Note-taking Accommodations in the Classroom

Note-taking Accommodations

Some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes. For example, a student with an auditory processing problem may take few or unclear notes. Physical and hearing impairments may also limit speed and make note-taking difficult. A note-taking accommodation is intended to provide information that the student would have gotten on his/her own, if it were not for his/her disability. 
Note-taking assistance is provided as a necessary academic accommodation and is not considered a substitute for a student’s full participation in class. Assistance is determined on a class-by-class basis and is dependent upon the nature of each course and the method of instruction as it relates to the student’s documented disability. Notes and/or recordings are for a student’s personal study use only and are not to be shared with other individuals unless you provide notes to all class participants.

Common ways to provide note-taking accommodations include the following:
•    Guided notes
•    Instructor lecture notes
•    Presentation slides
•    Peer Notetaker notes
•    Audio recordings

Guided notes are outlines, provided by the instructor, with spaces or blanks that the student can fill in during the lecture. Guided notes encourage student participation during class and minimize the amount of writing required to keep up with the information being presented. Students may be permitted the use of a laptop or mobile device and note-taking software for note-taking. You may provide outlines electronically to support note taking.
Lecture notes are notes provided to the student by the professor prior to the lecture. Some professors provide comprehensive notes for each class, eliminating the need for additional note taking assistance. These notes may take the form of PowerPoint slides, LMS notes, or other formats. If we determine that additional notes are not necessary, then the instructor-provided notes will suffice for this class.
Presentation slides are copies of the classroom presentation provided prior to class. Copies of presentation slides might also serve as guides for note-taking. Having the slides available during class will allow the student to focus on the presentation and minimize the amount of copying or writing required.
Peer Notetaker Notes are copies of notes from a designated note-taker that are shared through the Bison Accessibility Portal. While these notes are easy to use, the legibility or clarity of the notes may limit their usefulness. These notes are also the note takers interpretation of the lecture, which may not match what the student may need to remember (key concepts). For these reasons, it is best if the student can take some notes for themself.

Audio recording is the most accurate and complete way to capture class information, except in situations where the lecture format is highly visual, as it might be in math or science classes (math problems on the board or demonstrations in science). The student is responsible for recording the lecture and other class information.

Classes That Contain Sensitive Material (i.e., Self-Disclosure)
Occasionally, instructors object to recording classes that involve a great deal of self-disclosure, personal reflection, or confidential discussions from students or presenters as part of the class, fearing that the recording device will inhibit students from sharing freely or would risk anonymity. However, it is important to remember that the use of the recording device is to substitute and support the student’s note taking ability. If these open discussions are not appropriate subject matter for any student to be taking notes, then it would be appropriate to make a general announcement to the class and ask all students to stop note-taking, in addition to turning off any recording devices.
If instructors have questions or concerns regarding the recording of their class discussions, or the nature of the information presented and discussed, please consult with an Acessibility Specialist in the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources.
Instructor’s Right to Privacy and Protecting Copyright
If an instructor objects to the use of a recording device, it is typically because they maintain that their right to privacy of information discussed in the classroom is being violated or because there is a concern about a breach of copyright. However, the instructor’s right to privacy or concern over copyright does not override the student’s right to accommodation.
For more information on the rights of students approved for Audio Recording Lectures, please see the Office for Civil Rights – Q & A Regarding Audio Recording.
It is the responsibility of Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources (CADR) to see that the instructor’s concern for privacy and protection of copyright is respected and addressed while still assuring the availability of accommodation for the student. In some instances, instructors are reassured about this through the adoption of an agreement between the instructor and student that details the specific limited use of the recordings and arranges for their disposal when the purpose of the recording has been fulfilled. CADR can assist with the completion and oversight of such an agreement.

Available Solutions

Note-taking accommodation may be provided in one of the following methods:
1.    GLEAN (formerly Sonocent Audio Notetaker)
Glean is an application that can be used from a computer or mobile device for recording lectures. Users can embed PDFs to accompany the audio recording. Students can add their own text notes alongside the recording and can highlight sections of the audio for future reference. More information and tutorial videos can be found at 

2.    LiveScribe™ Pens
CADR has a limited supply of LiveScribe pens to provide to students. These pens can be loaned to students to use for all of their classes. LiveScribe pens record both the audio of lectures and the student’s own written notes, and the two are synced for convenient playback. Notes can then be stored and played back in a variety of applications, including Evernote and Google Docs. More information about the Livescribe pen can be found at

3.    Notes provided by the professor
Some professors provide comprehensive notes for each class, eliminating the need for additional note-taking assistance. These notes may take the form of PowerPoint slides, class notes, or other formats. If we determine from the professor that additional notes are not necessary, then the instructor-provided notes will suffice for this class. The professor is not required to provide their personal notes or create comprehensive notes if they have not already been created for the class.

4.    Digital recorders
Our office has digital recorders available for loan if students do not wish to use the Livescribe pen but still want to record the lectures.

5.    Use of a personal laptop or mobile device
Individuals who are eligible for use of a laptop computer or mobile device for note-taking are responsible for bringing a laptop or mobile device to each class/meeting. Students are only permitted to use appropriate note-taking programs/software during class. Students found to be misusing this accommodation (i.e., using the Internet when not permitted during class) may have this accommodation revoked and an alternate provision implemented.

6.    Written notes by an in-class note taker
This accommodation is intended for:

  • Students with sensory disabilities, for instance, those that cannot see the board, cannot write notes and watch the interpreter, etc. 
  • Students with physical/mobility disabilities that impact the ability to write notes 
  • Students with an auditory processing disability that impacts their ability to interpret what is actually said in class. 

An in-class notetaker may be assigned to your class to record notes. The note taker will upload a copy of the notes to the Bison Accessibility Portal after each class. Students can download the notes at your convenience from the portal. The note taker will be a student enrolled in the class, and the identities of students receiving notes is confidential. Students must attend class to receive notes using this accommodation. If they are absent from class, the notes may not be provided. Peer notetaker notes are not considered a substitute for a student’s full participation in class.
If a note taker is not identified within 3 days, it is the responsibility of the student to contact CADR and a second request will be sent out, as well as the implementation of alternatives. If no note takers are identified, the student is to contact CADR to discuss alternative options.

Notetaker Request process

Students that receive the accommodation of Notetaking will request it, per class, in the Bison Accessibility Portal (BAP).  When a student requests a peer note-taker, you will receive a Faculty Notification Letter through email with the approved accommodation.
If you are already providing notes and/or posting them on Blackboard, the student receiving the accommodation does NOT need to confirm the need for a notetaker in the Bison Accessibility Portal (BAP).
If access to notes is not already provided, the student needs to:

  1. “Confirm” their Notetaking Services Request.  
  2. Once that has been confirmed in the BAP, the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources will email you the information on Recruiting a Notetaker.
  3. Make the following announcement to your class, “There is a student in our class who needs a copy of the class notes. Volunteers who complete the note taking assignment for the semester receive a gift card and certificate of recognition. If you take clear, concise notes and are willing to provide them, please follow up with me after class to receive instructions on how to sign up online.”
  4. If a Volunteer Notetaker comes forward, provide the log in information, from the recruitment email, to the volunteer.  
  5. The volunteer will complete the Notetaker application process in the BAP and CADR will link them to that specific class.  
  6. The volunteer will then upload the notes to the portal and it will sync to the students receiving that accommodation for that class. 
  7. The student receiving the notes is then able to download the notes.

If a note-taker does not volunteer after 3 days, please direct the student to CADR for alternate note-taking options. 

Other solutions

There are many other solutions that are available on laptops and mobile devices. The Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources has a list of some available options at:

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