Rachel Shubin, Staff Writer
In today’s world, everything from taxes to computer programming is outsourced. Outsourcing can be a great way to get jobs done when there is not enough time to complete everything on one’s to-do list. Lately college campuses have been taking advantage of outsourcing by using it as a way to help students access class notes.
Luvolearn.com is a website where students can sell and buy notes, study guides, flashcards and videos that include live Q&A and help sessions. The service is there to “empower students with relevant and affordable study tools to overcome knowledge gaps,” according to Luvo.
On Thursday, Nov. 12, the Mason bookstore sent out an email encouraging students to join Luvo. As Barbara Headley, the general manager of the Mason bookstore, later explained, the announcement came after an agreement between Luvo and Barnes & Noble College.
“Barnes & Noble College, which manages the George Mason University Bookstore, has partnered with Luvo, the online peer-to-peer learning platform,” Headley said. “Our shared passion for ensuring successful student outcomes is the cornerstone of this partnership and we believe that the campus bookstore can bring emerging learning and course materials platforms directly to our students to meet this goal.”
At the first glance, Luvo might seem like a website that could potentially violate the Mason Honor Code. However, Luvo’s specifications of what is allowed to be posted make the site more trustworthy. The website states that a student’s notes are his or her impression of a lecture, which may not be the same as the professor’s interpretation. Students legally own their work and any notes they take in their classes as “intellectual property” that “can be distributed as they [students] see fit,” according to Luvo.
Luvo does not allow students to upload any handouts, PowerPoints or textbook pages created by a professor since these items are professors’ property and therefore illegal to distribute without permission. Luvo also explains that “from an educational standpoint,” uploading a professor’s documents would not benefit one’s peers much anyway because the documents would likely be handed out in class. The website encourages students to contribute to a peer-to-peer understanding of the classwork.
Luvo states that they are always happy to speak with professors to answer questions and provide clarification.
“Since all resources on Luvo are course or campus-specific, students can find content that is most relevant for them,” Headley said. “Luvo can also be an excellent additional resource for students during the GMU Tutoring Center’s off hours, as it is available 24/7.”
Taking notes is not something that comes naturally to many students, and it might take a few semesters of college for a student to determine the method that works best for them. Plus, missing class makes it necessary for students to seek notes elsewhere. That is where Luvo comes in, allowing students to track down notes taken by other students.
Some Mason students are wary of the site, however. Ashley Buttaro, a sophomore conflict analysis and resolution major, does not think Luvo is the best solution to getting class notes.
“The appeal of Luvo is probably for people that don’t like to take notes in class, whether that is because they don’t go to class, missed a class for some reason, or can’t focus as well when taking notes,” Buttaro said.
Buttaro said she usually gets notes from friends if she misses class, adding that it is more useful to sit down with a friend to find out what she missed than it is to buy notes. Purchasers of Luvo notes run the risk of misunderstanding what someone meant in his or her notes, leaving the user out of luck, Buttaro explained.
Jessica Matthews, the director of Mason’s Composition Program, finds Luvo particularly troubling because it offers very little data showing whether students who purchase notes improve academically.
“My concern is the student who wants to purchase the notes,” Matthews said. “Note taking is one of the best ways to make learning stick so that a student can use that new knowledge in another course and/or in the workplace. Students who routinely rely on the notes of someone else will miss out on this valuable learning opportunity.”
Regarding whether or not Luvo might break Mason’s Honor Code, Matthews says the bigger issue is copyright infringement.
“If students sell their notes from a professor’s lecture, then they are repackaging that intellectual property for a profit without the professor’s permission,” Matthews said.
Still, academic integrity is important to Luvo.
“Luvo has a zero tolerance policy for using any exams or homework and is in full compliance with all Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) guidelines,” Headley said. “Plagiarism detection software, TurnItIn, also ensures all study materials uploaded to the Luvo platform adhere to a high standard of originality.”
Headley also stated that in addition to TurnItIn, Luvo employs an internal team of reviews who study materials added to the platform for or instances of cheating or copyright violations. Any material believed to violate Luvo’s rules is removed, and the seller is notified immediately.
Many are wondering whether or not Luvo will benefit Mason’s learning environment.
“I don’t think Mason students will benefit because most people have been okay without it [Luvo] so far, and I don’t think Luvo is adding anything new; it more convenient for people,” Buttaro said.
Matthews believes taking notes helps students learn and that Luvo is not necessarily contributing to the learning of course material.
“One of the benefits of attending class, paying attention, and taking notes is that it helps students learn how to learn,” Matthews said. “Learning how to learn is not only an invaluable academic skill, it is also one of the most important life skills we need in today’s fast-changing, complex work environments.”