CAUTION: Online help sites are risky!

Article by Director of Academic Conduct, response by Lode Team

Robert Bishop, Director of Academic Conduct

The following piece was submitted to The Lode by Robert Bishop on behalf of the OACC at [email protected] Email us at this address to submit an article of your own.

The Office of Academic and Community Conduct (OACC) would like to inform students about the potential for academic integrity violations involving the misuse of online help sites like Chegg, Course Hero GitHub, etc.. Students should be aware that faculty are encouraged to report incidents of academic misconduct (cheating, plagiarism, contract cheating, fabrication, facilitation), or community misconduct (copyright infringement) as it relates to students’ misuse of online help sites. In addition to reporting alleged violations to the Office of Academic and Community Conduct, faculty can work directly with the online help sites to obtain information for investigation of the alleged misconduct and/or to request removal of copyrighted material.

The most common misuse cases are:
● Professors have not authorized a site for use on an assignment.
● Students knowingly copy information from the site and claim it as their own.
● Students post a professor’s copyrighted material on the site without permission.
Most online help sites have honor codes and/or copyright policies. Students should ask their professors whether or not they are authorized to use online help sites. Students should only upload content to these websites that they’ve made, or are otherwise authorized to post. If services have been misused, these sites may take actions necessary to maintain the integrity of their services. This may include removing offending materials, terminating the accounts of misusers, or helping an institution determine the nature of the misuse and the identities of those involved in committing such acts.
Students who upload course materials without the permission of their professor may be in violation of the University’s Academic Integrity Policy for facilitating academic misconduct, and/or in violation of the Student Code of Community Conduct for violating copyright and/or intellectual property rights. If students are merely uploading their personal class notes or personal study guides created for the course that is not a violation. If they are uploading course materials for which distribution has been specifically prohibited by the professor it is a violation. This includes but is not limited to graded quizzes and exams, homework answers, etc., along with any questions that are or might be intended for future quizzes and exams. Uploading a professor’s work product without permission is a copyright violation issue. Examples are a PowerPoint presentation or study guide prepared by the faculty, even if it has been distributed to the class. Material directly from a textbook, such as the chapter’s “Study Questions”, in a Study Guide posted by a student would be a copyright violation. Students also may not profit from posting another’s work. Finally, intentional, unauthorized use of online resources (i.e. Chegg) may also violate academic misconduct (cheating), or plagiarism for not properly citing/referencing the source. Some professors specifically include in their syllabus that the use of online help sites is not an authorized resource. If a syllabus does not include mention of using online help sites, it is best to ask your professor prior to using such a site.
Bottom line is, a student should always consult with their professor before using any online help site. And students should never post anything that they are not authorized to post.

Editor’s note: We are extremely disappointed that of all the problems plaguing campus, online resources are the point of contention. The Lode has not received any articles from MTU regarding the recent controversies of our own professors, yet we have been requested to publish an article cautioning our readers on academic misconduct. While misuse of online resources has become more prevalent due to most classes moving online, we feel the raising of this issue is rather tone-deaf given the campus climate. 

– The Lode Team