Facebook application raises ethical concerns about exam sharing

Bethany English

Cheating is easier than ever. With technology, students can snap a picture of their test on a camera phone or text an answer across the room to a friend.

But, professors are divided on one gray area — whether websites that allow students to explore everything about a class from professor ratings to a previous semester’s tests are forms of cheating.

Koofers.com, a Facebook application, allows students to upload previous tests, quizzes, study guides and notes for other students to use as study aids. It also includes class reviews, professor ratings and a schedule planner.

Glynn LoPresti, co-founder and president of koofers.com, said when Patrick Gartlan, Michael Rihani and he founded koofers.com in 2006, its mission was “leveling the playing field” for all students through “e-learning.”

The materials that students in academic clubs and Greek organizations have access to should be equally available to everyone, he said. By offering students the chance to become familiar with the format, Koofers can help eliminate some of the anxiety surrounding tests.

“Your first test with any professor can be really scary,” LoPresti said. “You have no idea what type of questions they’re going to ask.”

Ryan Harrison, sophomore music education major, said students should be allowed to use the materials handed out by their professors as learning tools, and placing them on a website just makes them available to a larger group of students.

Economics professor C. Lockwood Reynolds provides homework, PowerPoint slides and practice exams to help his students review. While he said a website such as Koofers might be beneficial for some students, there is also a point where students have practiced so much that practicing more isn’t helpful.

To avoid a reputation as a website that supports cheating, LoPresti said if a student posts a stolen test or a current test that other students haven’t taken yet, those materials are taken down. Materials that allow students to avoid learning, such as homework and papers, aren’t used for the site.

“We work very hard at making sure that we’re aware of the academic integrity guidelines and concerns facing higher education,” LoPresti said.

Efforts such as this aren’t enough for Songping Huang, associate professor of chemistry, who said the website is “committing a crime.”

Students shouldn’t upload materials a professor has returned to them because they have an informal copyright through a contract with Kent State that protects professors’ work, Huang said.

Although he allows students to keep midterm exams to study for the final, he said he wouldn’t be pleased to find it online.

“That doesn’t imply that I give them permission to further disseminate that information to other students,” Huang said.

Uploading materials violates the professor’s right to his or her intellectual property, Huang said. If the professor wants to share materials such as study guides, he or she can hand them out or post them on the course website through the university.

Tests from previous semesters might also mislead students, Huang said. Tests may change from year to year, and the material on the site might not be accurate to what the test will cover.

“You end up actually risking your grade,” Huang said.

He said he doesn’t have a problem with students sharing notes because those notes are their own work, and he wouldn’t mind using this website to post material he wants students to study.

Koofers allows instructors to view the uploaded materials as well, but Huang thinks it would be a better approach if professors were consulted before the materials are published by the site.

LoPresti said the site is considering sending notifications to professors when something new is added to the materials under their course.

Reynolds said a concern is that it might allow students to avoid coming to class and taking an active role in their own education, a concern Huang shares as well.

“Education is building up human capital, which is your skills,” Reynolds said.

Students who don’t understand the concepts taught in their classes aren’t increasing their skill set by looking at a test from a person who does understand those concepts. The worst thing students can do is to use the uploaded study guides and tests instead of attending class, Reynolds said.

But for Harrison, a website wouldn’t play a big role in missing class. Students who want to skip will do so regardless, he said. Having a website with some valuable information will be a justification for those missed classes.

“I think the people who will use it beneficially won’t skip class because of it,” Harrison said.

Contact sports reporter Bethany English at [email protected].