Web courseware raising good Qs

Are they a) learning aids, b) Cliffs Notes lookalikes, c) intellectual property theft, d) none of the above, or e) all the above? One thing's for sure: open courseware projects and sites are universal. They range from MIT's famous OpenCourseWare, putting all coursework on the Web for free, to RipMixLearners, a wiki for sharing class notes and other courseware at University of the Western Cape in South Africa, to the largely US Ivy League-focused FinalsClub.org with class notes and study groups. And so many others, e.g., Course Hero, Knetwit, PostYourTest, Koofers, blogged about in the Digital Natives blog. Some of the content – for example, problem solution keys and old exams – raise healthy ethical questions that lend themselves less to yes/no answers than to excellent, class and family discussion. The blogger, a science major, wonders, for example, "if the availability of solution keys feed a kind of 'get the answers and the answers only' kind of mentality – an unhealthy focus on the solution rather than the process…. Canny students can usually find the solutions online, whether in freely available old exams/problem set solutions or more involved digging through archived course sites…. Say I find the instructor’s solution manual to my math textbook online – is it okay for me to use it? To copy my homework? To check my homework? If it’s freely available online, am I really taking advantage of an unfair edge? But there's also, arguably, the karmic payback, when it comes to an exam and one hasn’t really learned the material."


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