Every semester I am asked by students whether or not they can record my lectures. My standard answer is "Yes, just let me know that you are recording me" and then I ask them not to use the audio files beyond personal study use. What many students do not realize is that lecture recordings and professor's personal lecture notes (including all visual aids such as the PowerPoint presentations I discussed last week) are considered intellectual property and are not to be sold or distributed beyond what is considered the "fair-use" of those items for personal and group study. Many universities also have specific digital recording policies in place that require students to ask permission to make recordings of class lectures-- so be very aware. That being said, I wanted to provide some useful tips and links on how best to record lectures using a variety of technical options. Keep in mind that the recordings should ideally supplement your active listening and note-taking in lecture, and not act as a replacement for attending lectures.
LAPTOP: if you are in a smaller classroom environment or able to sit close to the professor, the use of a laptop computer is a viable option for recording lectures. You can run an external USB microphone directly into most laptops that enable the sound quality and clarity to improve substantially over a straight recording using the basic laptop microphone. Here is a very basic how-to guide to get started.
iPOD TOUCH, NANO & BLACKBERRY: With a small thumbtack microphone and Griffin Technology's iTalk app, you can adapt a fourth generation iPod Nano and/or a second generation iPod Touch into a fairly adaptable recording device. Check this useful tutorial for more specific hints. You can also turn your Blackberry into a recorder with a memory card and the Voice Notes app that comes standard with the phone. See this great tutorial for more help. Once configured, you then simply ask the professor if you can place the device up by the lecture podium and create a very clear recording.
DIGITAL RECORDER: If you plan to make many recordings over your educational career, you might look into investing in a dedicated digital voice recorder. There are many on the market, but I did run across a recent forum discussion on the options available to students that you might find quite useful.