Trevor Pernice, a sophomore electrical engineering major, took an Indian studies course in his freshman year at Stony Brook, but the professor’s heavy accent made it hard for him to take comprehensive notes. He started wondering what the other students had written. It is out of this curiosity that Nerdy Notes was founded.
Nerdy Notes is a Stony Brook-oriented company designed to allow students to get class notes from their peers or from those who have previously excelled in the particular class. Instead of relying solely on the professor, students can look to Nerdy-Notes.com for more class material.
“Sometimes students relate better to other students,” Yuri Steinberg, senior biology major and company member, said.
Nerdy Notes was developed by members of the SBU Entrepreneurs Club. Founded by Steinberg, the club entered the DARE competition. “The DARE competition was hosted by the Small Business Development Center at the SBU Research Park and is run by SBU professors and outside investors,” Steinberg said in an email.
The team, which included Pernice, as well as Abhishek Parekh, a sophomore applied mathematics major, and Chris Joseph, a sophomore computer science major, began working on the company in Fall 2012 and worked on the idea through Spring 2013. Though they were not entirely sure if they were ready to make their company public, they launched their website. The site was launched on the first Friday of the semester.
At the moment, anyone can go to the Nerdy Notes website and upload their class notes. The Nerdy Notes team then goes over the notes and manually uploads them to the site. Eventually, students will be able to directly upload their notes to the site. The team wants to upload only high-quality notes from teaching assistants or students who have achieved an A in the class.
There are currently 501 notes posted for 16 classes. So far, these notes have generated approximately 500 views.
“We have a lot of large classes because a lot of students take them and there’s not a lot of student-professor interaction,” Steinberg said. “Our goal is to have this for as many [classes] as possible.”
Those who upload their notes will also benefit. Uploaders receive a 50 percent commission on the sale of their notes. Because the company is just starting out, access to all notes is completely free. However, once Nerdy Notes becomes more established, students will have to start paying to view the notes.
“It’s a minimal fee,” Pernice said, “Most [will be] cheaper than Stony Brook lunch.”
Nerdy Notes does not have a set price list yet, however the founding students are planning to sell individual lecture notes for $1 or $1.99. A semester packet, which includes notes from the entire semester, may go as high as $10.
The team has invested about $500 into the website. The costs included the legal protection and registration with the Copyright Office, insurance, bank accounts and automating the website.
Some do not agree with charging for the notes. A Reddit thread on SBU Chat had several users voicing their frustration over future prices.
User paulsackk wrote, “Why not just encourage a note sharing thread on this subreddit if you really wanted to help the students. This will just turn out to be something fancy to put on your resume at your classmates’ expense.”
Another user, mfiels, posted that he or she most likely would not pay for online notes. “Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to pay any amount of money for some scans of a strangers [sic] notes. If I am missing a lecture of notes I am going to ask a friend, not buy a whole set of notes online,” mfiels wrote.
In response to such criticism, Steinberg cited that the Nerdy Notes team found examples of where similar systems worked, such as in medical schools and at Pennsylvania State University.
Other Reddit users worried over the legality of the site. User atomichumbucker wrote, “Be careful with this, many professors consider their lecture materials to be their intellectual property, and may be very disturbed to find it open online.”
The site is strictly for students to upload, share and profit off of their own notes. Due to copyright laws, students cannot upload anything that has images from textbooks or from any professor’s lecture. This includes past exams.
According to Pernice, Nerdy Notes will not upload previous exams or answer keys because they are the property of the professor. The company wants students to be able to supplement their own notes with Nerdy Notes, which are students’ interpretation of the class material.
“If something is accidentally copyrighted, we have controls in to take things down,” Steinberg said.
Despite the concern over costs and copyright, the team is moving ahead, hoping to continually increase the number of classes that have notes on their website. “We’re happy we did it,” Pernice said. “We’ve learned a lot.”