Students Selling Course Material Online

As instructors, we spend countless hours creating, editing, and revising content for our students. Syllabi, lectures, exams, activities, and other course material are created to support and enhance the educational experience. Although these materials are shared by current, former, and future students, they remain the property of the instructor and/or the institution.

A recent phenomenon that is challenging the notion of the intellectual property of instructor created course content is the number of online sites which offer compensation for access to course materials. Sites such as Campus Shift, Course Hero, and NexusNotes are just a few who provide compensation to students for the sale of their course materials. These sites allow students to upload their course materials for free, and then pays them a commission for each sale thereafter. They can also earn free access to content on the site with each upload. A quick search for institution and course will lead you to pages and pages of uploaded materials available for purchase and download.

Our institution recently created a policy to add to the student code of conduct in reference to selling coursework online. In order to prohibit the commercial exploitation of course material, the following statement was adopted and added to our copyright regulations:

Notes of classroom and laboratory lectures, syllabi, exercises and other course materials taken by Students shall not be deemed Student Works, may only be used for personal educational purposes, and shall not be used for commercialization by the Student generating such notes or by any third party without the express written permission of the author of such Works. Violation of University Policy may be grounds for disciplinary action pursuant with the Student Conduct Process.

It does not appear that these sites are going anywhere and they are proving to be quite popular among contemporary college students. Universities and academic programs might consider adopting a similar policy to protect the integrity and accessibility of instructor created course content.

Image credit: BloggersMakeMoney by SEOPlanter. CC BY 2.0