Harpur College is looking to take steps to prevent students from using the website www.GradeGuru.com, a site that allows college students to share class notes freely.
The website, launched in November 2009, is owned and operated by McGrawHill Higher Education, a company largely known for its publication of textbooks.
Jennifer Jensen, Harpur College associate dean for academic affairs, said administrators feel that sites like GradeGuru may violate the University’s policies on academic honesty. She said that the Harpur Educational Planning and Policies Committee (EPPC) decided that the University needed a policy that would allow students to be removed from courses if they have published notes on the website.
“We expect that in the large majority of cases, students would simply stop posting notes when they realized that a faculty member was considering removing them from the course,” Jensen said.
Jensen said the committee has recommended that some students who share notes be subject to punishments outlined in the University’s Student Academic Honesty Code.
“I don’t think anyone on the committee believes that these cases should be routinely pursued as honesty violations,” Jensen said. “But there are situations where this might be necessary and appropriate. This would be an avenue to address a case where it is a former student in a course who is posting lecture notes, for example, or situations where a student has posted a faculty member’s material and refuses to take it down.”
Harpur College’s reaction to GradeGuru is similar to the one it had to Notehall, a similar website, last semester. The EPCC launched an investigation into Notehall this spring and found the site to be academically problematic because it publishes professors’ PowerPoint presentations and lecture notes, which are legally considered intellectual property and are protected by federal copyright laws.
A B-Line message last year told students they should refrain from using Notehall.
“Faculty members are beginning to crack down on use of the website Notehall,” the B-Line stated. “It is considered a form of copyright infringement and academic dishonesty.”
Joseph Morrissey, a BU psychology professor, said he didn’t necessarily have a problem with his PowerPoints being shared.
“I never thought of my PowerPoint as only mine,” Morrissey said. “I mean, certainly textbooks are intellectual property, and I guess you could group the PowerPoint in that.”
Angela Santiago, the digital marketing coordinator of GradeGuru, said that the website has taken a firm stance against plagiarism and has implemented several ways to fight it, such as filtering all site content through TurnItIn — a web-based anti-plagiarism detector — and employing content moderators to ensure all submitted work is original.
Michael Erlacher, a freshman majoring in accounting, said he supported lecture notes being available to students online.
“If the person next to me hears what the professor says, that also counts,” Erlacher said. “If that person is willing to post notes online and to the public, it’s also common knowledge. [Professors] are putting it out to the students to make them more knowledgeable in the field. That’s the sole purpose.”