"Sonocent gives time for more active note-taking..." Martin Stahl

Improving Note-Taking Skills at the University of Portsmouth

Are you confident that your students have engaged fully with course content – regardless of their learning needs or challenges?


The Background: A Note-Taking Problem

Often poor note-taking during lectures and seminars leaves students with limited time to reflect and review. They’re overwhelmed with information, racing to copy verbatim rather than engage and critique.

For the University of Portsmouth, note-taking software gave students – including those without DSA support – an effective solution for applying study strategies that gave better note taking outcomes.


Peer to Peer: An AT Tutor’s Take on Sonocent

Martyn Stahl is the Specialist Assistive Technology Tutor at the University of Portsmouth.

Working in the Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre, his team are closely aligned with the Study Skills tutors. Their AT sessions aren’t just IT focused; they’re study skills and AT combined.


Martyn makes 3 points that often ring true for other AT specialists:

“Poor quality notes have a real negative impact on student engagement, particularly for those with specific learning difficulties. Dyslexia is by far our biggest cohort.”

Martyn Stall

“So many lecture notes don’t actually relate to the lecture, nor sometimes even their course! Note-taking is a skill that has to be learnt and students need help with that.”

Martyn Stall

“It’s common for students who are struggling to keep up in lectures to be given a digital voice recorder. This did improve things a bit for students but if you had a two-hour lecture with 90 index marks on there, it was pretty unusable!”

Martyn Stall

How Sonocent Provided the Solution

Recognising the issue that poor notes led to lower student engagement and, subsequently, academic performance, Portsmouth chose to invest in the Sonocent Loan Licence model of support. This model combines the Sonocent Audio Notetaker with Sonocent Link, an iOS and Android app.
To see some of these features come to life, check out the product video on the Sonocent website.

Martyn describes the benefits of Sonocent Audio Notetaker’s key features:

“Sonocent gives time for more active note-taking, as students capture the whole lecture as audio which is then displayed in bars.”

“For our dyslexic students, the majority will use the colour coding feature to highlights parts of the recording that are really important, or the bits they don’t understand.”

“They put their notes alongside the lectures slides. If they can import the slides into Sonocent beforehand, that can really help them to understanding what is going on in the lecture whilst they are recording. Personally I know I’ve found that Sonocent is one of their favourite tools.”

“Students can listen back to their recording at any point, slowing it down if they need to; it’s great because their reviewing is very specific. That’s very important for some of our students who struggle with remembering things due to their short term memory problems.”

“What Sonocent Audio Notetaker allows our students to do is to critically think about and analyse the lecture whilst they’re there and afterwards. That’s what we want them to do as a university.”

Martyn Stall

So why did Portsmouth choose to go for the loan licence model of support?

With the loan model, licences are installed on the students’ own devices and a loan period is set based on how long they are anticipated to use it. For example, it could be just for a semester or at the end of their course. Once it expires, it is returned to the pool to be reused. It is all easily administered through a simple web portal we call the Loan Licence Manager. From here you can invite students, manage usage and even gain access to basic statistics on how your students are using the Sonocent software. Learn more on the institutions page of our website.

“As HE providers we have this anticipatory duty to look after these students. So, we’ve found the loan licence model of support that Sonocent do, to be invaluable. It helps us make those reasonable adjustments.”

Martyn Stall

The University of Portsmouth have 150+ licences spread across campus,
so how do they prioritise who gets a licence?

Licences will be distributed to non-DSA students who are struggling with note-taking, but increasingly, Martyn finds he is supplying loan licences to individuals who are waiting for their DSA package.

“Flexibility is the great thing about the loan licence. It allows us at Portsmouth to offer a very inclusive approach and intervene when necessarily.“

Martyn Stall

Key Outcomes

  • Cost effective solution for meeting anticipatory reasonable adjustment needs
  • Tangible improvements in the quality of notes
  • Better engagement of students

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