The concept of cheating appears straight forward at a glance, DO NOT COPY, DO NOT USE OTHER PEOPLE'S IDEAS OR WORDS AS YOUR OWN! However, in the information age, an era we are quick to celebrate and condemn all in one breath, what does cheating look like? The answer to this question becomes more complicated when you consider all the ways students can now connect themselves to the "correct answer" or even have others do their work for them. There are a plethora of websites where students can purchase "textbook help," pay for original essays, share materials, or purchase tutoring help online. For many of our students, these last two concepts, in particular, may live in a murky grey area of getting their work done and violating the college's code of academic integrity, creating a landscape of confusion and temptation.
Crowdsourcing Assignments: Course Hero
That grey area in every other aspect of students' lives may be the norm. Technology is made for sharing, the most obvious being the sharing of information and the devices and software that make it possible. Just look at Google Docs whose whole purpose is to collaborate in real-time or organizations like Wikipedia, who have popularized the revolutionary concept of crowdsourcing, where multiple people contribute to a project at the same time. Therefore, it is not a surprise that students can do the same with their assignments. They can instantly crowdsource their essays, upload, and share assignments through companies like Course Hero, an online learning platform that advertises itself as tutoring help but blatantly flirts with copyright infringement and outright copying. According to Course Hero, they actively support academic integrity policies (Course Hero - Academic Integrity Policies). However, it also gives students all the tools they need to cheat by providing textbook solutions and the ability to share coursework. Students can purchase a subscription to Course Hero or upload their assignments to get "free access." All a student has to do is browse the site for their school and course to find shareable assignment prompts and assignments completed by other students. Yes, SFCC has it's very own collection of course work on the company's website. Academia's Response to Subscription Tutoring Services In academia, responses to companies like Course Hero and Chegg, a similar homework help service has been varied and intense. There is an actual debate about whether these companies should be reviled or embraced as a new wave of social networking in education. In an article in Inside Higher Education titled, “Course Hero Woos Professors,” it is noted that over 30,000 professors from colleges and universities around the U.S. are contributors to Course Hero and have an active presence on the website (Lederman). These instructors have invested in the notion of a more collaborative academic model, that encourages students to use the online resources at their disposal. On the other hand, many instructors have noticed that the use of websites like Course Hero can lead to obvious cheating and in some instances, such as at the University of Oklahoma, leads to outright hiring of "homework contractors" to do the work, culminating ultimately in expulsion (Wolverton). As some instructors embrace such services and others condemn them, it becomes clear that these relationships between academia and subscription tutoring services are difficult at best and it only gets more complicated.
The OWL Purdue and Chegg Partnership
In a surprising move, OWL Purdue, a well known and reputable resource for writing and citation help, just entered into a partnership with Chegg. If you go to the OWL Purdue MLA citation formatting page you'll now find advertisements for EasyBib and Citation Machine, companies owned by Chegg. The embedded citation generators are ads but look like they are a part of the OWL Purdue website and therefore appear endorsed or even created by Purdue itself.
At the SFCC library we've seen students refer to the "OWL Purdue citation generator," only to realize they are referring to the ads. Merely being on the OWL Purdue website has created a sense of endorsement and credibility for a subscription tutoring service like Chegg and it's companies, when in fact these services should be scrutinized and evaluated for academic integrity before they are used. To be clear, as a library we do not condemn citation generators, but advocate for the appropriate level of investigation before promoting services and companies that can lead to academic dishonesty. Academic library listservs are currently debating the appropriateness of such ads and partnerships, not to mention the suitability of its monetization.
Some librarians argue that maintaining and running a service like OWL Purdue is time intensive and needs funding. Therefore, they cannot fault OWL Purdue for entering into such an agreement. According to another Inside Higher Ed article, OWL Purdue will advise Chegg on writing instruction and help develop their Artificial Intelligence-powered writing tools and Chegg will license OWL's writing tips and advertise on their website. OWL Purdue is looking at a six-figure revenue from the partnership (McKenzie). Many academic librarians believe that the quality of the information provided by OWL Purdue has now been compromised and have started using alternative resources they find more credible for citation and writing help.
It is unlikely that services like Course Hero, Chegg, and many others like them will go away anytime soon. At the very least it is clear that as the landscape of online resources for studying and getting homework help becomes more prevalent, there is a need for resources and services that will help students and faculty clearly define expectations when it comes to academic integrity.
SFCC Library Support Services for Academic Integrity
To contribute to these resources, the SFCC Library's Spring Quarter Zoom student workshops will feature a comprehensive workshop series titled, "Academic Integrity." The workshop series will focus on identifying and avoiding plagiarism, giving students tools and resources for creating proper citations (full disclosure, we use a citation generator but not the ones mentioned above), and an in-depth discussion on the scholarly conversation and their role as a student.
To find a full description of workshop times and dates continue to scroll through this newsletter.
Please see a list of helpful resources noted below, including a library guide on plagiarism, a flow chart on understanding plagiarism, and a variety of resources pertinent to academic honesty and integrity.
Students are encouraged to attend the workshops and librarians are happy to teach a workshop for individual classes upon request. Yes, the library teaches Zoom sessions! If you are interested in an individualized library lesson please email Sharde.firstname.lastname@example.org.
SFCC has a new database, purchased with funds with a bequest from Steven R. Morris. We thank you for your support!
The SFCC Library now provides access to the Health Science's collection from ScienceDirect. A collection of full-text, scholarly articles and book chapters concerning health and life sciences, includes open access journals. Checkout the new databases here.
PubMed has millions of citations for biomedical literature, including life science journals and online books. Many citations (not all) include free full-text content. PubMed has just updated and created new training materials for an easier to use interface.
Check out the PubMed Website for new video tutorials and quick guides.
Library Recommendations: APA 7th Edition
Library recommendations feature helpful tips about library resources, book recommendations, podcasts, news related to information and media, and generally anything related to libraries, information literacy, and the internet. Basically, little tid-bits you might find interesting for yourself and/or your instruction.
Resources for the New APA 7th Edition
APA STYLE BLOG - Comprehensive style, citation and grammar guidelines from the official APA site.
APA QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE - Printable PDF from the APA Style site with citation information for a journal article, book, and book chapter.