Penn Backs Student-Created Start-Up That Lets Kids Cut Class

Parents paying $60,000 a year in tuition cock heads and say “Huh?”


You may have heard about a pair of Penn students who’ve come up with a nifty new idea. They’ve created a virtual marketplace, Noteriety (motto: “Get A’s. Make Bank.”), where students can buy and sell notes from their classes. The idea is that if for some reason you should miss a class, or are just having trouble learning what you’re supposed to, you can buy notes taken by somebody else who did go or does understand what the hell’s going on. An article about the start-up in the Daily Pennsylvanian mentioned that it’s “backed by the PennApps Accelerator Program,” a “mentorship and sponsorship” effort aimed at encouraging student entrepreneurship.

Coincidentally, the same week the DP article on Noteriety appeared, the New York Times ran a story on a new study showing that increased class attendance in college leads to improved grades.

In the study, professors teaching a popular Intro to Psych course at the University of Texas instituted a new teaching method that replaced grading based on a final exam with grading based on a series of quizzes given during every class. The quizzes were short and tailored to a student’s previous performance; get a question wrong, and you’d soon find it staring up at you again.

According to participating professor James W. Pennepacker, students hated the new method at first, and gave him and fellow prof Samuel D. Gosling the lowest course evaluations they’d ever received. Gosling’s explanation for the dissatisfaction: “For the first few weeks, every time their friends went out drinking, they couldn’t go; they had yet another test the next day.” But by the end of the term, the class got higher grades and outperformed a similar class that used the more traditional grading system. Improvement was greatest for students with low-income backgrounds, which the professors attributed to the fact that the quiz system required that students stay current in the reading and pay attention while in the classroom. They noted that the new method also increased average class attendance from 60 to 90 percent, since if you missed class you missed a quiz.

That being said, it will be much more efficient for Penn kids to buy other kids’ notes rather than attend class themselves. Their schedules are so onerous, what with four courses per term and a total of a dozen or so hours per week spent sitting in class. Noteriety’s founders plan to expand the program to Drexel, and from there, who knows? What college student wouldn’t prefer having more time to drink and hook up to, you know, going to dumb old classes for which your parents are paying $60,000 a year? (Did you know the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board recently awarded Penn a $25,000 grant to help educate its students about drinking during “high-risk” events like Spring Fling? The grant money pays for Penn Police officers to stand on street corners and hand out pamphlets to students. Uh-huh. About as brilliant as Princeton’s recent attempt to ward off its meningitis epidemic by passing out red Solo cups. But I digress.)

Penn’s Office of Student Conduct acknowledges that using Noteriety could create “academic integrity” issues for students, but hey, what’s a little academic integrity when you’ve got Economics at 9 a.m. on a Monday morn? The site already has hundreds of users and is generating cash for sophomore founders Adam Eskassas and Arjun Jain. Their motivation? “Sometimes we would ask upperclassmen for notes, but it was just a big pain in the butt,” Eskassas told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

You know what else is a big pain in the butt, Adam? Trying to understand why Penn would back a start-up that educators have shown will lead to less learning by students. No doubt about it: I’m not smart enough for the Ivy League.

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  • Brandon

    “Their schedules are so onerous, what with four courses per term and a total of a dozen or so hours per week spent sitting in class. ”

    This shows that you haven’t been in college in awhile. The time spent sitting in class is a small portion of the required weekly workload of a college student in 2013. Back when I was in college (so long ago, in the middle of the last decade) I had 20 hours of class per week, plus about 20 hours of studying (at least). On top of that I worked 30 hours per week at two jobs and participated in several organizations. There were lots of students like me at my large public university in the midwest. I assume less Penn students are holding down two jobs but the academic load cannot be any lighter.

  • citywide

    Penn students with part time jobs! Thats something I’d lke to see.

    • Brandon

      I think you’d be surprised. There are a lot of Penn students that are living off of mom and dad, but there are lots of them that work at the bars, restaurant, and other stores in University City. I see them on a regular basis. Penn is very generous with scholarships to low-income students, so there are quite a few on campus.

      • jack

        umm I’m a student at Penn and I currently have two jobs…

        • pennproud

          I work two jobs and pay for half of my tuition. I also pay for my housing, my cell phone, and my food. Best part? My parents are pretty damn well off. There’s no need for me to be working my ass off. Except they know that Penn students are smart, not lazy, very involved, and very responsible – many of us lead our own lives here and are not just spoiled by our parents. That is a ridiculous and ignorant assumption to make.

    • hard work

      i am a penn students and I have a work study, a part time job and a part time internship. Penn students just don’t sit in class, twiddling their thumbs, while shopping online at burberry. If anything that is a minority of students. Your prejudice and generalizations are not welcome here.

  • Truth
  • Joseph Mack

    Sandy, thanks for the article. I agree with your points about class being a necessary part of learning and that there are many Penn students who do not take advantage of the amazing opportunity to learn while in college. I also agree that drinking is another over indulged activity that is counter productive. I’m not really sure where hooking up comes into play. I’m pretty sure that the idea of a steady partner is a sociological construct that has no objective bearing on your ability to learn. (That said, I’m an engineering student so you might want to check with someone who studies sociology on that one). I have two disagreements to your article: 1) I think Penn is correct to support the venture and 2) I don’t think you’ve proven yourself to be a skilled or talented journalistic writer with the tone that insinuates the founders are lazy and unimaginative. To address point (1): Students are at the school to learn, it is not the school’s job to force them to do so. If they cannot pass the class, then they cannot graduate. If you can pass your classes without going to lectures, more power to you. The availability of information on the internet especially with online degrees and free courses through programs like Coursera and other massive online learning institutes is forcing colleges to rethink their competitive advantage. This only enhances what students will be able to do in the future. If students are not capitalizing on this opportunity then it is their loss (or their parents loss) either way, not my problem and not your problem. To address point (2). I think you should do a little more research on the founders. Both are in pursuit of two full fledged, BS degrees from Wharton and the School of Engineering while managing a start-up. I know one of them also plays a Division I sport that entails over 20+ hours of intense workouts each week. I think this entitles someone to say that getting notes from a missed class is “a pain in the butt.” What is really disappointing is that you didn’t even get a quote from either of them, but re-quoted other publications. Such lack of effort suggests that this is not really a serious article, but something to get Penn students in a tizz and generate lots of comments and traffic to your articles. I can’t say I blame you, it is a perfectly rationale strategy. Just wish you had been able to do so without slandering two impressive people. I’m probably not going to check back in on this post (I’ve got finals to study for) so don’t waste your time addressing me directly.

  • Alive

    Some students have difficulty taking notes that are conducive to effective studying. For instance, students that did not come from schools that nurtured proper study habits may have a harder time being successful if they are unable to take notes properly. This site provides a student with another avenue to success.

  • ysteven

    The purpose of this website isn’t to give students a reason to skip class – it’s so that if you happen to miss a class (for whatever reason) there is a way you can acquire the notes you missed. When students use this site, they’ve most likely already missed a class, so really they’re choosing to buy notes rather than having no notes at all and NOT choosing to buy notes rather than going to lecture. This website is just an example of how we can transform schooling methodologies to enhance a student’s academic experience, not hinder it. Sandy needs to get with the times and realize that innovative tools like Noteriety are going to be very prevalent in the near future.

  • asdf

    Not only is this article filled with incorrect assumptions and lack of any substantial evidence, but it is also offensive to both Penn students and college students in general. The average Penn student takes 5 classes, which total between 18-23 hours of class per week. This might not seem like much, but that student stays up until 2-5 am every morning studying for those classes. Why? Because Penn students are involved. Almost every Penn student (myself included) is involved in multiple activities, whether those are clubs, jobs, or volunteering. Furthermore, the average Penn student gets between 4-7 hrs of sleep each night during the school week, so I certainly don’t blame my friends when they take a Friday night off studying in order to go to a party, especially because I know I’ll see them in the library the next day. Finally, it’s not uncommon for a Penn student to miss class because of an interview, a meeting with another professor, or for another valid reason that s/he shouldn’t be blamed for.

    The students who created this app understand this, so they used the skills that they’ve learned in the classroom (whether through lectures or assignments) to invent something completely new. Have you ever tried to create a website this elaborate? I don’t think so. It must have taken them hours upon hours to create. Have you ever tried taking classes in Wharton and Engineering at the same time (as a previous poster mentioned)? I don’t think so. Wharton classes are notorious for having a strict curve that requires hours of studying for, and Engineering classes are incredibly difficult. Have you ever even stepped foot on Penn’s campus? I don’t think so. If you had, you’d see that all libraries and study areas are constantly filled. You would see people handing out flyers for all of their extracurricular commitments on Locust. You would see students who are not lazy, but instead intelligent and involved.

    But hey, as someone who clearly cannot write an article any better than a high school student, you must not want to spend time with Penn students (or any college student in general) because you know that they can not only write better than you (check out the DP), but also are going much further in life than you.

    • asdf

      Also, I know that there are many typos in this response, but I had to write quickly since I actually have to study and go to meetings.

  • Nepakid

    Do I think this is an innovative start-up idea? No.

    Will I personally use Noteriety? Probably not.

    Am I impressed by the founders’ entrepreneurial spirits and the product that they built? Absolutely.

    Any article that is clearly written by someone not only unfamiliar with Penn but also extremely unfamiliar with tech start-ups has no right to bash Noteriety and has even less of a right to bash the student founders.

    And a fact check for the writer:

    -Four classes per semester is the minimum. I know many students who have to take 5-6 classes every semester to graduate in four years.

    -If you honestly think Penn students only have 12 hours of commitment per week, then you are delusional. I know very few people who (with studying, class, extracurriculars, and/or work) have less than 40 hours of commitment per week. Most students look forward to the summer with internships, because it means only having to work forty hours per week.

    -Everyone’s parents don’t pay their tuition. That’s a sweeping generalization. Good writers try to avoid those.

    -The grant you link to says more about the state of Pennsylvania’s government than it does Penn. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with how a grant works, but usually it’s given with a purpose, meaning you have to spend the money a certain way.

    -The link to the atrocity that is Kate Taylor’s misinformed NYT article about Penn’s hookup culture is irrelevant.

    -The last two paragraphs are just a petty attack on the founders.

    Sandy, like I said, I’m not a huge fan of Noteriety’s business model, but I like that they started something. It’s people like you, people who undermine entrepreneurial endeavors by students, who deserve to have articles written about them criticizing their every move.

    Let the students go. Stop making assumptions, and learn how to write a piece that is cohesive and presents a well-developed opinion.

  • anon

    Why anybody would choose to bash Penn with such vehemence and with such a paucity of actual knowledge about the students who work here escapes me. PhillyMag seems to enjoy bashing Penn in general, and this is definitely an example for uncalled of ‘hating’. As Nepakid pointed out, I don’t necessarily agree with the concept or business model either, but that doesn’t mean they deserve such a poorly written, incoherent criticism. If this is some ploy to get more views, then it’s a very cheap one.

  • gottagetbacktostudyingnow

    It’s absolutely absurd that you insinuate students would use this solely to increase the amount of time they can spend partying and hooking up with people…if you actually went to Penn or talked to any Penn students, you would realize that most people take more than 4 classes a semester and that the classes are extremely rigorous and require a lot of time outside of class. A lot of the time if students are missing a class, it is because they are studying for another class with an upcoming test.
    Also, correlation and causation are not the same thing: it may be true that students who go to class get higher grades, but that is not necessarily because they go to class. There are many confounding factors.

  • Jeff

    Lol, 4 classes and a dozen hours a week? On a semester where I take 4 classes, I usually have 20 hours of class, more if I take 5, not to mention 30+ hours of homework and reading a week.

    Also, you’re making a lot of assumptions, this could be an extremely useful service for someone who’s sick and misses class, or for someone who can’t write (for example, this would’ve been useful for a friend of mine who broke his hand and had to have other people write everything for him, and for my friend with severe carpal tunnel syndrome).