Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nexus Notes Website Selling Lecture Notes

The website "Nexus Notes" is selling notes prepared by students about their university lectures. This is reported to have come in for criticism from New Zealand universities (Unis frown on note-sharing website as bright students cash in, Nicholas Jones, New Zealand Herald, Aug 12, 2014). But if the notes don't breech copyright and don't reveal the results of assessment questions, I can't see there is a problem.

I budget the amount of reading and other work I ask my students to do, to fit within the time allocated for the course. Also I provide them with notes (of about eight to ten pages a week) summarising the material. In addition I don't require they attend lectures. However, the assessment is designed to test their knowledge of the subject matter and if they have not done the readings and exercises, they are unlikely to be able to do the assessed work.

One problem is that some students are undertaking full time work and full time study at the same time. University courses are designed on the assumption that a full time student will spend around 40 hours per week on study. If the student also has a full time job, they will be unable to do the required study as well.

International students are limited by their student visa to working 40 hours per fortnight. The maximum weekly hours of work in Australia are 38. This would make for a working week, study and paid employment of 78 hours. Some Australian shift workers may work for 12 hours per day, seven days a week (84 hours a week). But these workers then receive the equivalent days off to reduce the total hours worked. The student's 78 hour week for 12 weeks of a semester would not meet Australian working conditions.

As a working student myself, the alternative I prefer is more terms per year, so I can do fewer courses at once. Australian universities have traditional had two semesters per year with long breaks. This would suit students who can find full time work in the breaks (this is allowed for international students). However, this would not suit students who have regular work. An alternative would be four terms per year, with minimal breaks. A student could then undertake just two courses at a time (20 hours a week) , allowing time for paid work. (Open Universities Australia uses this four term format. Some universities have special summer terms to add extra courses to their two semester format, but these are not seen as the norm.

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