You’ve heard of MIT OpenCourseWare. The free Web site FinalsClub.org, which pays Harvard students to share lecture notes online, piggybacks on that open-content genre — with one twist. Harvard gets little power over what’s published.
The two-year-old startup derives its name from the Ivy League university’s final clubs. As The Boston Globe wrote Sunday in a lengthy article featuring FinalsClub.org, these are “insular all-male social clubs” known for stashing files of old lectures.
“And just like the Final Clubs’ files, the site serves as a crutch for students who haven’t bothered to attend class or take their own notes,” The Globe said.
Companies selling lecture notes are nothing new. The phenomenon sometimes lands them in court, as happened in the case of a University of Florida professor’s battle with Einstein’s Notes.
But the difference is that FinalsClub.org doesn’t charge. It’s a nonprofit organization. And it has managed to stay lawsuit-free largely by getting permission from professors before posting notes from their courses.
Star profs like Steven Pinker, the cognitive scientist, and Michael Sandel, the political philosopher, have granted their consent. But others have refused, The Globe reported, among them English professor Louis Menand and economist Greg Mankiw.
Mr. Mankiw told the newspaper that he didn’t want to help students skip class. Others worried about the notes’ accuracy.
Andrew Magliozzi, the Harvard alumnus who founded the site, professes goals far more lofty than creating a high-tech cram service. What he hopes to build is an interactive forum where students can collaborate on notes and ask professors questions and join discussions, according to The Globe.
“Basically, in a nutshell, I’d like to be a meta-membrane that sits on top of all colleges and unifies them, a meta-academic institution,” he said.
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