Yesterday, I attended a day organised by the University of Derby’s Assessment Centre, where we had the chance to look at two pieces of software designed to help with note-taking. Both systems had some similarities. They both work on a mobile device, tablet or laptop in a lecture theatre, and to work well, both recommend an additional directional microphone to capture the lecturer’s voice. I was using an iPhone 7 and actually managed to get a good quality recording using the built-in microphone for Sonocent, but I was in the front row with only a few other people in the room. Both also offered a back-up battery charger pack so that the mobile devices could be recharged during the day. The one from NoteTalker was like a thick credit-card. The Sonocent was a bit chunkier. Both pieces of software can be recommended as part of DSA when the software meets the needs of the students. They can also be purchased by individuals.
Sonocent was the first of these. In this system, you can colourcode the audio timeline as you are listening, import the presentation slides, add pictures by using the camera on the device and type text. When I returned to the office, I downloaded and installed the software in less than 5 minutes and was really impressed with the clean interface and the way that the lecture had been ‘chunked’ for me. I was able to transfer the file I had recorded very quickly via Google drive. I then added additional notes, web links, images and finally, if I wanted print out my final version of my notes, giving a very ‘clean’ summary of the lecture. I still haven’t explored all the desktop version has, but it had enough that I could get to grips with it quickly.
Priced at £49.99 for an annual licence (or £149.99 for a perpetual licence.) Nov 2016.
Note-Talker was the second of the presentations. The app was very easy to install on my phone. The audio quality was noticeably poorer and would have benefited from a directional microphone. You can vary the quality of the capture, but increasing this and changing it to CD quality resulted in the sound capture being like a gabbling alien. The software was very similar but in striking yellow, black and white colours. On this software, I was able to add photos taken with my device, and bookmarks. I could click during the talk, and add a named bookmark. Unfortunately, I wasn’t easily able to transfer off the files that I had recorded- it offered One drive and Dropbox, but I use Google Drive. So, I thought I would just record another file into the desktop version of the software. This failed twice. Had it worked, I would have been able to chunk up my lecture, and a feature not available in Sonocent is the Maths keyboard, allowing me to add equations. I did wonder how valuable this was, when I can use the built-in maths keyboard in Word and then take a snapshot to add to the lecture notes. For me, this software was garish and a bit ‘clunky’ – and the difficulties of installing and running the desktop version have put me off.
On leaving the sessions, our opinions were split with some preferring Sonocent and some Notetalker. Having tested them further, my personal preference would be Sonocent, but of course, we have to look primarily at the needs of our students.
I do have one big question, which relates to both pieces of software. At the University of Huddersfield, we have just introduced lecture capture. This means that students already have a good quality recording of the lecture. I am not sure what additional benefit the note-taking apps give in relation to making the audio recordings. Our students can now review, bookmark and add notes alongside the lecture, although the output from the Sonocent desktop software is superior in quality to that offered at present by the lecture capture software, but it did strike me that a student could take a slide set from a lecture, add Notes into the Notes section, whilst watching the video that had been lecture captured.