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Berkeleyan

 Karyn Houston
Noteworthy: Karyn Houston keeps the campus’s note-taking service running smoothly. (Wendy Edelstein photo)
 

It's My Job

17 September 2008


 
The Berkeleyan regularly showcases staff members whose work is essential to the smooth functioning of the campus. Do you know someone whose job would interest readers? Send an e-mail with your suggestions to berkeleyan@berkeley.edu.

Karyn Houston
Manager, ASUC Lecture Notes Online

Is Lecture Notes related to Black Lightning?
ASUC Lecture Notes Online used to be Black Lightning. The name was changed when we revamped the service. It is the only note-taking service at Berkeley approved by the Board of Regents.

What does running Lectures Notes entail?
Lecture Notes (lecturenotes.berkeley.edu) is a completely Web-based business, so I manage a full e-commerce website. I also supervise student employees. Last year we employed 65 students as note takers and 30 more as editors and webmasters.

Students take the lecture notes?
Yes. For every class we cover, the student notetaker has already taken the class and earned an A. We don’t take notes unless the professor says it’s okay.

How many students subscribe?
Last year there were 2,200 subscribers to 64 classes, in subjects ranging from economics to physics. We also sell archived notes.

What’s the service’s selling point?
Students subscribe to supplement their own notes and class attendance. The service is also popular among students with disabilities, or people who can’t take notes very well, for whatever reason — ESL students, or people who have a repetitive-stress injury.

What’s your biggest challenge?
To get the students not to share their subscriptions. We have to charge the students because we’re self-supporting. If they each purchase their own subscription, it enables us to take more notes in more classes. Another challenge is convincing professors that allowing us to take notes in a class is a good idea.

What’s a misconception people have about Lecture Notes?
A lot of people are critical because they think that students are getting the notes and not going to class. There’s no way that Berkeley students could not attend class for an entire semester and still pass only by using our notes.

So what function do the notes fulfill?
Students use them as an item in what I call their learning-and-studying tool-kit — which includes listening to or viewing webcasts and podcasts as well as attending class. Lecture Notes is just one more thing they use to be a successful student. It also decreases their stress level because they always have a backup.

What do you like best about your job?
I love every element of being on campus — from all the work that’s being done here to the people you meet. The other part I enjoy is being able to help the students. We’ve built a great new website and we’re completely paperless. Now we’ve expanded the business to offer editing and transcription services for students, faculty, staff, and the public. I’m really proud of the product.