The Daily Northwestern

Student-run class notes service plans to begin selling textbook summaries

Kristina Karisch, Reporter

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After its launch at the end of Spring Quarter, the student-run service NoteShark is considering shifting its main focus toward selling textbook summaries.

NoteShark is meant to provide a service similar to SparkNotes, Medill sophomore Sidney Thomas, a NoteShark member, said.

When it launched, NoteShark sold class notes and study materials. It will continue to provide these resources but plans to pilot a program in which students would be hired to take notes on their textbooks, summarize them and add their own insight, said McCormick junior Wyatt Cook, co-founder of NoteShark. The summaries would then go on NoteShark’s website and be available for purchase, he said.

The current plan is to run a trial phase during Winter Quarter with one class, Cook said. He added that the trial would work best with a large lecture-based course such as the psychology class, so there would be a high demand for course materials.

Cook said he and his team check the notes the group sells for quality and clarity before putting them up for sale.

Before NoteShark launched last spring, the team consulted with lawyers at The Garage who specialize in patent and intellectual property law to make sure the business follows legal regulations. However, Cook acknowledged “being in the right legally does not always correspond with being in the moral (right).”

NoteShark has received mixed reactions from faculty. Cook said some have expressed support, while others have concerns.

The topic came up at a Faculty Senate meeting last spring. Religious Studies Prof. Laurie Zoloth, president of Faculty Senate, told The Daily in an email that many faculty members were unaware NoteShark existed.

“The faculty understand we have a duty to create and disseminate new knowledge — but many told us that having their ideas copied, posted and sold on the internet was not the way that academic ideas were shared,” Zoloth said. “Individual faculty members need to explain this to their classes, on the syllabus and give the rules for how to use the class materials, and the limits of that use.”

Cook said the ideal customer for NoteShark is someone who pays attention in lecture and puts work into their classes, but has trouble taking notes for the entirety of the lecture. The service’s goal is to fill that gap and allow students to come to class, absorb the material and grasp important concepts without scrambling to write down every part of the professor’s lecture and presentation, he said.

Professors can choose to have notes from their classes removed from NoteShark if they request it with the team, Cook said.

Demand for the notes is highest during midterms and finals, he said.

“People realize when finals hit that they didn’t take notes or read the book often enough,” he said. “They need a way to catch up because people here care about their grades a lot, and they know that spending a little bit of money, a couple of dollars, is going to help them get a better grade. That’s worth it for them.”

Email: kristinakarisch2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @kristinakarisch

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