Point/Counterpoint: Should professors post their notes online?

Our writers examine the benefits and pitfalls that come with easily accessible online notes

Point: No, you should just go to class

It’s nice to have posted notes to fall back on sometimes, like when the first snowfall happens and you wind up stuck in traffic for two hours on the way to class. But a few bullet points on a generic PowerPoint background isn’t actually going to teach you a whole lot. Most professors explain their notes in their lecture, and a lot of key details are lost without that context. If your professor is anything like one I had last year, who would post blank slides with single words (like “brain” or “apple”) on them, you’re in trouble. Even if the notes are comprehensive, going to class is better for your learning. You can add pertinent information to your notes, ask questions in real time, and get sweet, sweet participation marks.

This isn’t just an issue for students, though: posting notes online can be bad for your instructors too. Your prof’s notes are their intellectual property, and sometimes students aren’t respectful of that. A quick Google search reveals tons of note-sharing sites, where people distribute (and sometimes buy and sell) class notes without a prof’s permission. This is a headache for your prof to sort out, and a headache for you — there’s no way to guarantee that notes found on a random site will be accurate, and violating the Code of Conduct could result in disciplinary action.

So next time you just can’t make it to class, ask a buddy for notes or email your prof instead. It’s better than trying to decode some vague slides at best, or coming under fire for plagiarism at worst.

— Christine McManus

Counterpoint: If profs don’t post them, we’re screwed

Let’s face it: in the grand scheme of things, most professors’ lectures are boring as hell. Why would you feel incentivized show up everyday to class, for 50 minutes — or god forbid, 80 minutes — of your prof reading, in soul-sucking monotone, word-by-word, their PowerPoint slides?

Sure, some classes are lecture-heavy, engaging, and the slides those profs use do need some more context. But we all know that some profs are absolutely useless when it comes to their lectures, and for them, you may as well read their posted notes and use them in conjunction with the textbook. You can use your newly freed-up time to catch up for another class you’re behind on, or spend time doing a hobby. Take up juggling or card tricks or latte art or something. The world’s your oyster.

If your prof is really good, however, and you do need to borrow a classmate’s notes to catch up on a missed class, you should still have access to the lecture slides, and here’s why. Some people are awful note-takers, adding six thousand addendums to their main points, failing to mark out where topics end and begin, and just generally writing vague statements that you can’t puzzle out. In this case, you should have the lecture slides, no matter how bare-bones, to help you map your way through your pal’s chicken-scratch.

Of course you should attend the classes where the lectures actually matter, but for where they’re useless, shouldn’t students have the option to use their time in a more effective manner? The answer is yes: post those notes.

— Andrew McWhinney 

Christine McManus

Christine McManus is the current Managing Editor at The Gateway. When she's not writing articles or at choir rehearsal, she enjoys spending quality time with her cat, Scotty.

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