The approach of finals week means many in Berkeley are scrambling to learn an entire semester’s worth of course material — a feat that may prove more difficult in future years thanks to the recently announced closure of the ASUC’s lecture notes service.
This semester will be the last for which the ASUC Lecture Notes Online provides new notes due to consistently declining revenue from the service over the past several years.
Though archived notes from past semesters will still be available through the service, it will no longer generate new notes after this semester, following a Nov. 16 decision by the Commercial and Student Services Board, which oversees the program.
The program has been operating in the red for around the last five of its more than 20 years on campus, according to Kelsey Finn, executive director of the ASUC Auxiliary. Over the years, the service has seen a decline in subscribers and participants — a decline that Finn attributes to the rigorous standards applied to note-takers and advancements in technology that allow professors to webcast and podcast their lectures.
Because note-takers had to have taken the class before and make sure notes were provided to students online 24 hours after the lecture, Finn said the system was unsustainable.
“What it costs to provide the service and the number of people using the service has slipped (profits) into the negative,” Finn said. “The gap has widened over the years.”
UC Berkeley junior Loreen Atallah used the service’s help when juggling a rigorous schedule last year and found the notes neat, thorough and especially helpful when she missed a lecture.
“For harder classes when you’re unable to take a lots of really good notes, they’re great to supplement your own notes with,” Atallah said. “Having everything neatly outlined and organized was great. I used them more than my own notes when studying for midterms and finals.”
The Commercial and Student Services Board’s decision to eliminate the program was partially an effect of limited resources, according to Hedy Chen, chair of the board.
“We’re thinking about long-term impact,” Chen said. “All the services the ASUC offers are important, but because we are operating under limited resources, there are sometimes trade-offs that have to be made to ensure sustainability and quality of services into the future.”
The service, which has about 1,500 subscribers, charges $39 to $59 for a semester’s worth of notes. The cost was based on a graduated pricing structure that increased over the course of the semester.
In addition to affecting students who rely on the notes, the service’s elimination will also affect the note-takers, who will lose the $21 per hour wage the job offered but will be offered other positions within the Auxiliary. Finn added that the full-time note services staff will receive other duties to avoid staff layoffs.