Last year an accomplished professor came by the office for some grading help with a midterm which our students are sometimes able to provide (so long as we stay FERPA compliant). He noticed many students were getting the same answer wrong in the same particular way over and over. Perplexed, he wondered aloud what could be happening until one of the student staff members in the office remarked that the exam and/or study guide was probably on Quizlet. We both responded “What is Quizlet?”
Quizlet is one of a suite of websites leveraging crowdsourced content for study help for students. Study Blue is also popular and there are probably dozens of others I am not aware of. In most cases these sites offer study guides students have uploaded that can be turned into flash cards or practice exams. On the whole, the sort of thing we all hope students do. Of course there are also less than exemplary practices. In the case referenced earlier, someone had uploaded nearly an entire exam. Even further on the spectrum, there are many pay-for-essay sites online offering products of dubious origin. We have come a long way from file folders of essays and exams passed from friend-to-friend over years and are likely to go even further in the coming years.
We have tools at our disposal to help with academic honesty including digital products like turnitin and personnel with expertise in Student Judicial Affairs. These can be extremely useful, but I also want to direct you to the most valuable resource at your disposal: your students. Asking current and former students what tools they or their peers used in your classes can give you a baseline. You may like what you hear and decide to help curate the collections on Quizlet yourself or direct future students to especially valuable guides. You may find your students are utilizing out-of-date, incorrect, or unethical resources. Then it may be up to you to change your exams or teaching practices to accommodate. If you do talk to your students and find something interesting, especially a web service or a network, don’t keep it a secret, pass it along and let us know.
Dr. Sara Cooper has provided additional Book in Common Material. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.
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