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Volunteer Note Takers: Tips, Strategies, and Responsibilities

The services of a volunteer note taker are intended to facilitate students' full access to the material and information presented in class and are not designed to substitute for class attendance. The Office of Disability Services (ODS) does not directly locate or pay for note taker services. Any exceptions to this policy would need to be made on a case-by-case basis and approved by the ODS Director. Once the students provide their academic accommodation letter to and inform their faculty/instructors of the need for a note taker, students, not the ODS, are responsible for arranging their volunteer note-taking services.

The following suggestions are designed to help students acquire supplemental notes, provide guidelines and responsibilities for volunteers, and learn how to get the most out of the received notes.  Remember, volunteer note-takers’ notes are not designed to substitute for class attendance or students’ own notes.

Student Responsibilities in Locating a Volunteer Note Taker

  • Meet with each of professors before classes begin if possible, to discuss any accommodations you may need in class, including use of a volunteer note taker.  Ask your professors if they can provide you with copies of lecture notes or overhead materials.  Ask if there is a designated note taker, such as a supplemental instructor (SI) or teaching assistant (TA), or
  • Request the assistance of your professors with locating a volunteer note taker by asking them to read an anonymous announcement for reliable note taker services.  This will help maintain your confidentiality as a student with a disability, or
  • Request the assistance of your professors with locating a volunteer note taker by asking them to send an anonymous announcement for reliable note taker services via email and a follow-up email.  This will help maintain your confidentiality as a student with a disability, or
  • Announce your need for a volunteer note taker.  Ask your professors if you could take a few minutes at the beginning or end of a class to make an announcement requesting a volunteer note taker, or
  • Observe the students seated around you during the first class meeting for those who are diligent note takers.  After class, approach these students and ask if they would be willing to take notes for you.  It is very beneficial to have a backup note taker in the event your regular note taker is absent or decides to drop the class.

Following the Location of Volunteer Note Taker

  • Attend classes in accordance to the attendance policies
  • Determine a system of taking and exchanging notes (carbon paper, email, or copies) with professor or volunteer note taker if preferred
  • Arrange with your faculty/instructor and note taker how and when the copies will be delivered
  • Contact and notify the Office of Disability Services of any difficulties in locating a volunteer note taker or with any other concerns

Faculty/Instructor Responsibilities in Locating a Volunteer Note Taker

  • Review students’ academic accommodation letter indicating that a volunteer note taker is a reasonable and approved accommodation for the students
  • If requested, identify a teaching assistant, graduate assistant, instructional assistant, or a student with reliable notes and attendance to provide notes at the end of each class period, which will be forwarded to the student
  • If requested, read an announcement, to the class, and request for a volunteer’s reliable notes at the end of each class period, which will be forwarded to the student
  • If requested, send an announcement, via Bobcat Mail and/or TRACS, and request for a volunteer’s reliable notes at the end of each class period, which will be forwarded to the student
  • Protect the confidentiality of the student.  Do not point the student out in front of the entire class

Following the Location of Volunteer Note Taker

  • Facilitate the provision of notes to the student in order to maintain confidentiality
  • Contact and notify the Office of Disability Services of any difficulties in locating a volunteer note taker or with any other concerns

Unable to Acquire a Volunteer Note Taker?

Students and/or their faculty/instructors might be unable to locate a volunteer note taker due to the nature of the accommodation, which is volunteer-based.  If faculty/instructors or students cannot locate a volunteer from the class, the student requesting note-taking services should contact the Office of Disability Services directly to make an appointment and discuss additional note-related support.

Guidelines and Tips for Note Takers

Being a volunteer note taker does not require additional work.  Volunteers will simply share their notes already taken during class.  

  • No additional work or effort on their part.  The carbon NCR paper, which ODS provides free of charge to students for distribution to their note takers, allows the note taker to take one set of notes, and give the duplicate set to the student – no need to spend time or money at the copy machine.  If the volunteer note taker wants to keep their own notes in a spiral-bound notebook, two sheets of NCR paper can be inserted underneath the top page of the spiral notebook.  The duplicate will be made on the bottom sheet of NCR paper.
  • Maintain consistent class attendance and determine how to handle note-taking in the event of your absence
  • Provide legible, concise, and appropriate notes
  • Determine and follow a system of taking and exchanging notes (carbon paper, email, or copies)
  • Protect the confidentiality of the student.  Do not share the student’s name and the nature of the service being provided if known.
  • Talk with your professor about the notes, your role, or any question unless the student consents and prefers speaking with you directly.  Concerns that cannot be addressed by the faculty/instructor and student should be communicated with the Office of Disability Services.

Benefiting from Notes

Many students don’t realize that they create problems for themselves when they procrastinate reviewing class notes.  Each time you get a copy of another student’s notes, you should do the following:

  • Read through your notes each evening (or within 24 hours after class for optimum learning) to make sure they make sense and are legible.
  • Re-write the notes in a format or structure that will help you remember them.  If the notes are already in a format that is clear and easy to understand, it is still a good idea to rewrite them anyway.
  • Add your own notes and comments including any additional information you recall from lecture.
  • Go back and re-read the text to see how the notes relate to the material you’ve already read.
  • If you have questions about the notes (e.g. can’t read a word, or statements are unclear), check with the note taker as soon as possible for clarification. Don’t wait until it is time to study for the big test.
  • Thank the note taker for taking notes for you.  Remember this is a volunteer-based service, and the note taker is doing their best job.  Give positive feedback too.

Additional Note-Related Accommodations

The following additional accommodations will need to be approved by the Office of Disability Services, present on students’ academic accommodation letters, signed off by their professors, and returned to ODS to be activated and utilized in the classroom.

Recording Class Lectures

In addition to taking your own notes and receiving notes from a volunteer note taker, it may also be helpful to record class lectures to supplement written notes.  It is important to discuss this accommodation with each of your professors in advance of recording class lectures.  Following are some tips for recording in class:

  • First, sign the Audio Recording Agreement provided by the Office of Disability Services in order to ensure ODS, the student, and professor knows how the recorded material will be handled.
  • Obtain a small recorder from the Office of Disability Services.  If there are not any recorders available, an ODS specialist will inform students to utilize their phones or personal recording devices.
  • At the beginning of class, begin recording the lecture.
  • While taking notes, regularly check the recorder and write down the time of the recording in the margin next to your last notation.
  • At the conclusion of the lecture, each page of notes should have a series of numbers of times running down the margin.
  • If you set the recording’s counter at zero, you will be able to fast-forward to any point in your notes using the numbers in the margin.

Laptop for In-Class Notes

This allows you to type your notes in class.  This is helpful, as some professors may not allow laptops in class.  Please be sure to turn off sound and avoid internet browsing not pertaining to the course.  Some professors may have guidelines when using laptop in class.

PowerPoints, Notes, and Handouts in Advance when Possible

This is as available.  Please discuss timeline and process with professors individually as they sign off on your accommodation form.

Questions?

If you have any questions about volunteer note taker and note-related accommodations, contact the Office of Disability Services via phone at 512.245.3451 or email at ods@txstate.edu.