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I am a distance education student at a Parisian university, and I am currently preparing for the exam in a research-level mathematics course.

While on-campus students have attended the lectures and presentations of sample problem solutions, distance education students only get incomplete lecture notes in pdf format, sample problems without solutions, and a list of recommended textbooks.

I think I was quite successful studying about 85% of the course this way, but the last one or two lectures and sample problem solutions cover some very advanced material, which is not adequately addressed by the recommended textbooks. I also could not find this material is a sufficiently concentrated form in research articles, and I estimate that it may take thorough reading and understanding of no less than 50 articles and maybe 3 months to properly figure this out by myself.

One of the professors recommended to me that I get a copy of the lecture notes and sample problem solutions from a student that attended the course in person, but when I requested a few email addresses from the secretary, she said she is not authorized to divulge that information. I asked the other professor of this course, but got no reply. I can't go to a course lecture to locate such students, because the last lecture was some time ago.

I would like some advice on what else to try to obtain the lecture notes.

  • Email can get lost. Did you try making a phone call to the professor? – earthling Apr 5 '15 at 3:53
  • I haven't tried that, but he has always answered my emails in the past, and in general, in France people feel quite free not to answer an email in lieu of a negative response. So I'm pretty sure that he either does not know the emails, or he doesn't want to give me any. Perhaps I should indeed try calling him though. – Jake Apr 5 '15 at 3:59
  • Or call the department. – keshlam Apr 5 '15 at 4:20
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    If you sent only one email, it is reasonable to send one or two more before deciding that the professor decided to ignore your request. – Sylvain Peyronnet Apr 5 '15 at 9:59
  • Can we get some clarification about how you are a 'distance ed' student? I ask because at the university I teach at, we don't offer distance ed courses but students can complete the course in this manner because everything is online/lectures are recorded. However, they are not 'proper' distance ed students and so additional materials are not offered etc. Are you enrolled as a proper distance ed or are you supposed to be on campus but choosing to complete the course in a distance ed format? – awsoci Apr 5 '15 at 23:18
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Some comments and the already given answer give advices that can be counter-productive in France. You mention that this is about a research level course so I understand that this is a "Master 2 recherche" course.

It is unlikely, for privacy reasons, that someone will give you email addresses of other students. My advice is to ask the professor to forward to a few targeted students your request.

Going to the department chair/dean will probably be useless. If you really want to go up the ladder, ask to the person in charge of the master 2. But it will probably be useless too since in the French system professors are free to do as they want for their lectures. For those surprised by that last sentence, keep in mind that having lecture notes in pdf and a list of recommended textbooks is something that you don't have in all lectures in France.

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Our university has students that take notes and scan them in so they are on record for students who miss lectures, I presume this is not available but you could check if it is.

If not, perhaps you could look on facebook or another site that may have a group for people on the course and ask there if people can send you their notes.

Failing that, you could ask the staff (professor or secretary) if they can ask the students on the course if they would email you first, so that you can give your email out without breaking any confidentiality the other way.

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I can understand them not wanting to give you students' contact information. But it would be reasonable for them to email the other students, and offer your contact information to anyone who would be willing to help.

Also, I think the professor should be giving you a copy of his own notes, and answering your questions.

But first -- make sure to ask whether that last topic area will be included in the final exam. Maybe it was just offered as enrichment.

Don't hesitate to speak with the department chair or dean about your frustrations. It may be that there are some expectations that one or more instructors are not meeting!

  • The lecturer is under no obligation to provide a copy of their own notes as this is their intellectual property, regardless of whether the student is attending on campus or completing the course as a distance ed unit. – awsoci Apr 5 '15 at 23:15

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