Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lecture Note Taking App - Persona Design

This is my first time doing this and so it is more than likely that I am going to be making mistakes during this process. Hopefully I will learn from them, please don't hesitate to point them out.

I have talked to various people about this idea and had hesitated about what I should be putting online and what I should be keeping private, but this is not really intended to be a business venture or anything. It is mostly about creating an app that fills my own needs that could possibly be used by other people.

I bought an ASUS Transformer Prime at the beginning of the year for uni, I was after something to replace my m11x whose hinges had broken making it somewhat less transportable. When it is in its keyboard dock the Transformer Prime looks and feels almost like a laptop. It does have one key difference for lecture use compared to a laptop however. It has a back facing camera. And in a keyboard dock you can actually use that camera whilst still also typing and making notes. I was simply unable to find an app to do this, it could be that it is not very easy to do on Android, I could be terrible at searching the market or it could be a fairly small niche that no one has really served yet, still it is a need I would like to fill.

However, because it is running a mobile OS and not say, Windows, you can't have the same multitasking environment, I can't actually use both the camera and a note taking app at the same time, any time you take a picture/record a video, you kind of bring up a camera app over the top of the note taking app and can't actually take any notes until the picture is taken or video recorded.

So the basic idea is a note taking app that also lets you record video at the same time, record the lecture and take notes and possibly then further combine the two. So record a time stamp at each new line, so even if you aren't playing the video you can sort of page through, be able to replace the video with the lecture slides, etc.

After talking to some friends and reading The Inmates Are Running The Asylum I realised I should be actually designing first, not kind of half forming an idea and charging off into learning how to write software for android. So here I am going to try my hand at writing up the Persona.

This image also picked totally at random
Name: Andrew (picked totally at random)
Occupation: Student, Previously worked in IT
Age: 26
Goal: To Create Good (useful) Lecture Notes for later revision
Other information: Andrew likes to try new things but does not often stick with them, he will try creating notes in a variety of systems. He participates in class but often uses computers not for taking notes but for distraction.

I think that the first task to answer is what makes for good lecture notes? I can't say I am actually entirely sure of the answer. When it comes to studying for tests I tend to actually primarily use the lecture slides provided by the lecturer and make some notes from there, especially audio ones that I can play in the background whilst I am doing other tasks.

Given the target device (Transformer Prime), what capabilities do we have for creating them? There is a microphone, 2 cameras, a Touch Screen and a physical keyboard.

Actually answering what makes for good lecture notes I think is the step I have previously avoided. I initially started thinking about this with the back facing camera and video firmly in mind. I am not so sure of this anymore, certainly I still think that recording audio is useful, but video seems less vital especially when pictures and/or lecture slides would likely work just as well.


  1. Do you have to ask permission to record the lectures?

    You could have awards for taking photos of slides and not missing any - the problem is that u get distracted not how you take lectures!

  2. That is a good question, I have never asked and I haven't actually checked either the uni policy or the legal requirements for doing so. I don't think it is likely to come up but probably would be worth looking into before putting anything on the play store.

    1. The copyright notice prevents you to distribute the lecture material. It wouldn't matter if you record lectures for your personal use..

    2. Right, so it should be okay if I ensure that the app includes appropriate language saying this is recording for personal use only?

  3. Methodologically this looks pretty good, but the most useful role of personas is when you have 2-4 of them. The "tech savvy experimenter" (wants to take better notes, tries things but often has trouble sticking with them) is one, but who else might you want to aim this at? The meticulous note-taker who already has a well-structured system for notes but wants to add images/video? The "latent learner", who just wants to record entire lectures while tuning out?

    It's totally OK if you stick with a sharply defined user group exemplified by one persona, but that means design decisions later on should all be tied to the needs of that class of people, which might make the app harder to use for others.

    I think this mostly depends on how much structure you build into the note taking. Are notes added to images/videos? Or are images/videos added to notes? Is the "Lecture" the basic unit of notes which the system is organised? Or something smaller? Different users would want different things there. For a knowledge-recording task like note taking the personas and user decisions tend to strongly influence the design of the information architecture.

  4. In Australia, you would be protected from a lawsuit if you made an audio recording or video of a lecture provided the following requirements are met:
    1. The lecture is performed in the presence of an audience;
    2. is performed by a teacher in the course of giving educational instruction, or by a student in the course of receiving educational instruction; and
    3. You are not receiving instruction for profit;

    The legislation covering this is sections 27 & 28 of the Copyright Act 1968 ('CA').

    Unfortunately, having the law on your side might not prevent the University from implementing their own policies. For example, if the lecture is being recorded by the University, they may consider their recording the 'official version' and prohibit anyone else from recording their own. Throwing section 28 of the CA at them won't necessarily convince them to call off security.

    Another aspect of this is that if you make a video recording of a lecture with audio, it would fall under the category of a 'cinematograph film' for the purposes of the CA. Jason makes a good point regarding distribution. Any 'breach' of copyright would occur if the video was publicly performed or distributed. This would breach the copyright subsisting in the 'literary work' you have recorded in your 'cinematograph film'.

    1. Interesting, thank you for that information.
      So in the event of a recorded lecture being publicly peformed or distributed it would be a breach by the person doing the distribution or performance? Rather than a breach by whomever created the tool that they used to do the recording?

  5. The primary breach would be by the person distributing copyright material and a secondary breach might occur if the author of the tool used to distribute copyright material provided either direct or tacit authorisation of that breach (s 101 of the CA). Provided that any distribution remains within the fair dealing parameters of s 103C of the CA, no secondary breach could occur.

    The safest thing to do as an author would be to prevent any form of note sharing or publishing however this seems counter productive. Alternatively, you would need to include terms & conditions of use for the application that address distribution for profit, distribution on public websites for any reason or any other use that is not for the purpose of research or study.

    Some interesting procrastination material you might find relevant:

    Creating a Legal Framework for Copyright Management of Open Access within the Australian Academic and Research Sector -

    See also Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd [2012] HCA which looks at liability for the secondary breach scenario described above:

    1. Thanks for all that info, it is really handy.

  6. you mean you want to build this?

    1. That is a pretty cool device.

      In some ways that is pretty much what I want to do, except:
      1) Not requiring a separate specialised device
      2) This isn't built specifically for people with poor vision, it is a note taking tool taking advantage of tablets.

      So while I am glad that device is out there, I think that as later posts in this series will show I am not looking at the exact same problem and naturally I am not using the same solution.