Why schools need “safe sharing sites” for students: Promoting academic integrity with ethical approaches to file-sharing

March 3, 2021

#ICAI2021 - Eaton quoteCommercial file-sharing and homework help sites have proliferated during the COVID-10 pandemic. One recent news report states that Chegg is now worth $12 Billion USD. And that’s just one company.

During the 2021 International Center for Academic Integrity conference, there were a few sessions dedicated to how to deal with companies such as Chegg, CourseHero and other commercial entities. One answer might be for schools themselves to create “safe sharing sites” for students.

The idea is similar to that of safe consumption sites for those who use drugs to do so in a monitored and safe environment. The purpose of a supervised or safe consumption site is to support harm reduction for users.

To transfer the analogy to academic file sharing, if students are going to share files anyway, it is incumbent upon schools provide them with safe and supported ways for them to do so. Safe sharing sites can promote ethical decision-making, minimize academic misconduct, and foster a sense of school community where profs, administrators, and students are working together to uphold integrity.

The onus is on educational institutions to support students’ learning. When schools invest in student learning through institutionally-supported tools and platforms, they support the student experience. Developing safe sharing sites is one viable way to address the problem of unethical file-sharing.

Putting resources into trying to combat global corporate entities whose primary purpose is to make a profit from our students is a losing battle. Putting effort into submitting requests to take down materials from corporate third party sites is like a game of whack-a-mole we can never win. As I commented in one of the conference presentations during the ICAI conference: Schools paying for a commercial file-sharing site account in order to find out what is on their website is like paying a drug dealer to find out what is in their pills. When schools pay for an account on corporate 3rd party sites, we help to finance the industry we are advocating against.

As educational institutions, we must find ways to work with our students, not against them. File-sharing is a normal online behaviour, so let’s provide students with the tools to do what they are going to do any way in safe and supported ways that help them – and us – uphold integrity on our campuses.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


Webinar: Sharing is caring? Exploring academic integrity and file-sharing behaviours

July 21, 2020

Webinar: Sharing is caring? Exploring academic integrity and file-sharing behaviours

August 14, 2020

10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time (Calgary, Canada)

Join Dr. Brenda Stoesz (University of Manitoba) and Josh Seeland (Assiniboine Community College) for an interactive session on academic file-sharing among students. Learn what some of the issues are, and how to address them from an academic integrity perspective.

This online event is part of the Academic Integrity Webinar Series, offered through the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary. The series is convened by Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity.

Presenter bios:

Brenda M. Stoesz currently works as a faculty specialist at The Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB, Canada, where she develops educational resources and professional development opportunities for post-secondary academic staff. Stoesz also conducts research on academic integrity, with a focus on academic integrity policy analysis and contract cheating. In 2019, she founded and currently chairs the Manitoba Academic Integrity Network (MAIN). Stoesz holds a PhD in Psychology and Bachelors of Education and Science. She has more than 20 years of experience teaching high school, college, and university students.

Josh Seeland works as Academic Integrity & Copyright Officer at the Assiniboine Community College (ACC) Library in Brandon, MB, Canada, where his primary duties include research initiatives and library instruction/outreach at ACC locations across Manitoba. He is a member of the Manitoba Academic Integrity Network (MAIN) and chairs ACC’s Academic Integrity Advisory Committee. Seeland holds Bachelor of Arts in History and Philosophy from the University of Manitoba and a diploma in Library and Information Technology from Red River College.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand what academic file-sharing is and how it works.
  • Understand how predatory commercial file sharing sites can exploit or deceive students.
  • Discuss how educators can work with students to understand what ethical sharing means.

Register here.

This webinar is the first in a new series being offered through the Taylor Institute of Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.

This series will deal with timely and emergent topics that are cutting edge, provocative or high profile in nature. Each webinar can accommodate 300 live participants. All registrants will be e-mailed a link to the recorded version of the webinar for viewing after the live event.

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Share or Tweet this: Webinar: Sharing is caring? Exploring academic integrity and file-sharing behaviours #academicintegrity #highered https://wp.me/pNAh3-2wS

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


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