Tip: Protecting Course Content from "Sharing" Sites
Example syllabus statements to start conversations with students about appropriate use of academic sharing sites.
Since Course Hero, Chegg, and other academic “sharing” sites have been in the news lately - or at least, in higher ed news - I thought it might be helpful to look at what we can do as individual faculty members* to address the use of these services in our courses. I have written previously about technology and academic integrity, way back at the very beginning of the pandemic, and shared some tips last spring for dealing with cheating and plagiarism.
*As with many concerns, it’s really the responsibility of our institutions to come up with policies that proactively seek to ensure academic integrity. If you are involved in institutional governance, you might consider raising these issues with your college senate (or another forum).
One thing we can do to set the appropriate expectations around how students should and should not engage in collaborative work, including sharing their assignments online, is to articulate our expectations at the start of the course. The syllabus is the appropriate place - syllabus jokes aside - to start a conversation with students about what is and is not acceptable.
I write start a conversation deliberately, because while I can’t imagine a syllabus statement alone being enough, it’s a place to start. Richland Community College offers a set of syllabus statements that instructors can include in their syllabi to address sharing of course content:
Responsible Use of Classroom Content (Included in Class Syllabus)
Class discussions, papers, pictures, video, and any other work created for a course are all considered official course content. Work including papers, discussions, quizzes, assignments, etc., must be confined to the classroom (either on-campus or virtual) and should not be shared outside the classroom without the express permission of the person who created it. Students should respect the privacy of person-to-person or person-to-class communication in all forms. Violating others’ privacy may result in removal from the course. Significant or repeated violations may result in suspension or expulsion. This standard is pursuant to Board Policy 5.8.1 (Responsible Use of Information Technology) and the Code of Student Conduct.
Copyright Notice (Included in Class Syllabus)
The materials used in this course are protected by Copyright law. Faculty lectures, course supplementary materials, articles, quizzes and exams, papers, data, web pages, and artwork are among the properties protected. This is not an exhaustive list. Items may or may not be marked with a Copyright symbol ©. Regardless, the intellectual property used in this course is owned by the creator who is the sole determiner of how the property is used, including but not limited to copying, distribution, performance, display, or revisions.
Another option comes from Colorado State University, which has a helpful student-facing page about using “homework helper” sites:
Include this statement to address third party helper sights:
The use of online “homework helper” sites including, but not limited to, Chegg, NoteHall, Quizlet and Koofers is not permitted in this course. Please reach out to ______________ (us, me, your TA, your ULA) to discuss if a specific service you are thinking about using for this course is acceptable.
(add if you want to address a penalty)
Use of these types of resources will be considered receiving unauthorized assistance and, therefore, a violation of the student conduct code. Using them may result, at the discretion of the instructor, in a zero for the course, assignment, quiz, or exam. All incidents of this type will be referred to the CSU Student Resolution Center and may be subject to additional University disciplinary action.
I think it’s important not to ignore that these sites exist, but to address them head-on with students. These example syllabus statements are one way to make clear your position that using sites to share quizzes or completed assignments is equivalent to sharing these with classmates, with the added concern about your labor (or theirs, in the case of sharing essays they have written) as the creator of the materials. It opens up room for discussion about how we value integrity, how we respect the labor of others, and what intellectual property means.
Have you started addressing these “sharing” sites with students? If so, how?
For more reading:
Karen Costa wrote a great piece on course hero last month, that was in reaction to Course Hero news, but was really about “what it means to live, work, teach, learn, and design as an ethical educator in 2022.”