents, create posts, and/or edit their content permission needs to be granted. To do this, in Settings, click on More Options at the bottom of the page and check the boxes that state “Let students attach files” and/or “Let students create discussion posts” and “Let students edit or delete their own discussion posts”.
- Use the Conferences tool to open a space for notes during and after lessons.
- Develop an editable Page for each module/unit where students can post their notes from each lesson.
- Be sure to provide a clear and concise title for each lesson note page and ensure that both educators and learners can edit the pages by using the Options menu in the Pages tab.
If you have questions regarding which would be the best tool to offer crowdsourcing lecture notes within your course, connect with the Educational Technology Specialist for your area.
Once you have determined the best way to include crowdsourcing lecture notes as a UDL initiative in your course, inform learners and encourage them to post their notes. Some educators have found it helpful to offer an incentive for students to share notes by offering a reference letter or encouraging students to apply for the “Student Services - Note Taker – Crowdsourcing” co-curricular record credit when they have completed 15 hours or more of note taking in a course.
Occasionally educators may get a request or accommodation letter for audio recording lectures. However, supporting this request of fulfilling this accommodation can have challenges. Given learning activities, group discussions, personal sharing, etc. it can be difficult to gain an ideal recording of the lecture content. If these are challenges in your course, you may wish to provide audio recording options to all students in support of improved note taking and access to course content after the lesson is over.
When audio recording lectures will be supportive of note taking efforts, there are options that educators can employ to improve the ability of learners to get audio content that is easy to listen and study from. Educators can:
- Create a lecture overview video that includes key lecture information.
- This option creates both an audio and visual resource that supports not only note taking, but also providing multiple means of representation.
- Kaltura has an auto-caption function that can be manually corrected for accuracy and can be integrated into the online course site.
- Provide an audio overview of the lesson and post it to the course site in the folder of the week it was delivered.
- If you are using PowerPoint, create an audio overview for each slide.
- Provide comprehensive lecture notes in Word or HTML in the online course site, so that students can use the text-to-speech tools to listen to the content.
To learn more about the ways that online course tools can be leveraged to support audio recording of lectures, connect with the Educational Technology Specialist for your area.