What has the pandemic taught us about note taking support?

The coronavirus crisis has forced us all to adapt. So how has note taking support fared? Learn what it has taught us about the practice of note taking.

Clock 3 min read Calendar Published: 18 Sep 2020
Author Luke Garbutt
What has the pandemic taught us about note taking support?

The coronavirus crisis has forced us all to adapt. So how has note taking support fared?

Note taking remains the primary means of engaging with lecture material - it’s like a gateway to learning. It’s for this reason that note taking support is at the forefront of disability services.

But note taking support creates complexities and challenges for staff. And when things go wrong, it’s easy to see how students could lose out.

Many of the accommodations offered are dependent on there being a physical classroom in the first place. When teaching moved online in Spring, issues quickly presented with existing supports and technologies that may not have been foreseen previously.

The pandemic has taught us all a lot about ourselves and our work. So what do we know about note taking support in the wake of the coronavirus, and how can we adapt these lessons to a blended/hybrid model this Fall and beyond?

The character of Disability Services

If there’s one thing we know about the Disability Services community, it’s that staff and departments are always looking to improve student experiences. It’s been borne out through our webinars, on our community platform, or when we’ve attended conferences.

Before the pandemic hit we launched a survey answered by professionals from over 100 institutions across every US state. The responses indicated just how dedicated disability services staff are to improving student independence.

Key takeaways from our note taking support survey:

  • 73.2% listed improving independence as a goal for their students
  • 64.9% of respondents are using AT at their institution for more effective learning support
  • 58.8% listed ‘what students request’ as a factor in what accommodations were offered

How did the crisis affect student experience?

The desire to improve students’ study skills, confidence and outcomes among staff is general across the board. We see evidence of a community that’s looking to innovate note taking support, away from a traditional model of provided notes towards a greater use of technology.

During the summer we interviewed students about their spring semester. As courses designed for in-person instruction were suddenly thrown online, students experienced a set of unique challenges with their learning. As one student we interviewed put it;

‘I really don’t like being forced all online. It’s a place where I can easily get distracted. I could easily fall behind because I procrastinate and I tend to focus my attention elsewhere.’ - Sean, Oregon State University

A theme which came up continually in our discussions was the passivity of sitting at home and watching a screen to access learning. Away from the physical space of the classroom, note taking as a form of active engagement became even more important.

‘If you actually take time to, you know, write it down or type it out in a note format, it will much more likely be ingrained in your brain, especially if you’re interacting with other things in your course’ - Sean

‘Being seated, looking at a screen for an hour, especially with internet access and now without the interaction… Passive learning does not work for me’ - Christopher, Williamette University

How this affected note taking support during the pandemic, as Spring turned to Summer and plans for Fall began to emerge, was an increasing awareness among staff of the importance of providing a solution that could provide a meaningful way to engage with lecture content both online and in-person.

A path forward through blended learning

During this time of transition, we’ve been surveying the community again. This time, we wanted to see how disability services professionals were approaching student outcomes in the midst of the pandemic.

And with the responses we’ve collected so far, we’re starting to see priorities crystallise for a challenging Fall semester:

  • 63.2% are operating with a Blended/Hybrid Model in Fall
  • 50% believe that equitable learning is the most important student outcome right now, with independence ranking second at 17.6%
  • 48.5% believe that audio note taking software is best placed to help their students achieve their goals

Want to have your say? Fill in our survey by following this link

A majority of respondents are now at the beginning of a blended learning semester. They’re aware that retention issues may intensify in the coming months, and they’re aware of the role that note taking accommodations will play in ensuring students get the best learning experience.

The emphasis for staff is now, understandably, ensuring students with disabilities get an equitable learning experience this semester. Many now want to ensure students can benefit from an active learning experience, rather than be pushed into passivity through accommodations like provided notes.

How are they approaching this? Through the use of technology like Glean .

Glean is blended by nature

One reason many departments have adopted Glean as their go-to note taking accommodation is because it works equally well online and in class. It’s like an amphibious vehicle, ready for any terrain.

And its been having a positive effect on student outcomes.

‘Before I started using Glean , I was a C minus student. When I got access to Glean , my grades have dramatically improved. I’m now an A student… I wouldn’t do my learning any other way.’ - Natalie, Carleton University

Asynchronous online classes, in-person lectures, zoom lessons and flipped classrooms - Glean adapts itself to all. You could say it’s a blended accommodation.

We began introducing Glean to hundreds of departments throughout the quarantine. Now, with over 450 institutions adopting it as a note taking support to fit the times, we’re seeing serious momentum build.


Written by Luke Garbutt

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See for yourself with a free trial

Learn more about Glean and a flexible free trial at your institution.

‘Adopting Glean was a no-brainer for us. Participating in the free trial gave us the opportunity to learn how students would respond to this new technology: they shared that it was very easy to use, and captured what they normally miss during class lectures. We are excited to continue to offer it to new students as the most up-to-date support for note taking’ - Lauren Accola, Office of Disability Services, Marquette University

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Time for a simpler, smarter note taking accommodation?

Glean is the online note taking tool that makes compliance simple, reduces cost and admin burden, and improves student outcomes.
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