Types of Notetaking Assistance

There are three primary forms of notetaking assistance:

  1. Resources provided by your professor - either by request or for the class as a whole.
  2. Notetaking apps, software, and technology - there are a number of options to choose from, depending on your personal preferences.
  3. Peer notetaker. In some cases, a peer notetaker can provide class notes. SAS can help find peer notetakers.


Many options may be available to students directly through their professors.  Students should reach out to their professors and see what they might be able to provide that could serve for this accommodation.

  • If there are no (or insufficient) resources available from the professor, students should reach out to SAS to discuss notetaking alternatives.


As of Fall 2021, SAS will no longer offer subscriptions for Sonocent Audio Notetaker or Glean. Students who previously used Audio Notetaker will still be able to access all existing content and can export that content to another format (links to YouTube video). Students who wish to can also purchase a subscription for themselves by visiting the Sonocent website. At this time, Sonocent is changing the focus of their services and Glean has become their primary product.

Notetaking is a very personal activity. Finding a strategy that works for you might take some time and experimentation. When choosing a notetaking strategy, try one that is easy to understand and organize. Some options for notetaking programs are given below. If you'd like to learn more, try a Google search for "best notetaking apps in 2021" or "best notetaking strategies." 

One powerful tool at your disposal is the suite of Office 365 tools offered at IC. Go to apps.ithaca.edu to access the online versions of OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. Click on the "Office 365 Portal" icon to view all available apps and download desktop versions of the most popular Microsoft tools. The desktop versions of these programs typically offer more features than the more streamlined web (or online) versions of the apps that are accessed from the main apps.ithaca.edu page. 

LinkedIn Learning Course: Smarter Note-Taking with Microsoft Office 365: You will be prompted to log in with your IC Netpass and password to access this course. Learn how to handwrite digital notes, record audio and video, use speech-to-text features, create to-do lists, and more!

The following programs are some of the options for recording and/or transcribing lectures. When recording, be sure to sit close to the speaker and try an external microphone if the transcription is garbled or the audio quality is not excellent. 

Programs for Recording and Transcribing Lectures
Program Platform Record Transcribe

Editable Transcript

Microsoft Word Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, Browser Yes Yes Yes Free
Microsoft OneNote Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, Browser Yes No N/A Free
Otter.ai Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, Browser Yes Yes Yes Free (with limits)
Google Voice Typing (in Chrome) Browser No Yes Yes Free
Smart (Voice) Recorder (by SmartMob) Android Yes No N/A Free
Voice Memos iOS Yes No N/A Free
Audacity Mac, Windows Yes No N/A Free

One of our favorite tools for notetaking is Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is a multi-featured organizational program that allows you to take typed or handwritten notes (using a stylus and a tablet or mobile device), record audio, tag notes to audio recordings, create to-do lists, annotate uploaded PowerPoint slides, and more. If you are unfamiliar with OneNote, here are a few useful video tutorials to help get you started.

Get started with OneNote (Windows): This video is a quick introduction to how information can be organized in OneNote.

Different versions of OneNote: Very useful intro! Not all versions of OneNote are the same. The Windows and Mac desktop versions are the most effective for audio recording. You can access the IC version of Office 365 through apps.ithaca.edu. Click on the “Office 365” icon at the top of the page to view the online version of OneNote or download the desktop version.

How to use OneNote (Mac and iPhone): Includes an overview of creating a notebook, creating sections pages, and subsections, editing notes, adding links, using the tags tool, scanning a document, making an audio recording (on a phone), using a stylus, using the Immersive Reader, and sharing your notes.

Recording audio and video with the desktop version of OneNote (OneNote for desktop): Remember, there are different versions of OneNote. The online version only allows for a few minutes of audio recording. Switch to the desktop, Windows 10, or mobile versions to record longer audio files.

LinkedIn Learning Course: Learning OneNote for the web: This set of videos gives you a basic rundown of how to use many of the features available for the web version of OneNote. As mentioned above, the web version is a more streamlined version of the fuller-featured desktop version, but can be very useful for editing and updating existing notes.

The online version of Microsoft Word (the Office 365 version) now has an audio transcription feature that allows you to record and transcribe audio. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Record audio live from your computer or device
    • Pro: No limit to how much audio you can record and transcribe
    • Con: Audio must be processed when you are done with the recording. If you need to leave for another class immediately, the file might not have enough time to process.
  2. Upload an audio file for transcription
    • Pro: Much less processing time. You don't need to worry about ruining a file that isn't done processing if you have to close your computer.
    • Con: There is a limit to 5 hours of uploaded recordings per month.

Learn more about recording and transcription in Microsoft Word.

If you prefer writing notes by hand instead of creating electronic notes there are tools for you, too! Most notetaking strategies were originally developed for handwritten notes and there are a host of new options for combining both electronic and paper for a more dynamic notetaking experience. The following list gives some examples of things to try:

Smart pens (or, digital pens) are tools that help you digitize notes and drawings. Most combine writing (or drawing) with audio recording, making them ideal tools for taking notes in class.  SAS has a number of LiveScribe "Echo" smartpens available for students to borrow. If you have an interest in trying one, contact the Adaptive Technology Specialist at sas@ithaca.edu. You can also watch the LiveScribe tutorial video to see how the pens work. At this time, the Echo smartpen has been discontinued and is not available for general purchase. If you are interested in purchasing (or learning more about) smart pens and smart notebooks, however, there are a number of excellent options to choose from! Some of these include:

  • Livescribe Symphony - Works in combination with a mobile device (for audio recording) and special paper, the Symphony looks and feels just like a regular pen. When paired to a phone or tablet, both notes and audio are recorded and can be shared to cloud storage (such as Google Drive, OneNote, or Dropbox). Handwritten notes can be converted to digital, searchable text and translated into multiple languages.
  • Moleskine Pen + Ellipse - This system also combines a pen with specialized paper. Notes are digitized in real time and can be viewed on a tablet, smartphone, or computer. 
  • NewYes Smartpen - The NewYes pen can detect changes in pressure and can therefore be a good choice for drawing. This pen also requires special paper and works in tandem with a smartphone to record audio. Notes can be shared in multiple formats and handwriting is digitized to create searchable notes.


Peer notetakers are typically students in your class who volunteer to share their notes. SAS makes an attempt to find peer notetakers but there is no guarantee that a volunteer will be found.
  1. Meet with your instructor to discuss what resources are available for the class and what additional materials they can provide.
  2. Talk to an SAS specialist about alternate solutions such as notetaking software or a LiveScribe pen.
  • Notify SAS as soon as possible if you drop a course or no longer need a notetaker.
  • Continue to attend class regularly. Receiving notes from a notetaker is not a substitute for going to class.
  • Notify SAS If you have any problems with the quality or quantity of the notes you receive.
  • Be responsible with the notes you receive. You will not share the notes from your notetaker with other students or by any other means (e.g., social media).

If you would like SAS to help find a peer notetaker, complete the Notetaker Request Form.

  • Once a notetaker is found, SAS will notify you and provide you with information on how to access your notes.
  • All notes will be uploaded to a SharePoint site and will be available for the duration of the semester.

All questions about the notetaking program can be directed to  sasnotes@ithaca.edu.

If you have any trouble with the notes received from a peer notetaker, contact SAS at sasnotes@ithaca.edu. Remember, SAS cannot control the quality or quantity of notes received from a peer notetaker but can talk with the notetaker to try to correct an issue if it arises. 

If SAS does not know there is a problem we can’t fix it. It is also often difficult to correct problems retroactively. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know right away!

SAS works with professors to find notetakers in specific classes. You can become a peer notetaker by responding to requests for notetakers submitted by your professor. You can also contact the SAS Notetaker Coordinator at sasnotes@ithaca.edu if you are willing to take notes and the courses you are enrolled in. SAS will get in touch if a student requests notes for any of your courses. 

Benefits of Volunteering as a Peer Notetaker 

  • Peer notetakers often see an improvement in the quality of their own notes as they make an effort to make them clear and presentable for the student who will receive them. 

  • Peer notetakers who submit quality notes throughout the entire course of the semester will receive a written letter of appreciation from SAS to verify their participation in the program. 

As a peer notetaker, you agree to: 

  • Submit notes within 24 hours of class. 

  • Notes should be submitted as PDF or Word documents (not images, such as those taken by the camera on your phone). 

  • Notes should include a date and should have a file name that includes the course number and date (e.g., BIOL 10900 01 9-24-2017). 

  • Inform SAS as soon as possible if you are unable to take notes for any given class or if there are no notes for a particular class (e.g., if class is canceled, class time is spent taking a test, student presentations, etc.). 

  • Maintain confidentiality with respect to the student you are taking notes for. 

  • Notify SAS if you withdraw from the course or are otherwise unable to continue as a peer notetaker. 

All questions about the notetaking program can be directed to the SAS Notetaking Coordinator at sasnotes@ithaca.edu