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Internet notetaking service requires caution

By The Wildcat Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
May 1, 2000
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Versity.com, an Internet notetaking service that hires UA students to publish their class notes on the Web, ought only to be used at the discretion of individual professors.

On Wednesday, UA student and Versity.com operations manager Luke Denmon inappropriately advertised for the company in Prof. Jim Mitchell's Journalism 208 class. Armed with a megaphone, Denmon entered Mitchell's classroom and encouraged students to get their notes off the Web instead of attending class.

This means of advertising is clearly inappropriate, and if Versity.com wants to continue benefitting from the UA's business, it ought to rethink its marketing ploys.

Even more importantly, professors ought to be able to choose whether or not their notes can be published on Versity.com. Currently, Versity.com has hired 40 student notetakers for 50 UA classes. Versity.com began operating at the UA last semester.

According to Prof. Mitchell, using notes on Versity.com is less effective for students than actually attending class.

"Spending 10 minutes on Versity.com is not like spending 10 minutes with a professor," Mitchell said.

Furthermore, posting class notes on the Web could be a copyright violation. UA accounting professor Leslie Cohen opposes the service for this reason.

"If they have my permission then it's no big deal," Cohen said. "I think there is some violation of academic property."

Internet services are rapidly gaining popularity, and the laws surrounding Internet publication are still fuzzy. Considering that Versity.com's service could potentially be deemed a copyright violation, the UA should be careful about allowing students to publish class notes-which are arguably the property of professors-on the Internet for the world to use.

Also, students are actually gaining less by using such services than they would if they made an effort to attend class. For students to rely upon unreliable and error-filled notes-as many class notes found on Versity.com are deemed to be-is sad, considering that they could be getting a better deal by listening to their professors.

On his own website, Prof. Mitchell advises students against using such notetaking services. Mitchell says he found "five flat-out factual errors" and virtually incomprehensible statements on Versity.com's notes. This alone ought to dissuade students from using the service, for they could be hurting themselves in the end.

True, students will always manage to find an easy way out. Copying notes from friends and tape-recording lectures are common practices.

But the Internet is still such a new medium that many of the laws surrounding it have yet to be explored. To freely allow students to publish notes on Versity.com is a bad idea.

Until a precedent is set regarding whether the practice of publishing class notes on the Web is valid, the UA ought to make sure professors have the freedom to choose whether or not their notes are used by Versity.com.

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