Study aids raise ethical concerns for UCF students
Whether they know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, or they are just beginning their journey, most students come to college with a goal to succeed.
But with apps and websites that allow others to have control of their learning experience, are students truly taking their studies into their own hands?
When first stepping onto UCF grounds, students were taught to follow the UCF Golden Rule, which highlights policies, procedures and rules of conduct that should be followed at all times. However, when faced with quizzes, midterms and finals exams, students often find themselves turning, not to their extensive notes, but to online study aids put together by fellow Knights who have taken the classes before them.
Flashnotes.com, for example, is a student-to-student marketplace where college students can sell and buy course-specific study materials, including study guides, notes, flashcards and video tutorials, said founder Mike Matousek, who said he firmly believes Flashnotes.com cannot do harm to students in any way. And he is correct in that the website is not in violation of UCF's Golden Rule.
However, UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin said students are expected to succeed based on their own understanding of course material, not because they relied on an outside source to do the work for them.
"It's important that students be aware of the expectations that come with being enrolled in classes," Gilmartin said. "They come to UCF to learn, and it's a professor's job to assess whether students have mastered the curriculum."
Flashnotes.com offers college students two opportunities: more money and better grades. Students who sell their course-specific work earn an average of $31 per hour, and Matousek said 87 percent of students who have sold their school work on Flashnotes.com saw an improvement in their overall GPA.
"We see it as our mission to complement and reinforce the in-class experience in order to close knowledge gaps and help more students be successful academically," he said.
So from a student's perspective, where's the problem?
Although there may not be a fault in the website or its outcome, Gilmartin said taking shortcuts that tamper with the process of learning ultimately undermines the purpose of higher education.
And while some students may think selling and buying class materials is a step too far, most of them are probably all too familiar with a similar website — Quizlet.
By simply typing in your class, professor and school — or even just copying and pasting the first question from an online quiz — students can quickly find flashcards of identical material. Although students don't get paid, Quizlet's free study tools and apps are used by more than a million students and teachers each day, in every country, according to its website.
Along with Flashnotes.com, there's an app that encourages the "in-class experience," but on another level.
Class120 is a system that uses geo-location, Wi-Fi or more traditional instructor roll call to monitor college-class attendance, said Jeff Whorley, the founder and CEO of Core Principle, the company that offers Class120. With this app, and with the student's consent, a college coach, academic adviser or a parent will be notified when a student misses a class.
Some students may see this as an invasion of privacy, but Whorley highly emphasized that Class120 requires the consent of the student involved. The student must also approve any person whom the system would notify about absences; thus, it is not used to "spy" on students without their knowledge.
"Our belief that improving class attendance is critical to improving student outcomes is based on compelling research," he said. "That research shows that the No. 1 predictor of how a student will perform in a college course is class attendance."
Like Flashnotes.com, Gilmartin said Class120 is not a violation of UCF's Golden Rule.
Other services for students:
•Personalized learning experience
•Tools and solutions for school work
•Practice tests, videos and flashcards
•Take notes electronically
•App to keep all files in one place
•Can log into the app anywhere
Rachel Stuart is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.