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Course-sharing or note-sharing websites such as Course Hero, OneClass and StuDocu allow students to post course materials and access content posted by others. These commercial websites offer incentives such as rewards and free access to students to post materials. Students are not just posting their own study notes but are sharing current/old exams, homework problems, and instructional slides provided by their professors. The problems associated with these actions include:
Some of the materials (e.g. exams and assignment answers) can help other students to cheat, which is a violation of Sheridan's Academic Integrity Policy. At Sheridan, there have been a few cases of sanctions imposed for academic integrity breaches related to students using course-sharing sites.
It is a copyright infringement to copy and share a work unless there is permission from the copyright owner or the use is permitted by the copyright law.
Many course-sharing websites are hosted on US servers and are considered to be online service providers. Under US copyright law, these sites are required to remove a copyrighted work upon the request of the rights holder and to provide a notice to the user that uploaded the work.
Many course-sharing websites have online forms for copyright owners to request removal of their materials. Direct links to some of these forms are listed below:
Brock University's website has template letters that are helpful for contacting Canadian, US and international websites.
How can faculty educate students on the proper uses of course materials?
Students should be aware of the ethical and legal uses of course materials and other copyrighted works. Education can help prevent students from posting course materials on the Internet. Here are some suggestions:
1) Talk to students about your course materials
It's up to a faculty's discretion on whether they allow their course materials to be shared outside of class. If you prefer that students use the materials only for their own educational use, talk to them about this issue at the start of a term. Be clear that your course materials should not be shared with other students outside of class or on the Internet.
The materials provided in class and in SLATE 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 Sheridan policies.
3) Cite any third-party sources used in the course materials
Provide credit to the sources you are using to demonstrate good scholarly practice and academic integrity to your students.
4) Provide information resources on course-sharing sites and other copyright issues
Here are some resources developed by Sheridan Library & Learning Services: