Study aids: do they help or harm?

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study aids: do they harm or help? athabasca university course hero study resourcesAs a student, you’ll probably take all the help you can to achieve great grades. And if it fits within the course or institution rules, why not? Being an online university, we appreciate that information travels at the speed of light via the web, however, unethical information and content also has the ability to move without barriers and, often times, this is where the trouble begins.

Study help?

In recent years, an influx of dishonest online educational material — crowd-sourced educational ‘resources’ that allows students and educators to openly share class content and information has popped up. These sites curate and collect institution-specific content (class notes, test preparation and lesson plans, study guides and pre-‘tests’ built for preparation) from students and help give it to other students who might need assistance. Not so fast.

At first glance you might think ‘great, a peer-reviewed, crowd-sourced website that will help me achieve my educational goals’. If you look again, many of these resources help students by giving access to specific content by trading their content. If we’re talking the free sharing of something like class lecture and reading notes, that’s one thing.

However, it’s direct cheating when taking someone’s completed work and submitting it as your own; it’s also cheating when you pass around specific course information like essay topics or test questions for others to read and use for their benefit. Cheating at AU has very severe consequences.

How the rules are broken

These sites create danger for students in a few ways:

  1. They ask students to post course materials. Of course, posting your own study or course notes is fine BUT if what you post contains AU course material, posting is a violation of the Student Academic Misconduct Policy (Unauthorized Use of AU materials).
  2. If another student uses your posted material inappropriately (e.g., by plagiarizing it – submitting your content as their own), both you and them may additionally be found in violation of the policy under Aiding Another in Committing an Academic Offence.
  3. Reproducing any material from these sites in your work may violate the academic misconduct policy under the plagiarism clause. Remember this is the case even if you use only a part of someone else’s work.

What does this mean for me?

Long story short: if caught dishonestly using and abusing these sites to lift others content, to plagiarize, to utilize copyright materials or straight up cheat in any other way, there will be severe consequences. With penalties ranging from course failure right up to expulsion from AU, these types of activities can leave a very serious mark on your student record.

What to do now?

Firstly, if you have uploaded, shared or loaned any completed or AU-issued course-specific content, you should remove the content from the host site. This includes documents such as: completed essays, course outlines, essay questions, exam prep materials, and other graded assignments. If you’re unsure, it’s probably safest to take it down as the penalties are serious, all-encompassing and long term.

Remember that it is important that you read and understand the Student Academic Misconduct Policy. Here you will get the answers about what constitutes an academic offence and what is appropriate. It’s an important document, so you should know the ins and outs just to be safe. Any questions? Please ask.