ARG! I have this new incredible new pet peeve. In the last two weeks, I have had 26 emails from fellow classmates requesting notes for class lectures. Most of them I don’t know – they approached me on the last day of class to ask for my email – or worse, they got it from someone else. They don’t have the decency to speak to me all year – and then, all of a sudden, they come buddying up to me within the last two weeks of classes.
On top of that, they email me consistently after I agree to give them notes. It is incredibly upsetting to me – how is it that these people, who didn’t have the discipline to attend class, still manage to email me twice every day?!
I have no problem with sending someone a lecture or two. Once in a while, things come up, and you miss class and you really need someone to cover with you. No biggie! I’m definitely cool with sending someone a lecture. But when someone emails me saying they need a month’s worth of lectures – or worse, half a semester, I don’t think I am being mean by drawing a line.
I make it a personal philosophy not to give out notes – instead, I give out lecture recordings. I have two reasons for that – first, I don’t like people coming back to me and saying “but your notes said this, and your notes were wrong”. When I write notes, I write them so I can understand them, and I don’t like having to explain them or take responsibility if they are wrong – especially to someone who didn’t even bother to come to class. In addition, I send recordings with the logic that person should at least have to sit through the lecture like I did. They can take their own notes, and infer what they want from the professor’s words.
What do you think about this issue? Here is what I think: I bothered to attend class. I was the one who dragged myself two hours to campus and two hours back home to attend the lecture.Tell me how is it that this person – who didn’t bother to come to class for a month – thinks I owe them something? They email me – like they think they know me, like we have been friends all semester! Do students honestly think if they suck up to someone for five minutes on the last day of class, he/she will just jump at the chance to give you all their hard-work?
I may sound callous, but I take the time to attend lecture and make good notes, and it upsets me when someone who I don’t know thinks they can email me and I will send them the notes all in one prettily-packaged document. From someone who is an excellent note-taker, and has been asked several times to share notes, here are some tips to asking someone for their notes.
How to Get Lecture Notes for Class You Missed
1. Don’t email the list-serve: Emailing the whole class because you missed lecture is not a good move. Unless – in the rare instance -someone takes pity on you, it is unlikely you will get notes. You will only sabotage yourself from getting notes later. And, in case it wasn’t clear by the lack of response, re-emailing the class to announce no one sent you notes only pisses people off further.
2. Choose someone you know: sucking up to someone who looks smart on the last day of class is incredibly stupid. It is so obvious you are only talking to the person because you want something from them. Instead, have the decency to make a friend throughout the semester – you can both benefit from having a friend to share notes, ideas, recordings and study group sessions.
If something happens and you haven’t made a friend in your big class, and you need to ask the smart kid in the first row for notes, have some face and cut to the chase. Every person who has asked me for notes has used incredibly lame lines saying things like “you seem really smart/nice/hard-working, thats why I am asking you for notes”. Give me a break! I don’t need you to tell me I have good notes! Get your head out of my ass and cut to the chase. You want something from me, so ask for it.
3. Never leave it to the last minute: If you missed a lecture, don’t leave it till the last minute to ask for notes. Because, in the exam period when 10 other people email, you will get lost in the shuffle. Email within a week of missing the lecture – it shouldn’t take you more than seven days to write a quick emailing telling someone “Hey I missed class. Please, would you be able to send me the notes?” If it takes you three weeks to send an email, then don’t expect an instant email back.
When people leave asking for notes to the last minute, it can be a big problem. For example, I have people emailing me for lecture notes for a class in which our exam is in three days! I have the same problem with people emailing me a week before the exam – I have four other exams before the one you want notes for! I’m not going to drop my studying to sit there for hours and upload six weeks worth of lectures because you missed class!
Giving people a lot of advance notice means you aren’t in a panic during the last week before the exam, and the other person isn’t put under pressure. When someone is doing a favour for you – particularly a stranger – and you put them under pressure, they are more likely to just decide not to send you the notes. They don’t know you, they are never going to see you again, they don’t lose anything by not sending you the notes. The odds aren’t in your favour when you put someone in a pressure-cooker, so do the right thing and give them some advance notice.
4. Be careful about what excuse you use: I have heard every excuse in the book – coming back from vacation late (seriously? you spent a day in the Bahamas while I suffered through class, and you deserve my notes?!), attending funerals, doctor’s appointments, studying for another course’s exam/paper/test/quiz, stolen recorders, notebooks, laptops etc. You’d think “hey someone stole my laptop” is an original excuse – but I got three of those emails this week, and somehow, its easy for me to get cynical very quickly. If you weren’t smart enough to have a back-up system, I’m not sure why you deserve my semesters-worth of notes.
In my opinion, it is better not to give an excuse – it gives room for people to judge you. A simple “Hey, I had to miss class, and I really need the notes” is enough.
5. Offer something in return: While I don’t find it helpful when students offer me their notes from other lectures (duh, I sat in class and took good notes – thats why you are coming to me!) it is the thought that counts. It shows you recognize they are doing you a favour, and you’d like to offer something – anything – in return. The smartest students I’ve seen have offered to pay for notes. A bit of cash can go a long way – you want a service from them, be willing to pay for it. For twenty or fifty bucks, you could get a lot of great notes, and everyone is happy.
Offering something in return ensures the other person doesn’t feel cheated or coerced into giving you notes. In addition, it gives you some leverage. When people email me saying “hey, remember you said you’d send me notes?” I don’t feel particularly obligated. I never say I will send you notes – I always say, “send me an email”. Quoting a non-existent promise, or loose words as a death-grip is not a smart idea. Giving a bit of cash means you can tell the person: “hey, I’d like to buy your notes, but I need them by Friday” – it gives you a bit of bargaining power too.
Even if they don’t ask for anything, it is a good idea to give them something. At least share some of your notes in exchange.
6. Take responsibility: If you want the notes, man up and take responsibility. Don’t give the person your email address – get theirs! YOU need to email THEM – YOU want the THEIR notes, don’t you? They are not obligated to email you, fool! Your five minute chat with them doesn’t mean they will rush to their computer when they get home to make your life easier! Grow up and take some responsibility. Get their email address, email them as soon as possible so they remember you, and keep in touch with them until you get their notes.
When they don’t send notes right away, can your obnoxious attitude. Be sensitive to their scheduling needs, and find a way to make is easier for them. If a fellow student asked me for a recording an said “hey, instead of sitting there and uploading it, why don’t I just bring my USB key, and you can just copy and paste it on my key?” it is likely I would kiss them. Such a simple move makes my life so much easier! And, it is much easier for them to get several recordings off of me, because the 10 recordings will take 5 min to copy and paste, but will take hours to upload to a third party site, because the file is too big to email to you!
When you want something, ask the person what is the easiest way for them to give it to you. Offer to photocopy their notes, or bring a USB key, or meet them on their own time.
7. Say Thank You: You don’t know how many times I’ve sent fellow students notes, and they have never said thank you. They email me a lot until they get the notes, and then I never hear back from them.
Most of the time, students send you the notes because they are trying to do something nice. They are not trying to stiffen the competition against them, or get money or act out of pity. They are trying to do something nice for someone else. So, when someone offers to send you notes, thank them before AND after they send you the notes. Even if you are only talking to someone because you want something from them, common decency means saying thank you one you get it, instead of taking off.
Whats your policy on note-sharing?