How would note-taking as an accommodation be beneficial to me?

When a disability impacts a major life activity, such as learning, it can often inhibit your ability to take adequate notes while also attending to:

  • Lectures
  • Classroom Discussions
  • Presentations

In order to provide equality in these areas, we offer note-taking assistance as an accommodation.

Note Taking as an Accommodation

If note-taking assistance is one of your accommodations, you should schedule an appointment with your instructor after electronically submitting your accommodations to him or her. Typically, your instructor will arrange for a note-taker by asking for a volunteer. During your initial meeting with your instructor, you should discuss whether you want the note-taker to know your identity. If you choose to self-disclose, you and the note-taker can arrange when and how you would like to receive a copy of your notes. If you choose to remain anonymous, you should work with your instructor to determine a process for receiving the notes. If you are not receiving notes or no one volunteers, collaborate with your instructor to resolve this issue. Contact a disability specialist immediately if nothing is resolved.

After receiving your notes, meet with your instructor during office to discuss the quality of your notes. Instructors are more than willing to ensure that you have a quality set of notes. If your instructor feels the notes are inadequate, he or she will work to find you a new note-taker or help fill in the gaps.

If you are not currently receiving this accommodation and you feel this accommodation may help, please schedule an appointment with a disability specialist to discuss your options.

Livescribe Pen

Livescribe Pen

Students wishing to independently navigate the learning environment, without the need for a fellow student to serve as a note-taker, may wish to use the Livescribe Pen.  Please visit Try the Livescribe Pen for more information on acquiring and using this technology in the classroom.

A Few Tips on Taking Notes

  • Come early and sit in the front of the class to hold your attention.
  • Be sure to include the date and the title of your course on the top of your notes.
  • If available, print PowerPoints and take them to class to use a paper on which to write notes.
  • Use abbreviations (e.g., "with" = "w/", "+" = "and" and "plus"), but be sure to include a "key" so your notes can be understood later.
  • Listen and write down any information that is repeated or emphasized. Listen for keywords such as "important", "finally", "in summary", or "know for your exam".
  • Leave white space between notes so you can go back and fill in any information you missed or didn't understand.
  • Use a tape recorder with a counter to assist with note taking. Reset your recorder to zero and begin recording when the class begins. If something is said that you would like to hear again or you missed something, just look at your recorder and write down the number so you can listen to that section of the recording again.
  • If the lecture is moving fast, write down key nouns and verbs and leave write space to fill in the gaps.

There are several systems devoted to becoming a better note taker. One such system, the Cornell Note Taking System, was developed by by Walter Pauk, an education professor at Cornell University. The Cornell method provides a format for organizing and reviewing notes. A Cornell Note Taking video is available that provides a general overview of using this system. Cornell Note Taking Templates are also available from Microsoft.