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I'm an undergraduate student in the Netherlands, and as the title states, I'm encountering an annoying situation. How should one deal with the situation of constantly being asked for the notes of a lecture, summaries of book chapters, flash cards, etc by other, fellow-students?

I do not mind to share my stuff with my study-group, because everyone is working hard in the group, and we all benefit from each other, however what I do mind, is strangers (from my course) approaching me for my work; it even went as far as people offering me money for summaries, and other work of mine. Also, I don't mind when someone approaches me asking for an explanation to something; I like to explain material to other people; since I benefit from that as well. I, and others, however feel that it would be unfair to give away the work, on which we worked on very hard, to someone who didn't do anything.

I know it would be easy to just give in, and thus having dealt with the problem. I just fear that:

  • The students will come back for more
  • They will give me the guilt if they can't study with my notes and don't receive the grade they wanted
  • It will go around and more and more people will come to ask

So, how can one politely deal in such a situation? I do not want to appear as hubristic or miserly.

  • Why not just give them the notes and adopt a Gandhi perspective? I believe you can help and at least give the lecture notes courses. Of course, for projects, homeworks, I too wouldn't be so helpful. – Mikey Mike Oct 22 '16 at 14:51
  • Say it with me: "Nee." (But take the repeated requests as a complement.) – JeffE Mar 21 at 19:53
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Giving course notes is probably ok, if you are happy to provide them as a one-off.

If becomes a regular occurrence and the person has no very good reason to not take their own notes (disability or serious family constraints), I think it is perfectly reasonable not to be "their mule". Once is fine, twice is perhaps ok, three times is being exploited. You are not being rude by saying no. It is simply unfair to you for them to exploit you. Don't let them define what is acceptable middle ground, they clearly push the limits to their own advantage.

However, in my time some students produced LaTeXed versions of course notes for everybody to use. If that's what you want to do, it's your perfectly acceptable choice (but it would be a good idea to check with the lecturer - in my time, our lecturers were enthusiastically in favour of a student-typeset version of their lecture which could even serve as a basis of a book; these days, copyright issues may make some lecturers wary of agreeing to that, so - ask!).

Giving out homework is a strict no-no - it's an assessment offence (collusion), and plus, you do not really help them this way to learn.

Addendum: since you are worried that they blame you for later failure, if you give them out make a clear disclaimer that the notes are incomplete and inaccurate and you take no responsibility for their content.

  • 2
    One possible way of making the disclaimers clear would be to put your study materials (excluding homework, of course, and with prior permission from instructor) on the web. This would have some added benefits: (a) people pestering you on an individual basis could be reduced, because you'd have a standard answer to repeat ("whatever I can give you is posted at [address]"); (b) it would be more consistent and fair; and (c) students asking for materials would be able to contribute to this body of materials through comments and submissions to your website. It would be reasonable to... – aparente001 Oct 23 '16 at 14:05
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    ... ask some of these fellow students to help out with setting up and maintaining such a website. It would also be reasonable to ask your department for support. I can imagine a variety of ways the department could support these efforts. Basically, what I'm wondering is, how did the responsibility for so many students' learning come to reside on your shoulders? – aparente001 Oct 23 '16 at 14:07
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    @aparente001 those are some great comments! you should form them into an answer if you have the time. Regarding your question. the responsibility came from that people saw my notes and exam preparation and were very fond; I created several glossaries and plenty of flash cards which include plenty of helpful mnemonics I thought of for the exam - and that somehow spread around. – Ebbinghaus Oct 23 '16 at 16:18
  • @Ebbinghaus You now learnt that: doing someone a high-quality favour turns it into your duty ;-) There's this Chinese proverb: when you save someone's life, you become responsible for them.... – Captain Emacs Oct 23 '16 at 16:49
  • @Ebbinghaus - I see my comment as an embellishment to the answer from the Captain. // It seems you have a natural pedagogical talent. – aparente001 Oct 25 '16 at 3:10
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Actually it’s not bad at all to say no even at the first time. I am a student from Netherland and study in University of Padova, Italy. I have asked to few of my classmates to share their lectures and they refused to share by saying “sorry”. And I did not mind. On the other hand one girl said she will share her notes but when I asked to give she made excuses that I will bring tomorrow and then next day and then next day. I really felt bad because she didn’t say NO and actually played with my belief !!!!. So i recommend to simply say NO on a very first time.

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