Turning in notes pays off for students online

Knetwit, a new Web site allowing students and teachers at colleges to share and download class notes, is breaking new ground by offering payment to students whose notes are downloaded extensively.

Similar sites that offer free downloadable papers for students have come under fire for promoting plagiarism and copyright infringement, but Knetwit, which was founded in June 2007 by two students from Babson College, is designed for students to share and use notes and ideas rather than actual assignments.

No materials have been uploaded by Geneseo students so far, but the site is aggressively encouraging participation with the promise of rewards including cash payments, DVDs, iPods and more, depending on how frequently the user's notes are viewed.

"I think it's good to have another resource," said sophomore Ellen Thompson. She pointed out that many students are able to better understand material after reviewing multiple sources on the topic. "If you're taking the time to learn, I don't see that as a bad thing."

"If students are willing to take the time to study the notes, it shows they're legitimately interested," said sophomore Laura Kauppi. She said that students who skip class would probably not take the initiative to study notes taken from the site.

Political science and international relations professor Kenneth Deutsch said the site should only be used on an emergency basis. He said that for students' notes to be effective, they must be "filtered through their own minds" in class.

History professor James Williams agreed. "Part of an education is being able to take notes," he said. Williams said he does not have a problem with the site if it helps students understand what is being covered in class.

Robert Owens, professor of communicative disorders and sciences, pointed out that the site could be beneficial for students who are unable to attend a class or who have difficulty taking notes because of a physical or learning disability. He said notes downloaded from the site should be a "complement to class, not a substitute."

According to insidehighered.com, some members of academia have argued that class notes are the intellectual property of the professor and in some cases the university, and thus students may not have the legal right to distribute them. Others have argued that spoken lectures are not copyrightable, and that the notes are the property of the note-taker. The Provost's Office at Geneseo could not be reached for comment.

Knetwit is free to use, and anyone can search and view notes at knetwit.com.