In the swarm of new social networking/personal database websites popping up everywhere, here's a new application that I'm surprised didn't pop up earlier.  MyNoteIT is an online app specifically designed for students.  And, unlike Facebook, it is geared toward academics, not toward social networking.

The functionality of the application is well developed.  MyNoteIT allows students to input a wide variety of mynoteit.gifinformation into their account, including class schedules, grades, due dates, contact information for classmates and teachers, as well as typed notes.

Through this database, students can search their own notes and the notes of others by keywords and by course so that they can easily find specific information they are looking for.  In addition, by having "friends" listed on their accounts, students can read and comment on other people's notes.  You can also email notes to others directly from the database.  And, in case your computer is prone to crashing, there is an autosave feature that saves your work every 10 seconds, so it's basically impossible to lose work.

This has the potential to be a fantastic tool for students, and make it easier for people to organize their academic lives.  But, I do forsee some problems with the tool:

  • First, in order for the database to work, notes must be typed.  You can upload typed documents into your account from MS Word or other applications, but there is no way to integrate handwritten notes.  From what I have seen in my college-level classes, particuarly undergrad classes, the majority of note-taking is still done with pens and paper.  To use the the website, students would have to type out their handwritten notes they take in class.  This extra step is time consuming and will definitely reduce the number of people that use this site.
  • And what about plagiarism?  Universities are extremely strict about the sharing of information between students, and I doubt it would take much time  before university officials cracked down on the use of note-sharing services like MyNoteIT.  While the sharing of notes is "legal", there is a thin line between collaborating on note-taking and collaborating on other assignments that are supposed to be done independently.
  • In addition, many colleges and universities already have systems tied to their institutions where professors can post course syllabi, grades, and assignments.  American University uses something called "Blackboard", which helps students communicate with their teachers and classmates by integrating email addresses and by providing forums for discussion.  All necessary course information can be found on these course-specific sites, and many professors are making the use of tools like Blackboard the norm rather than the exception.  While Blackboard and other systems like it do not allow note sharing and searching, these systems make MyNoteIT seem a bit redundant and possibly superfluous.

In order for social networking/personal database applications to be successful, they have to integrate tools and techniques that people already use.  Electronically organizing notes is not something done by a majority of students on a regular basis, and thus using this application would require students to do extra work.  I am skeptical about how much it will take off.