Over the years, many students have advocated for changes to the University’s stance on free printing. This University-wide problem has created discrepancies between introductory biology classes’ lecture note-taking policies.
Four of the nine professors teaching BIO 311D this semester prohibit the use of computers for note-taking. Studies show the use of technology in class may hinder students’ capacity to grasp the concepts covered. However, some students prefer using their computers when printing the lecture material is not an affordable choice.
If professors do not want their students to use computers to take notes, they should provide them with printed copies of lecture materials.
Out of the four professors who prohibit computers in class, only Ruth Buskirk provides her students with printouts of lecture materials so that they can better follow along during class. Students in other classes must print out lecture materials themselves. Jonathan Partridge’s syllabus expressly states, “Lecture/weekly handouts will be posted online the night before that week’s classes, and it is on you to print and bring a copy for note annotation.”
Buskirk’s sections boast the highest percentage of students earning A’s and A-’s. One possible reason for these higher grade distributions may be because of the vastly different learning and note-taking experiences between students taking basically the same class.
Because printing isn’t free, policies discouraging the use of computers for note-taking can put a significant toll on students’ wallets. Physics senior Miguel Chapa has already spent roughly $30 printing out lecture materials for Donald Levin’s class.
Students don’t necessarily have to print out lecture materials for note-taking. In fact, the majority of students in Levin’s introductory biology class take notes in notebooks. However, graphs, charts and tables make up the bulk of lecture slides and help students better understand the material. These visuals don’t transcribe well, and students may find themselves continuously referencing lecture slides while studying for exams or doing homework. This causes a degree of disorganization that can hinder student performance.
Biology freshman Maggie Miller says she usually has to have lecture slides open in addition to her notes when she reviews lecture materials. She contrasts this with her previous experiences.
“Last semester, my professor provided the slides, and I think it helped a lot, because when I was going back through my notes to study, it made it a lot easier to follow,” Miller said.
According to Buskirk, there are a few notable benefits to providing students with printed lecture materials.
“My printed materials are focused around the learning objectives which I want to give in advance,” Buskirk said. “So, I have a handout with the learning objectives for the next few lectures in which I emphasize what I think is important.”
These objectives allow her students to prioritize their studying efforts and help them follow along with the material she covers in lectures. Buskirk also understands the fiscal burden on students to provide their own printed materials.
“We can’t ask students to print out everything,” Buskirk said. “(I understand) that one reason for only doing it online is that students don’t have to print. I feel that I can compensate and provide a handout.”
While the difference in grades cannot be solely attributed to whether or not the professor provides printed lecture materials to students, these differing policies create a needless discrepancy. If providing handouts to students or allowing them to bring their computers to class can level the playing field, these professors need to have the same policies to ensure their students have a fair shot at getting the grades they want.
Dasgupta is a neuroscience freshman from Plano.