Students with Disabilities, who are registered with the Accessibility Resource Center, may have notetaking tools as an approved accommodation. One notetaking tool ARC offers students is Glean. Often, faculty and staff want more information; answers to common questions by faculty and staff are listed below. If you have additional concerns or questions, please contact ARC’s Assistive Technology Coordinator, Christi Craig (

How does Glean work? 

Glean is a browser-based notetaking platform with a built-in accessible and organizational structure. Glean records a lecture or meeting and allows the user to take notes within Glean at the same time. When the user hits Enter, the audio file is tagged, essentially breaking down a large audio file into segments. When the user returns to their notes, they can navigate easily and efficiently throughout the audio file to pinpoint, review, and add to any notes they have taken. Glean also translates the audio file into a transcript of the lecture or meeting that helps in reviewing notes. 

With these kinds of features, Glean provides a user-friendly workspace for users who may struggle with organization, cognitive processing, ADHD, memory loss, dyslexia, anxiety, and more. 

Information Direct from Glean: How does the AI work?

AI FAQs. Where Glean addresses their position on using AI within the notetaking tool.

Faculty FAQs. Where Glean addresses their privacy policy and use of data (scroll down to the middle of the page for the list of questions and answers).

Data Security. Where Glean explains details on their security and how data is stored.

How does Glean benefit the students? 

Glean benefits students as well as faculty and staff. As detailed on Glean’s website: 

For Undergrad Students 

  • Reduces stress for students transitioning from high school to higher education. 
  • Users can feel confident that every word is captured in a Glean recording.  
  • Glean lessens the stress of transitioning from a more intimate high school learning and studying culture to a college-level learning and studying culture by providing students with a ready-to-go, simple notetaking structure. 
  • Makes learning more accessible. Features within the platform help users retain more information and has been shown to boost the success of students.  

For Graduate or PhD Students 

Glean may help in gathering and organizing research, in better understanding topics addressed at conferences or consortiums. Information and notes within Glean can be shared with cohorts or among colleagues. 

Read Glean’s User Survey

Glean gathered responses by 1000 users after one semester of using the app, who confirmed that Glean lowers stress, improves learning and studying skills, increases the confidence of learners in studying and preparing for exams, aids in concentration, organization, and time management, and improves GPAs. Read more about CORA, Glean’s 4-step learning model and how it translates into better learning and retention.

How does the “AI” work? 

Once a recording is complete, Glean uses the AI to convert speech to text and create a transcript of the audio. Working the same as voice recognition on other software platforms like Google or Microsoft, this transcript allows better access to a lecture or a meeting and better understanding of information for students who struggle with ADHD, mental health issues, etc. and who benefit from reading information while listening to it be read/played aloud. 

How and When was Glean Adopted at UWM? 

Prior to 2012, ARC relied only on peer notetakers as a solution for students who were approved for notetaking accommodations. In Fall 2012 along with peer notetakers, ARC began providing smartpens for notetaking accommodations, which is another notetaking tool that records audio while a student takes notes and allows students to review notes easily and efficiently. In Spring 2019, ARC piloted the use of Audio Notetaker, which is an earlier version of Glean. Audio Notetaker became Glean in 2021.  

UW System Administration (UWSA) conducted an RFP in summer 2021 for notetaking software to be used by UW disability services offices. The committee included a UWSA Policy and Planning Analyst, UWSA Director of Student Success and Wellbeing, UWSA Purchasing Specialist, UWSA Chief Information Security Director, UW-Madison Accessible Learning Technology Manager, and a UW-Milwaukee Assistive Technology Specialist. Glean was selected and is in use at all UW institutions.  

ARC’s reason for the implementation of notetaking tools such as smartpens and Glean, versus relying on peer notetakers, had nothing to do with lightening the load or making work for students with disabilities easier. Rather, we struggled semester after semester to find peer notetakers for students with notetaking accommodations, and often the quality of notes provided by other students was questionable. While Glean is an excellent notetaking tool for students with disabilities, it is only a tool and does not replace the need for students to engage in the notetaking process. 

We opted to provide instead an opportunity for students to take their own notes, which might improve notetaking and listening skills and encourage independence. In this way, students would feel more confident that their notes included what they needed and not what someone else thought they needed. We also considered life after college when a peer notetaker would not be available. Part of ARC’s mission is to promote self-advocacy in students with disabilities. By giving students an opportunity to use a smartpen or Glean, we created space for students to develop their own skills and better prepare for the workforce.

Are Instructors required to allow their class to be recorded?

UWM is required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, “Higher Education’s Obligations Under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA” has made clear that instructors cannot forbid the use of an accommodation such as a recording device when it has been deemed an effective and reasonable accommodation. Specifically, OCR has explained: 

Question: What if an instructor objects to the use of an auxiliary or personal aid? 

Answer: Sometimes postsecondary instructors may not be familiar with Section 504 or ADA requirements regarding the use of an auxiliary or personal aid in their classrooms. Most often, questions arise when a student uses a tape recorder. College teachers may believe recording lectures is an infringement upon their own or other students’ academic freedom or constitutes copyright violation. The instructor may not forbid a student’s use of an aid if that prohibition limits the student’s participation in the school program. The Section 504 regulation states: 

A recipient may not impose upon handicapped students other rules, such as the prohibition of tape recorders in classrooms or of dog guides in campus buildings, that have the effect of limiting the participation of handicapped students in the recipient’s education program or activity. 

In order to allow a student with a disability the use of an effective aid and, at the same time, protect the instructor, the institution may require the student to sign an agreement so as not to infringe on a potential copyright or to limit freedom of speech. 

UWM students approved for an audio recording accommodation are required to sign an agreement each semester when they choose to use the accommodation. Among other things, the agreement makes clear that instructors have intellectual property rights in their class lectures and, as such, recordings are for personal use only to support course-related learning, and may not be duplicated, published or further shared (including online or on social media). The Agreement also provides that instructors have the right to ask all students to cease taking notes “when topics of discussion are considered sensitive in nature or when students are asked to share personal experiences. At these times, recording of lecture/discussion should be stopped as well.” The Agreement also clarifies that the restrictions in the Agreement apply to comments/statements made by other students in addition to the instructor. 

While Glean creates a transcript from recorded audio, users are not able to print the transcript directly from Glean. The transcript serves as a visual aid when reviewing the audio and continuing to take notes or study from the notes. 

UW System Regent Policy Document 4-1 Copying and Recording Instructional Materials or Lectures 

Regent Policy Document 4-1 also addresses the recording of lectures. The purpose of the policy is to “define the rights and responsibilities of instructors … to protect their instructional materials and lectures and to balance those rights against the rights of qualified students with disabilities to effectively access instructional materials and lectures or to participate in a course, event, or program.” As explained: 

The Board of Regents recognizes the right of individual instructors to set reasonable policies and practices in regard to the use, copying or recording of instructional materials or lectures that are developed as a part of an academic course, event or program. 

For reasons of pedagogical practice, academic freedom or protection of intellectual property rights, instructors may limit or restrict students from copying, recording or using instructional materials or lectures. However, reasonable accommodations shall be provided to qualified students with disabilities who may require the use of a recording device, note-taker or other assistance or technology to effectively access instructional materials and lectures in order to participate in an educational or academic course, event or program. 

Instructors and students should work with their institution’s office that provides services for students with disabilities to determine what type of reasonable accommodation, if any, is necessary to assure that the student may effectively participate in an educational or academic course, event or program in accordance with Regent policies, UW System Administration policies, institution policies, and state and federal laws. 

At UWM, ARC, in consultation with students and their healthcare providers, is responsible for approving appropriate and individualized accommodations to allow students to effectively participate in academic classes/programs. 

How does Glean address confidentiality and copyright concerns?

As part of the RFP/contracting process, Glean agreed to a number of privacy-related data-protection provisions. “Data” under the agreement with Glean is broadly defined to including all personally identifiable information under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), all personal data as defined by the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and other non-public information that institutions like UWM may make available to Glean. Data includes but is not limited to student data, metadata, and user content. Among other things, Glean:  

  • May only collect Data necessary to fulfill its contractual obligations;  
  • May not mine Data for any purposes other than as expressly agreed;  
  • Cannot share Data with any additional parties without the institution’s consent except as required by law;  
  • Must ensure that all Data in its possession and the possession of any subcontractors or agents is destroyed or returned when no longer needed; 
  • Must store and process Data in accordance with industry best practices which includes “appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to secure Data from unauthorized access, disclosure and use.”  
  • Must have a written incident response plan, to include prompt notification to institutions in the event of a security or privacy incident. 

Additionally, Glean has agreed that all rights, including intellectual property rights, in Data shall remain the exclusive property of the institution. Glean is only granted a limited, nonexclusive license to use Data to perform its contractual obligations.  

While Glean does use subcontractors (including Google and Amazon), those subcontractors were disclosed as part of the RFP process and the use of any additional subcontractors is subject to UW approval. As part of the RFP process, Glean was required to describe how it performs security assessments of third party companies with which it shares data, why each third party needed access to Data, and any legal agreements in place with subcontractors. 

Was there a recent “decision” about educational institutions’ use of Glean? 

On May 12, 2023, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a letter to SUNY New Paltz regarding a disability discrimination complaint filed by one of its students. Among other things, SUNY had approved “notetaking support/electronics for class notes” as an accommodation and further indicated that “the student [was] allowed access to electronic devices to record class lectures.” The student was provided with Glean notetaking software by SUNY. The student subsequently complained that Glean was not an effective auxiliary aid because the student’s disabilities affected his memory and, as such, he could not remember to press the record button at the beginning of class. Instead, he requested that SUNY provide him with a “class recording or class notes.” SUNY ultimately agreed to provide the student with an in-class notetaker. In its letter resolving the complaint, OCR made clear that SUNY should ensure its procedures “include the consideration of effective alternatives when a student reports that the provided note taking services are not effective.” OCR also reaffirmed SUNY’s obligation to “make individualized determinations on requests for academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids and services” and engage in an interactive process with its students who need accommodations. While the letter decision is not binding on other institutions, the main take away from the letter is that institutions may need to consider other accommodations on an individualized basis if the student establishes that Glean is not an effective auxiliary aid for them. 

Yes, there are other notetaking apps, such as OneNote, Evernote, Notability., for example, not only records audio and creates a place for the user to take notes, but this app also creates a real-time transcript that is saved to the user’s cloud.  

Are there other notetaking alternatives? 

Yes, there are other notetaking apps, such as OneNote, Evernote, Notability., for example, not only records audio and creates a place for the user to take notes, but this app also creates a real-time transcript that is saved to the user’s cloud.  

Glean specifically focuses on improving skills as well as taking, organizing, and storing notes. Glean also works to ensure full accessibility to their app by taking the following actions (pulled from their website):  

  • Regularly testing the app and its functions with screen readers, making the app compatible and accessible for students with vision loss. 
  • Ensuring all text and formatting, etc. within Glean meets the WCAG 2 Level AA standards, which are critical for maintaining an accessible online environment. 
  • Designing the software with keyboard accessibility in mind (ability to use Glean without a mouse), which directly impacts students with physical disabilities. 

Read more about Glean’s work toward full accessibility. 

ARC believes that Glean is the best tool for a number of UWM students with disabilities and, as detailed above, it was selected as part of a System-wide RFP/procurement process. The use of alternative notetaking apps may require a competitive procurement process.