What are note-sharing websites and why are they an issue?
There are several commercial note-sharing or course-sharing websites on the Internet. For example, Course Hero, OneClass, and StuDocu. These sites allow students to share study materials such as their own lecture notes. Unfortunately, students are posting materials provided by their professors or sharing their previous assignments and tests, which is in violation of the Academic Integrity Policy at Portland Community College. These websites provide incentives such as monetary reward for students to post content that would increase user visits to these sites. There have been reports by PCC faculty that their course materials are posted on these sites without their consent.
There are several problems associated with PCC students posting course materials to these websites or on the Internet:
- The content in some cases (e.g. exams) can help other students to cheat, which is a violation of PCC's Academic Integrity Policy.
- It is a copyright infringement to copy and share a work unless there is permission from the rights holder or the use is permitted by the copyright law.
- Improper use of resources available in D2L may violate a number of other policies at PCC
Students don't always understand when their use of these sites might be a violation of policy or ethically unsound.
What can faculty do to educate students about these sites?
It is helpful to educate students on the ethical and legal uses of your course materials. Education may help prevent students from posting course materials on the Internet; students may have greatly varied schema about intellectual property! Here are some strategies:
1) Talk to your students about the course materials
At the start of a term, mention to your students that the course materials provided by you or posted on D2L are for their own educational use and should not be shared on the Web or externally.*
*It's up to a faculty's discretion on whether material can be shared outside of class. For third-party material, there may be copyright implications related to distribution.
2) Include a © symbol and/or statement on the course materials
Add the copyright symbol, your name and date that you created the material. You may also include a statement to clarify what students can and cannot do with your material. Here is a suggested statement:
"The materials provided in class and in D2L are protected by copyright. They are intended for the personal, educational uses of students in this course and should not be shared externally or on websites such as Course Hero or OneClass. Unauthorized distribution may result in copyright infringement and violation of PCC policies."
3) Cite any third-party sources used in the course materials
Provide attribution to the sources you are using to demonstrate good scholarly practice and academic integrity to your students. Talk to your students about your ethical decision making when it comes to the use of third party sources.
4) Provide information resources on note-sharing sites and other copyright issues
Here are some resources:
- Video on "Note-Sharing Websites" from Sheridan Library in Canada
- Student information on note-sharing websites on this copyright guide
- Students are free to email the Copyright Committee with questions
Feel free to post these links on your D2L course pages to share with students.
You can also invite a librarian or member of the Copyright Committee to speak to your class or to create custom course materials on these topics for your class.
5) Suggest learning support services available
In addition to seeking coursework help from you and other professors, refer students to
How can faculty get their materials removed from these sites?
The best thing you can do is to contact the Student Conduct and Retention Coordinators by submitting a report through their website (https://www.pcc.edu/incident/
A majority of note-sharing websites have an online form for authors to request removal of their materials. In US, where many of these sites are hosted, online service providers are required by legislation to remove a copyrighted work upon request of the rights holder and provide a notice to the user that uploaded the work.
The links below take you to the online forms of several note-sharing websites to request content removal:
- Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021 4:58 PM
- URL: https://guides.pcc.edu/copyright
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