This Fall, OSD changed its approach to recruiting volunteers willing to share their notes with their classmates. These volunteers, who agree to share the notes they have already taken for their own use, have been recognized in different ways over the years. We have gradually phased out cash honoraria and now recognize this gesture with credit on the Co-Curricular Record (CCR) and a prize drawing each semester.
There have always been differences in how note-taking support is approached, although it may not have been evident to students participating in the program. In Quebec, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education determines which students qualify as having a major functional disability and who require note-taking as an essential disability-related accommodation. McGill complies with the Ministry’s policies and will continue to provide paid note-taking support for these students.
This year’s changes only apply to students volunteering to share their notes with classmates who have not been identified as needing these essential supports according to Ministry guidelines. For students who do not have a major functional disability as defined by the Ministry, peer notetaking is considered a complementary and supplemental academic support.
OSD will, however, continue to facilitate note-sharing and recognize students’ participation with CCR credit and a prize drawing, as one of many learning support options available to students registered with OSD.
Our note-sharing program evolved in a campus environment very different from the one we know today. In the past, students’ notes were mostly hand-written and not easily shared. Professors rarely posted their slides or notes online and note-taking clubs (NTCs) didn’t exist. As technology has advanced, this is no longer the case and students often have multiple ways of accessing their classmates’ or instructors’ notes.
OSD must ensure that its resources provide the best possible across-the-board support for students with disabilities, and we have seen from our peer institutions that a non-financially driven volunteer model works. While we understand that this change in monetary recognition is frustrating to some students, those resources are now being redirected to a wider range of supports for students with disabilities.
By realigning our resources this year, we have been able to increase more intensive support (such as increasing one-on-one learning advisor sessions) and fully fund tutoring support. We have also created new resources to support study skills and note-taking for the student population at large, including online resources and webinars.
In addition, we are partnering with Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) to invest in new course-based technological tools that will support note-taking and skills-building for all of our students. This includes adding features to the lecture-recording system and complementary note-taking applications. Not only do these features specifically address some of the barriers related to attention and focus, they will also be made available to all students. We hope to launch this collaborative tool by Winter 2020, if not sooner, and should be able to announce more details in the near future.
While each university has its own approach, the majority of our peer institutions fall into two categories: those who have moved toward a model with no honorarium, or those which have never used financial incentive to promote peer-based volunteerism (some examples include the University of Waterloo, University of Alberta, Concordia University, University of Toronto, University of Manitoba, McMaster University, University of Saskatchewan, and Queen’s University).