More Students Paying for Class Notes

For the college student who has trouble writing notes while listening to a professor talk, or has skipped class and missed an important lesson, take heart -- someone out there is taking notes for you.

Websites such as ShareNotes.com, GradeGuru.com and NoteHall.com allow students to sell their class notes online or share them for free. Reactions from professors are mixed, but the services are growing.

GradeGuru Founder Emily Sawtell said her website, which she successfully pitched to her employer McGraw-Hill Higher Education, started with users from just a few universities in 2008. Now GradeGuru has users from more than 300 universities.

"I'd like to think it's [successful] because it serves a need," she said. "It really taps into an activity that students wanted to be able to do, and it makes it now more efficient and gives students more reason to be open and collaborative with their peers."

Notehall co-founder Sean Conway said his site has grown from 13,000 users in 2008 to about 150,000. Notehall currently offers notes from 32 universities, and Conway said he plans to launch the site at more universities in the fall.

Note-taking businesses were traditionally small, local stores in college towns.

Nittany Notes, near Penn State, has been in business for 23 years. Einstein's Notes, a store near the University of Florida in Gainesville, and Smokin' Notes, a Gainesville business that sells its note packets through local bookstores, hire UF students to take notes. Students with a good GPA -- Einstein's Notes advertises a 3.6 minimum -- can apply.

Strictly online services are fairly new.

Notehall was also founded in 2008. Co-founder Justin Miller was a student at the University of Arizona, Conway a recent graduate. To help fund their company, they got help from the business world. In 2009 Notehall received about $500,000 from investors willing to give the young company a boost.

In addition to sharing and selling class notes, these websites allow students to build online communities, form study groups and give feedback by rating each other's notes. They also offer something many local note-taking stores cannot -- downloadable notes at any time of the day or night.

Students Go Online to Buy Class Notes

As more business shifts online, traditional note-taking businesses are trying to update their business model. Last year Nittany Notes started offering some of its notes online for purchase. Tom Matis, Nittany Notes owner, said his store will be adding more class notes online in upcoming semesters.

To sell notes or share them for free on GradeGuru or Notehall, where notes are categorized by college, students register on the website and simply upload their documents.

GradeGuru users earn points each time someone downloads their notes; they cash in points for money, gift cards or donations to charity. Notehall users sell notes for a set price -- study guides sell for $1; lecture notes, 25 cents -- and keeps about half of the profit Notehall makes on each sale.

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