August 2021

In the summer of 2020-21 two undergraduate students examined the publicly available web content of five commonly used ‘Buy, sell, trade’ file-sharing websites as part of a supervised short-term research project. This research aimed to improve understanding of the characteristic features of such file-sharing services which in turn can create potential ethical challenges for students and have implications for higher education institutions.

UQ Research Intro 

Research Approach

To find the most popular file-sharing services used by students, the principal supervisor (CS) asked members of the Australian National Academic Integrity Network listserv, about the most commonly used file-sharing sites by students at their institution. Representatives from twenty universities provided 66 responses, and five sites stood out clearly (Course Hero (n=16); Chegg (n=13); Studocu (n=13); StudentVIP (n=5); and Thinkswap (n=3). The team adapted a data analysis framework by Kim and Fesenmaier (2008) that used a user ‘first-view lens’ and included the following:

  • A brief description of each website.
  • An initial site-user experience map (built without subscribing to the website services).
  • Distinguishing features of each website.

We also completed a comparative analysis of the free, transactional, or paid services offered on each site and also the persuasive marketing techniques used by the websites. The complete dataset is available at DATASET: Characteristic features of ‘buy, sell or trade’ file-sharing websites - Student as Partners Summer Research Project 2020-2021 - UQ eSpace

Example of Results

Course Hero is a subscription-based online service for students and educators.

Site-user experience

Figure 1 shows what users encounter and the services they can use without signing up or logging in. Course Hero focuses on offering study materials for students (e.g. lecture notes, student notes, assignments with answers, past exams with solutions, and sample exams with solutions) as well as teaching material for educators.

  UQ Course Hero                     Figure 1. Website map of Course Hero (

High-value study materials, such as answers, solutions, and universities' logos are blurred out in preview mode. To fully access these study materials, users can subscribe or earn credits through document uploads.

A premium subscription unlocks 30 documents per month. Textbook solutions and explanations are provided on a subscription basis. Course Hero subscription also provides ‘24/7 homework help’ where students' posted questions as answered anytime with detailed explanations. Interestingly, a verified educator can have free access to relevant course content.

For those who do not want to spend money, Course Hero provides an option to receive credits that can be used to unlock documents. Credits are earned by uploading files, reviewing contents, and referring friends. Course Hero claims to have no tolerance for, or allowance of, academic misconduct. Students' testimonials are shown on its homepage. Student users can cancel their subscription at any time.

Distinguishing Features

Course Hero offers the ‘Best Grade Guarantee’ that promises a full refund of the premium membership to the student whose grade point average (GPA) does not improve while using the site. Course Hero also provides teaching materials for educators and holds an annual education summit offline to bring educators together to share practice.

Conclusions from the study

While file-sharing sites portray themselves as builders of community, they are businesses that profit from the upload of student-generated and university-owned materials. Students who are willing to pay for access or upload large amounts of material, are more able to access help from the sites. This is inequitable and, depending on the user’s behaviour, may also be in breach of academic conduct expectations.

Though file-sharing been available for a long time, the Covid-19-driven movement from in-person to online, asynchronous assessment has magnified concerns around this practice. Now, most students have the internet to support them when they demonstrate mastery of assessment items, and any extended assessment timeframes given for student equity e.g.  students now situated globally,  allow information-seeking behaviours, such as finding high-quality answers to assessment questions online.

The five sites reviewed in our study all encourage students to share materials and be paid or credited with download capacity in return. Colleagues at other universities report that these sites are used regularly, and that they are concerned about the ways students are behaving. The data presented here should alert more universities to the kinds of things students can access on these sites, the persuasive tactics the sites use, and the sites’ potential to facilitate inappropriate and illegal activity. How do we determine when, or if, a student intends to use shared resources and sharing sites inappropriately? At what point do universities prosecute file-sharing sites and the student users for their activities? These questions are likely to become more pressing as time goes on; the data presented here may help universities consider what to do.

Research Team

  • Dr Christine Slade, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education in the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation, University of Queensland, Australia.
  • Dr Wuri Prasetyawati, Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Indonesia.
  • Louella Mae Abando and Jingyuan Feng, undergraduate students, University of Queensland, Australia.
  • Professor Susan Rowland, Deputy Associate Dean Academic (Future Students and Employability), Faculty of Science, University of Queensland, Australia.


Kim, H., & Fesenmaier, D.R. (2008). Persuasive Design of Destination Web Sites: An Analysis of First Impression. Journal of Travel Research 47(1), 3-13.

How much cheating is happening at our institutions? Is it increasing as a result of recent changes to online learning? Are students changing the ways that they break the rules? What changes will be most effective in improving academic integrity? ICAI members understand the importance of having data that addresses these questions.

A team of researchers affiliated with ICAI has created a survey of students’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding academic integrity. Building on research by ICAI founder Don McCabe, the new survey includes questions about students' cheating behaviors, the morality of cheating, their understanding of their peers’ attitudes, and perceptions about their institution’s responses to cheating. There will be a special focus on contract cheating and online learning.

The research team, led by ICAI President Emeritus David Rettinger has pretested, revised, and validated the new survey using participants from across the US and Canada. The project has two fundamental goals: first, to provide scholars with valid and reliable measures of important variables related to cheating. To help achieve that goal, a peer-reviewed validation study will be submitted for publication shortly. This manuscript will contain the entire survey, so that scholars may have access to it.

The second goal of this project is to provide institutions with actionable data to enact meaningful change. To achieve this goal, ICAI will provide custom reports to all institutions that participate and once the dataset is sufficiently large each school will receive a benchmarking report allowing for comparisons to other institutions.

Beyond simply taking the temperature of cheating at college, the research will provide schools with institution-specific results. Those results will immediately allow schools to benchmark themselves against national and international trends. In the long term, institutions will have a baseline for future comparisons and data crucial to formulating and measuring changes to policies, procedures, and outreach activities. 

Participation is free to ICAI member institutions. Non-member institutions can participate in the U.S./Canada benchmarking study at no cost by joining ICAI. Fee waivers are available to institutions in need. To learn more about the survey, the partner manual is available online here. If your institution might like to participate, contact to learn more.  If you are ready to sign your school up, complete the partner portal, which asks about your institution’s survey needs.

Individual members are needed, too. If you would like to help design the final reports, recruit new schools to participate, serve as a consultant to schools as they make data-driven changes, help build a contact list of academic integrity professionals, or get involved otherwise, let us know at

En muchas universidades ha comenzado un nuevo semestre, otro más en pandemia, pero diferente, pues ahora se han abierto esquemas híbridos y presenciales para el desarrollo de las clases. Esto, sin duda alguna, es motivante tanto para estudiantes como para profesores que buscan alcanzar el máximo aprovechamiento académico, y para lograrlo, la integridad académica juega un papel esencial.

Por esta razón, es importante que desde el primer día de clases se hable de este tema, no solo de las reglas, sino también de los beneficios de actuar con integridad. Recordar a los estudiantes por qué es fundamental cumplir con las actividades de manera ética y responsable, lo valioso que es crear lazos de confianza con sus profesores y compañeros; así como contribuir a su comunidad universitaria y a la sociedad en general, promoviendo la honestidad. Pero de poco sirve mencionar a los estudiantes estas acciones, si los profesores no predican con el ejemplo. Así que, a continuación, comparto algunas recomendaciones para promover la integridad académica desde el rol como profesor:

  1. Esforzarse por vivir la integridad. Vivir con integridad es un esfuerzo constante por buscar una mejora personal y esto se puede manifestar en la labor docente con detalles concretos como la puntualidad, la responsabilidad, el entusiasmo y esmero para preparar las clases, la justicia para evaluar tareas, exámenes y proyectos, etc. Es importante que los estudiantes perciban que la integridad no es algo que solo se les exige a ellos, sino también a sus profesores. Este punto puede resumirse en la famosa frase “Las palabras convencen, pero el ejemplo arrastra”
  2. Fomentar el gusto por aprender. Es importante despertar en los estudiantes el gusto por aprender, desarrollarles distintas habilidades y ayudarlos a encontrar sentido a la clase relacionándola con su futuro profesional. Para ello, se recomienda utilizar técnicas pedagógicas y didácticas más efectivas, así como actividades interesantes, significativas y retadoras.
  3. Inspirar confianza. Generar un ambiente de confianza puede evitar muchos casos de deshonestidad académica. Hay que escuchar a los estudiantes y tener las puertas abiertas para que se acerquen a consultar dudas de la clase y apoyarlos en su aprendizaje.
  4. Reiterar el compromiso con la integridad. Conocer y cumplir con la normativa (código de honor, reglamento de conducta, valores y filosofía de la institución, etc.) es compromiso de todos, desde el guardia de seguridad hasta el rector de la universidad.
  5. Capacitarse y actualizarse. Nunca se deja de aprender, y los profesores, siempre tienen que estar a la vanguardia, no solo en la materia que imparten sino también con las distintas técnicas y recursos que van surgiendo. Especialmente con la pandemia de Covid-19, la educación revolucionó y constantemente están surgiendo nuevas herramientas y plataformas educativas que se pueden aprovechar.
  6. Sumarse a las campañas institucionales. Las campañas y eventos, además de promover un tema en específico, fortalecen la pertenencia, crean comunidad y transmiten los valores de la institución.
  7. Hacer corresponsables a los estudiantes. Los estudiantes son protagonistas del cambio cultural y para ello, hay que motivarlos a levantar la voz para denunciar lo que no es correcto y juntos trabajar por una comunidad más íntegra.
  8. Aclarar expectativas y consecuencias. Desde el primer día de clases hay que aclarar las “reglas del juego”, qué se espera de los estudiantes, del profesor y de la clase. Se debe explicar cómo se va a trabajar durante el semestre y puntualizar todos los detalles en el programa de estudios.
  9. Recomendar talleres para el desarrollo de habilidades. Es importante promover con los estudiantes los distintos recursos con los que cuenta la universidad como talleres, consejerías y tutorías para apoyarlos en su aprendizaje.
  10. Usar instrumentos de evaluación adecuados. Una acertada evaluación es uno de los factores más relevantes para promover la integridad académica, por lo que se debe contar con un portafolio diverso y robusto para evaluar, bancos de reactivos bien diseñados, distintos tipos de exámenes y actualizarlos cada semestre.
  11. Evitarles ocasiones de equivocarse. La aplicación de protocolos de exámenes, así como el uso de software para la detección de plagio, gestores de referencia y otras herramientas tecnológicas ayudarán a dificultar el intento de trampa.
  12. Reconocer los comportamientos honestos. Destacar lo positivo siempre tendrá mejores efectos que resaltar lo negativo, por lo que es valioso reconocer a los estudiantes que actúan con integridad y así, motivar a los demás a que sigan el mismo camino.
  13. Aplicar consecuencias y reportar faltas. Reportar las faltas de deshonestidad y seguir los procedimientos que la universidad indica para ello, es parte de ser ejemplo y promover la integridad, además de buscar que los estudiantes reportados aprendan de sus consecuencias y no repitan sus errores en el futuro.

Recordemos que los estudiantes son observadores de cada paso y comportamiento de sus profesores, e incluso algunos los toman como modelos a seguir, pero a veces esto es dado por sentado. Por ello, los profesores siempre deben ser ejemplo de un comportamiento íntegro, para de esta manera, lograr un efecto dominó que permee no solo en sus estudiantes sino en la sociedad en general.

Información basada en las recomendaciones elaboradas por Jean Guerrero Dib, Director de Identidad y Principios Institucionales de la Universidad de Monterrey. Adaptado de McCabe, D. y Pavela, G. (2004) Ten(updated) principles of academic integrity. Change, 36(3), 10-15. Recuperado de  

As a current rising senior, I’ve been a college student prior to and during the pandemic. After working in my school’s academic honesty office, I’ve gained a further and unique perspective on academic integrity at my university. For many students around me, the pandemic and consequent switch to online learning blurred a lot of lines when it came to cheating. In a year where we relied on groupchats and verbal dialogue in class dwindled, our entire approach to learning and studying changed. So did our understanding of integrity. Personally, I’ve always believed it’s better to be safe than sorry. I didn’t toe lines when it came to things possibly breaking the honor code. Those around me, on the other hand, questioned how integrity evolved with remote learning, and how much they cared about it.   

When everything felt like it was falling apart, students did their best to control what they could, and some took the easy way out to maintain good grades. Factors like Chegg and take-home tests made it easier than ever for students to compromise personal integrity for control in an uncontrollable time. Feeling that everyone is cheating made comfortable what should feel remorseful and wrong. It brings back the go-to parenting question: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” Despite reassurance from the herd, the consequences of cheating don’t diminish at all. Instead, one could argue they’re worse than ever.

After hearing about my peers sliding by or seeing cheating hacks go viral on social media, it slightly worries me that these students will become our future teachers, politicians, or doctors. Furthermore, it’s frustrating to be a student that follows the policies, watching those who put in only a percentage of the work receive a better grade. Like a lot of my peers, my grades have dropped. It’s extremely difficult to focus on pre-recorded lectures over PowerPoint slides and I found it a challenging way to learn. From a practical standpoint, I don’t foresee how I could build on unlearned material in my future upper-level electives. Through a more important lens, I believe taking the easy way out would cheapen my degree, something I’ve worked so incredibly hard to earn so far. I believe the challenge comes down to students holding each other accountable, but even more, the responsibility of professors.

This past year, students were constantly questioning if their personal integrity should be compromised, if online learning made some actions okay, if they should care because all their friends were doing it, or if the good grades were worth it. For me, the difference in immediately recognizing the answers to these questions or a quick choice to turn to google for credit can be meaningful conversations with professors. I’ve seen the people in my school’s academic honesty office work so hard to maintain the integrity of our university, and I’ve done my best to pass that message along to future students. But the classroom is where these questions are answered, and professors are responsible for the integrity of their classroom. They should not only be reporting students for cheating, but also, explaining what cheating looks like in their course. Professors need to show compassion and understanding as we transition back into in-person learning. They need to understand why students struggle, where the temptation to cheat comes from, and how to help prevent it.

What are your students saying about academic integrity? Comment or tweet @TweetCAI

Recently, several articles about the number of cases referred to Offices of Academic Integrity have been released. The University of Wisconsin System has seen an increased number of cases in several of institutions. The Ohio State University case referrals have increased as well. This increase is not limited geographically. The University of Southern California, George Washington University, and countless other institutions around the globe have seen similar issues. Many articles discuss the rapid transition to remote learning, student well-being, complex judicial systems for student conduct, and other valid concerns. As practitioners and faculty enter a new semester, they need to consider what will happen now.

The transition to remote learning was abrupt. It was a challenge to students and faculty alike, and presented a host of pedagogical growing pains. More than a year into the pandemic, some institutions will be returning to another term online. Others will return to the classroom, and when they do, we need to be prepared for cases to remain high. Prior to the transition to remote learning, the research told practitioners that students were no more likely to cheat in online courses than they were when provided with face-to-face instruction. If that still is the case, then the faculty that previously hadn’t used their institutions conduct processes may be more comfortable reporting than in the past. Additionally, the increase in cases may have come from faculty feeling like they had “more evidence” to pursue cases than they found during in-person learning. On the other hand, perhaps the lack of face-to-face contact with faculty assisted in eroding the relationship between them and their students, and assisted in students rationalizations to cheat. Practitioners were cautiously optimistic at the start of the pandemic, but returning to in-person learning does not guarantee a reduction in cases.

The bottom line is that high case rates are just as likely to continue as they are to decrease. Institutions should prepare to support their integrity offices and officers during this time. One way institutions can help is by continuing to adopt informal resolution policies. Theses policies can assist practitioners by resolving cases more quickly and providing flexibility in sanctioning that may not be provided by formal adjudication. This does not mean that students will lose their rights, rather that students and faculty can work together with their integrity officers to address the issue. If an informal process does not lead to a resolution, then institutions may rely on their honor courts.

Another way that institutions can support their academic integrity officers and professionals is to offer them the same flexibility that they have been pushing for students. An academic integrity case may need to be resolved through videoconference, even if the institution is returning to in-person learning. Faculty and practitioners may need to telework some days rather than returning to their offices. Flexibility is key in supporting the faculty and staff that promote a culture of academic integrity at their institutions.

How is your institution supporting academic integrity? Comment below or tell us @TweetCAI