Note-Taking Assistance

Students who are registered with Student Disability Services (SDS) and whose disabilities affect their ability to capture lecture material while attending class can receive notetaking assistance. SDS will consult with the student to determine the most appropriate notetaking option based on the nature of the student’s access needs.

In considering the most effective notetaking solution for each class, it is recommended that students attend the first session of a class to find out what types of notetaking support is provided by the instructor, what type of notes will support the learning objectives of the course, and your ability to capture the information that is needed to complete assessments or assignments. Once this information is understood, you should select a notetaking solution that meets your access needs and aligns with the course objectives.

Common Notetaking Solutions

  • Recording of lectures
  • Use of a computer to type notes
  • Use of a notetaking app or software (e.g. Evernote, Notability)
  • Access to a peer’s notes

Options for Notetaking Assistance

There are a variety of forms of notetaking assistance. For more information about popular options that offer support for written, typed, and audio notetaking, visit our Notetaking Options webpage

We also invite you to meet with the SDS Notetaking Coordinator to explore the various notetaking solutions available.

Notetaking Apps

There are numerous notetaking apps for smartphones, tablets, and computers that make notetaking effective for all learning styles. The SDS staff are available to offer advice about these apps and help you get started using notetaking technology. You can find a wide selection on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store and also learn more about features, read reviews, and download.

Recording Tools

Students may be approved to record lectures to fill in content that was missed in class. Portable devices with recording capabilities, such as iPads, cellphones, and laptops are most frequently used for recording. SDS can also loan approved students a digital recorder or a Livescribe Smartpen.

Notes and/or recordings are for your use only and are not to be shared with other individuals. You may be asked to sign an agreement stating the terms of use of recordings.

Livescribe Smartpen

Livescribe Smartpens allow students to simultaneously record audio while taking written notes.  The pen enables the user to create a digital file and sync the handwritten notes and audio file. Students approved for this accommodation may borrow a pen from SDS.

Livescribe also provides helpful tutorials and demonstrations on their Youtube channel.

Notes and/or recordings are for your use only and are not to be shared with other individuals. You may be asked to sign an agreement stating the terms of use of recordings.

Peer Notetakers

Peer Notetakers are students who are hired to take notes for a student with a disability in a course as an accommodation. The notes represent the peer notetaker’s view of the relevant content in the course.

Please note that a Peer Notetaker does…

  • Provide clear, legible, organized notes of all class periods
  • Uploads notes within 24 hours of the end of the class meeting
  • Include announcements, discussions, questions, and examples in notes

A Peer Notetaker does not…

  • Provide notes on homework or reading assignments
  • Provide notes on optional activities like review sessions and instructor office hours
  • Include graded material or personal reflections in notes (i.e. outlining potential essay topics)
  • Solely copy from the slides/what is written on the board

Peer Notetakers are not always the right fit for every class. Consider the following scenarios and the possible alternate options:

  • A discussion section where students frequently break into small groups to talk about assignments or brainstorm ideas. In this class, any notes taken are likely to be personal reflections on the material and highly individualized to the student’s thoughts and experiences during group work.
    • An alternative to a Peer Notetaker here could be a recording device or voice-to-text software that captures the discussion verbatim. This allows students to revisit exactly what was said during the conversation without the information being filtered through a classmate.
  • A lab section of a science course where an introductory lecture or announcement is followed by practical application of skills. It is possible the notes taken during class time will be included as a graded component of the lab, or minimal notes are taken while completing the experiment.
    • A Livescribe smartpen that captures audio and links it to handwritten notes from class could be helpful! Students can return to the moment in the lecture that sparked the idea that was written down, or write a memo that says “instructions” and tap on those words later to hear the instructor’s explanation of steps.
  • A summer course that only lasts 3 weeks, with project deadlines or exams within a week of the beginning of the summer quarter.
    • Because Peer Notetakers serve as UChicago employees, recruitment and onboarding is a required process that may delay the receipt of notes. Any notetaking technology that can provide immediate access to information may be more useful when the turnaround time for assessments is short.
  • A course in which the instructor provides materials such as slides, outlines, and/or recorded lectures to all students. In this case, students may not take many notes during the class period, and therefore may not have notes to share.
    • Apps like Glean or OneNote allow students to import pictures, graphs, slides, or other instructional materials and take quick notes of announcements or explanations in the margins of the existing documents.
  • A small specialized course, perhaps cross-listed at the graduate level, that has low enrollment. In this case, the pool of potential Peer Notetakers is limited and there may not be a classmate willing to share notes.
    • In small courses, students may contact their instructor and the Notetaking Coordinator to receive summary notes when a classmate is not available.

Procedure for Requesting a Peer Notetaker – College Students

  1. Log in to the AIM Student Portal.
  2. Click on “List Accommodations” on the left-hand side of the screen and select the course(s) for which you would like to request notetaking.
  3. Click “Step 2: Continue to Customize your Accommodations.”
  4. Below each course, you will see the accommodation options that you can request for each course. Select notetaking for each course and click “Submit Your Accommodations Requests.”
  5. You will receive an email notification from AIM asking you to confirm your request. You can also log into AIM and confirm your request under the “Notetaking Services” tab on your dashboard. If the request is not confirmed within 48 hours, it will be automatically cancelled.

Procedure for Requesting a Peer Notetaker – Graduate Students

The procedure for requesting a Peer Notetaker is specific to your academic division. When first approved for notetaking assistance that requires the hiring of a notetaker or recording of lectures, please meet with your area Disability Liaison at the beginning of the quarter to discuss implementing the accommodation.

Procedure for Accessing Peer Notes – College Students

  1. Log in to the AIM Student Portal.
  2. On the left-hand side of the dashboard under “My Accommodations,” select the “Notetaking Services” link.
  3. Select “Available Notes to Download” button for your class.
  4. Use the download link to save each file to your computer. The downloaded files will be in PDF/Word/JPEG format.

Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about notetaking accommodations.

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