When post-secondary students return to class in September, Saif Altimimi hopes there's a good mix of keeners and slackers in the lecture halls.
The future of his start-up web business, called NoteWagon, equally depends on the motivated students who take copious, excellent notes, and others who either miss class, doze off or just have trouble keeping up.
The website encourages bookworms to share their notes online with other students and get credit for it; each time one of their notes is viewed and printed they earn tokens that can be redeemed for gift cards or cash. Students who want access to those notes have to buy tokens first.
The reward section of the website isn't currently online and Altimimi said he's negotiating with different vendors to supply prizes for when classes are back in full swing this fall.
A student at the University of Waterloo, Altimimi said he got the idea for the site after finding he was sometimes getting more out of a class from other students, rather than the prof.
“The professor-student relationships were not always solid, they weren't always up to par in terms of the professor teaching the right content, or not really relating to the students properly,” he said.
“I felt there was an underground market for sharing content, an online platform where students are able to share and collaborate on course content, and the entire premise of the system was we reward students for helping their fellow classmates out.”
Altimimi said students who want to buy notes online will end up paying around the same price that old-fashioned photocopying would cost, about 10 cents a page.
“We understand that we want to align our interests with the students' interests as well,” Altimimi said of keeping the price for notes low.
The site, which launched last year, is now set up for 20 schools and has 25,000 students registered, Altimimi claims. He's planning to roll out new features in time for September and wants NoteWagon to serve as a type of social network for each and every class, where students could chat with one another and collaborate on material in a Wikipedia-like manner.
Active students who participate in the community could also earn points to be redeemed for prizes.
“By posting something relevant, commenting on a note, or answering a fellow classmate's question, you earn points and unlock different coupons,” he said.
In addition to taking a cut of about 40 per cent on token sales, NoteWagon gets money from companies that make their coupons and gift cards available as rewards.
Altimimi hopes to have another five new schools on board for September and double the registered number of students as classes get started.
“Over time we plan to open up in essentially every school.”
But NoteWagon doesn't have the market to itself, and competes with two very similar sites in Notesolution and StudyMonkey.
Altimimi will also have to keep school administrators appeased, although he said it hasn't been a problem so far, since users can't share essays, tests or exams, or any copyrighted material.