Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Unis frown on note-sharing website as bright students cash in

The University of Otago has discouraged its students from using the lecture notes service.
The University of Otago has discouraged its students from using the lecture notes service.

New Zealanders are uploading their lecture notes to a website that sells them on to other students and returns a share of the profit to the author.

The University of Otago has discouraged its students from using the service, which was established in Australia and is now targeting customers here.

Nexus Notes sells university course notes for $35 a set, with the students who uploaded their work taking half the sale price.

The owners of the scheme say they vet all notes and only approve those from students who received a final mark of 75 per cent or above. Notes can be previewed online.

The service has been used by students at more than 16 Australian universities and the website has now announced its intention to expand to New Zealand.

A University of Auckland law student has uploaded 11 sets of notes, with reported subject marks as high as 95 per cent.

Several University of Otago honours students are also offering notes on the website.

That has prompted a response from the University of Otago. Its spokeswoman, Megan McPherson, advises students to be confident they understand the issues involved.

"Our view is that this has parallels to an informal textbook that offers little quality assurance and is written by students who are not necessarily experts.

"Students resorting to sites of this kind also need to recognise that there is absolutely no guarantee as to the quality or currency of any material they might purchase or access, so it is a case of caveat emptor [buyer beware]."

Ms McPherson said the university considered a student's academic prospects would be enhanced by attending lectures, taking their own notes and working with staff.

"Notwithstanding the comments around quality, the university reserves the right to take action against individuals or organisations who infringe on the intellectual property rights of its staff, but does not regard the act of buying and selling course notes per se as actionable."

Nexus Notes community manager and former University of Otago law student Xavier Collins said he accepted universities might not like their business model.

But he said it was part of the "changing face of academia in the digital age".

"This is something that is starting to take off all over the world, including at top institutions like Oxford and Cambridge."

Mr Collins said the service was legal, provided students submitted notes they had written themselves. It was not plagiarism as universities do not mark notes, he said, and the website did not sell assignments.

"To date, there has been zero push-back from Australian universities. In fact, we have made some very positive partnerships with faculty societies from different campuses across the country, an example being Sydney University Business Society.

"In terms of feedback from universities themselves, we have academics such as law deans state that our site is 'facilitating learning'. We do acknowledge, however, that our concept is disruptive."

A University of Auckland spokeswoman said course materials were already available online, as well as many lecture theatre recordings.

"Simply reading and regurgitating someone else's notes will not ensure success at university."

Pass it on
*Kiwi students are being encouraged to upload their lecture and exam notes to a website that sells them on to other students, and returns a share of the profits.
*Nexus Notes has been operating in Australia and is now targeting the New Zealand market.
*The website says the notes are vetted. However, New Zealand universities have warned students to beware of quality issues.

- NZ Herald

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