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Students get cash for notes

A new Internet study tool gives students the opportunity to buy an entire quarter’s notes before the first class, introducing an ethical dilemma.

Online note-sharing websites, such as ShareNotes, FlashNotes and GradeGuru, allow students to share their class notes with other students who are willing to purchase them. For the website to have success, students need to upload and buy each other’s class notes so the host company can acquire fees from the transactions.

Specific numbers vary by company, but revenue from note sales goes mostly to the students. A smaller percentage of the revenue goes to the companies who run the website.

FlashNotes spokeswoman Katie Greenwald said students receive 80 percent of their notes’ revenue, while FlashNotes takes the remaining 20 percent. Students who upload their notes set the price, with a minimum of $1.99.

Other note-sharing websites boast appealing bonuses for signing up and uploading notes. ShareNotes offers a rewards program that hands out free gifts, such as an iPod or Flip camera, for referring friends and uploading class notes.

GradeGuru, a start-up company run by education materials company McGraw-Hill, has an advantage because it prints many of the textbooks the class notes are written from.

An increased use of online note-sharing sites might cause students to attend fewer classes, but FlashNotes CEO Mike Matousek said the effects of a possible rise in absenteeism would be minimal.

“Students who abuse (note-sharing websites) are the same type of kids who sit in the back of class with their headphones on,” Matousek said. “They are not learning in class anyway.”

Robert S. Coleman, chair of Ohio State’s Committee on Academic Misconduct, said the process of buying and selling notes is fair, according to the student handbook.

“When you take a class, your course materials are your property,” Coleman said. “We can’t lend knowledge and ask for it back.”

Coleman emphasized that even though note sharing is acceptable, other rules regarding academic misconduct still apply.

“Copying the work of another and presenting it as your own is never acceptable,” Coleman said. “You’re doing something to try to get out of work.”

Jake Miller, a second-year in sports and leisure studies and FlashNotes user, said online note-sharing sites can be a good resource. Miller said he understands how some professors find the note-sharing marketplace detrimental to academic success.

“Some professors say it’s fine,” Miller said. “But other professors feel like you should go to class and pay your dues.”

Miller said he made about $150 in two weeks uploading his class notes last spring, He has not, however, uploaded his class notes since.

“Some classes, like GECs, are better for uploading than others,” Miller said.

The process of transferring his handwritten notes to computer files took hours, Miller said. Uploading the files to the site and readying them for sale, Miller said, did not take more than a few minutes.

“It’s a new and different way to get information across,” Matousek said. “We’re trying to find out what students need to succeed.”

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