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After leaving school I set myself the goal of completely digitalizing my note-system. Because of this I now scan all hand-written notes and make digital notes while in lectures and keep them nicely ordered on my laptop.

After a couple of days I realized, I could as well share these notes with my co-students having the same courses, which is what I am doing right now.

I've now (sometimes) observed an attitude among them along the lines of "I don't need to go the lectures, X will take notes anyways and I understand them better than the actual lecture". This also resulted in most of them taking (nearly) no notes on their own at all, however I'm not 100% certain they would have without my notes.

So I'm no longer sure this is the right thing to do, so I wanted to ask here:

Should I share my course notes with my co-students having the same courses?

A few notes on what they have access to: They have basically everything (e.g. notes on the lecture, public lecture slides, lab notes, assignment solutions, assignment corrections) where I enforce the policy of not sharing assignment solutions before the end of the admission period.
The notes in question are current, e.g. they are not ahead of the courses and we all have the courses (largely) together. Everything is shared via the university-run OwnCloud service from and the actual process of uploading / sharing is no more than doing one addition conversion and making a bunch of copies.
If it matters: I study computer science in Germany.

  • Please clarify as it was a bit confusing - Are these course notes for courses that you attended in previous years but that are mostly identical year to year? Or are these notes that you and your co-students are taking at the same time? – Carol Jun 7 '16 at 20:14
  • @Carol, most of them are taking (close to) no notes at all right now. The notes in question are the current, e.g. they are in no way ahead of the lecture. – SEJPM Jun 7 '16 at 20:16
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You have just discovered some of the seemingly irrational ways in which students sabotage themselves and behave contrary to their own interests, and how they sometimes do this precisely in response to an attempt to help them by offering them useful resources.

Professors constantly struggle with this issue: do I offer my students lecture notes? A practice exam? Homework solutions? A detailed outline of the topics I covered in each lecture with precise references to the textbook? Etc. What one observes is that sometimes by the very act of offering such resources you paradoxically hurt the students by reducing their incentive to come to class or take other action that is important for their educational success.

What makes these decisions especially tricky is that almost always, offering these resources does in fact help many students while at he same time hurting others who have the inclination to respond in this counterintuitive and self-defeating way. So it is a real dilemma about whether you insist on helping the "deserving" students who are not tempted to slack off because you made their lives a bit easier, or take a more "social engineering" approach that tries to optimize the success of the class as a whole without getting drawn into moralistic judgments about which students' needs are more deserving of being addressed.

To summarize, I don't have a good answer to your question. All I can say is that you need to think what goal exactly you are trying to achieve by sharing your notes, and then consider (keeping in mind my analysis above) whether the sharing actually helps or hinders that goal.

  • Thank you very much for your answer, however I'll wait at least 24h before I'll accept any answer, so please don't be offended if you don't get the instant-accept :) If you see 24h of inactivity on this question (and no other posted answers), feel free to ping me and I'll give you the accept. – SEJPM Jun 7 '16 at 20:36
  • @SEJPM no worries, I assure you I won't be offended no matter what ends up happening, including if you accept another answer or don't accept any answer at all. – Dan Romik Jun 7 '16 at 21:39
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Your main concern appears to be the pedagogical aspect of posting your notes so widely. Is it your responsibility to worry about whether it is doing your co-students a disservice? @DanRomik is pretty articulate in his answer about faculty struggling with this same question in all aspects of course design and administration.

You are a student, the more relevant concern should be; Is posting the lecture and class notes as you do supporting the faculty's methods for the course design or not. Are you are working with him or counter to him? (This is only coming up in my mind because it sounds as if you have a rather large operation going that large numbers of students are counting on! and is affecting how they interact with the course/professor).

If I were your professor, I'd prefer if you eventually came by to ask me whether I found it helpful or not. I'd likely welcome that the notes are posted. I may have some requests to tweak the timing or type of information you post because of other administrative bits that you don't know. Or I may tweak what I do in class to use it to better advantage for all students.

  • as for "large operation": 8 people should have access right now, not exactly a large operation, but I'll consider your advice. – SEJPM Jun 7 '16 at 21:18
  • Normally, (at least in US) students in study groups and others share notes informally and it would be unusual that students talk to me about it. However, while I may or may not be unusual, I am always glad if a student has a concern about something that feels 'off' and comes to discuss it with me. Those are the conversations I feel the best about, as if I was able to step in at just the right moment to 'mentor' someone about something important. Of course, now that I know about Stack Exchange, I'll probably be telling my students about it early in their careers. – Carol Jun 8 '16 at 16:18

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