Web sites facilitate note-sharing
By Kate Farley, The Dartmouth Senior Staff
Published on Friday, April 3, 2009
Note-sharing web sites, which allow students to exchange class notes and other related materials online, are growing in popularity at universities nationwide, but few Dartmouth students appear to be active users.
Most of the more popular sites -- including GradeGuru, StudyBlue and UniversityJunction -- are free for users with university-affiliated e-mail addresses. Both GradeGuru and StudyBlue pay students for uploading notes.
"One of our goals is to promote an open academic community for undergraduates," Liz Mitchell, communications director for UniversityJunction, said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
Many students from other Ivy League schools are registered with the note-sharing sites. Over 380 Brown University-affiliated users, most of whom are freshmen, are registered on StudyBlue, according to The Brown Daily Herald.
University of Pennsylvania and Yale University students are the second- and fifth-most prolific contributors, respectively, to GradeGuru.
Six StudyBlue accounts are registered to users with Dartmouth e-mail addresses. No documents on GradeGuru are posted by Dartmouth-affiliated users.
Rohan Chaudhary '12 said he registered with StudyBlue, but did not find the site to be useful largely because there are few Dartmouth resources posted and contributing his own material required too much time.
"It's kind of an extraneous thing to work on, in addition to everything else going on in life," he said in an e-mail.
A significant majority of students interviewed by The Dartmouth said they were not familiar with the note-sharing sites, but said that they would be unlikely to use such resources, citing the material's unverified nature and uncertain origin.
"I wouldn't trust some random person's notes," Kat Stillman '10 said.
Other students said they doubted they could fully understand someone else's notes.
"Everyone has their own kind of note-taking shorthand," Katie Edkins '12 said.
Stillman also said she thought such sites could be open to sabotage.
"What if someone maliciously posted fake notes, like for a really competitive class?" she said. "I'd rather just get them from a friend if I miss a class."
Mitchell said UniversityJunction attempts to ensure that posted material is reliable through user feedback.
"We have a flagging system that is user-based, so people can report material that shouldn't be posted," Mitchell said, adding that the site bans users who repeatedly post copyrighted or inappropriate material.
UniversityJunction, StudyBlue and GradeGuru all stipulate that posting copyrighted material violates the sites' terms of service.
UniversityJunction's guidelines also remind students not to violate their colleges' or universities' code of ethics.
The College's academic honor principle does not specifically address students' sharing notes or study material. Student members of the Committee on Standards declined to give their opinions as to whether the use of these sites would violate the honor principle. Representatives from the Undergraduate Office of Judicial Affairs could not be reached for comment by press time.
Several professors said they were not familiar with note-sharing sites, but would likely not have a problem with their students using such resources.
"I put all my lectures up on Blackboard," government professor Linda Fowler said. "When I assign students blue book exams and papers, all the notes in the world aren't going to help them if they don't understand the material."
Fowler added that, in her experience, students who attend class and participate in discussion receive better grades than students who do not.
Biology professor Matthew Ayres said he does not object to his students sharing notes online.
"I can say that anything that helps them to learn the material that we're trying to [teach] more efficiently is a good thing," he said.
Representatives from StudyBlue and GradeGuru could not be reached for comment by press time.