Friday, 9 May 2008

GradeGuru - notes sharing by students for students

Back in second year of my undergraduate Science degree (back in the Dark Ages), one of my friends instructed me to write my Physics notes in black pen so that they could be more easily photocopied. I complied, because that's what you do for your friends, right?

GradeGuru seems to take this to a new level. This is a McGraw-Hill Education start-up which appears to combine social networking with note-taking (see GradeGuru - Facebook for Learning). Students submit their notes, which can then be searched and rated. There is a reward system in place, so that high ratings earn extra points, which can be traded in for rewards.

In a sentence: GradeGuru is a notes sharing website where students who need relevant, course-specific study notes can find them, and where students who have study materials can share them to get rewarded with cool stuff and recognition.

So, what's the difference between this and an essay-mill? Well, students have to register with their university email address, and give their affiliation. Hidden in the depths of the faq, I found the following:

Isn't sharing a form of plagiarism?
No, GradeGuru is to be used for reference purposes. We do not encourage copying or plagiarism of any form. In the near term we plan to partner with anti-plagiarism tool providers to ensure our site is not misused and that our contributors are encouraged to share the way the got to their answers, not just the answers themselves so as to prevent any form of cheating.

It certainly raises some concerns, but is it any different to writing in black ink?


andrew said...

Indeed, is it any different to the lecturer "writing in black ink" (ie providing their lecture on Blackboard)?

I don't see a problem unless a student submits someone else's notes content in an assessment. But that happened even in the 'Dark Ages'. Let's hope GradeGuru and Turnitin work together.

As an aside, I'm sometimes troubled by the assumption that an email address is an identity validation. For example, this is often implicit in "forgot you password" resets.

Sharon said...

Absolutely Andrew, I agree about the email validation. In fact, elsewhere on the faq is the question "Why am I being told that I have already registered?". The answer given, which is less than helpful, suggests

"... you might find someone else has used your email address – is there anyone you share the account with? Unfortunately you will need to use a different email address."

Emily @ GradeGuru said...

Ah yes - that is a pretty weak answer to “why can't I register with my email?” – you are absolutely right - we will change the FAQs with our next release. Thanks for pointing it out. And right again you are… email can’t be used for identity validation – nor does GradeGuru use it that way. We completely agree! Your comments are very constructive. If you have any other suggestions please do let us know! You can contact us through the site. Happy to take it all on board. You will be pleased to know our relationship with the leading anti-plagiarism provider is in the works... watch this space:

Sharon said...

Thanks Emily, for that response. Nice to know our blog is being read ;-)