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Higher Education Meets eBay: An Online Marketplace for Course Notes

Posted on: April 23rd, 2012 by

Instructors and students have been sharing course materials online for over fifteen years.  In the early years of the Internet and web browsers, instructors posted course materials on a personal web page or a file transfer (ftp) site.  In recent years, web-based learning management systems have replaced these personal course web pages.  Products such as Blackboard Learn offer an online site with a common interface for instructors and students to interact as well as a document repository for course materials.

Today, several new document marketplace sites have emerged including,,,,, and to name a few.  Simply put, these sites provide students with the ability to buy and sell course materials.   For example, a student taking Econ 403 might take exceptional course notes.  Using a document marketplace site, the student can upload his/her course materials, advertise the availability of these notes and then get paid by the document marketplace site when other students purchase the materials.   Unlike eBay, document market sites can charge buyers a premium while paying the seller a smaller percentage or royalty from the sales.   There is no guarantee the seller will receive payment from all transactions.

Responsibilities of Students

Before choosing to become a member of a document marketplace site, students must remember to follow the IT Appropriate Use Policy. Student sellers are not permitted to upload material written by others, including, but not limited to, professors, students, textbook authors and University administrators.  Regardless of information from the document marketplace representatives, students cannot advertise or agree to allow a company to advertise on University of Mississippi managed systems such as Blackboard.  Student buyers should also take precautions to protect themselves.  These document marketplace sites will not guarantee the accuracy of the course notes.  And as always, review an online site before making purchases to ensure your personal and financial data will be properly secured.

Responsibilities of Instructors

These online marketplace sites are available to students nationwide. Talk to your students about their responsibilities to avoid violations of copyright laws and the IT Appropriate Use Policy.   In the event a student violates the IT Appropriate Use Policy, report the activity to the Dean of Students.   Also, the document marketplace sites publish guidelines for instructors to report policy infringements.  The information is typically found in the site FAQ or terms and conditions documentation.

Final Thoughts

With all the risks outlined above, the concept of sharing online course notes has been accepted on some university campuses.  The University of California at Berkeley (UCB) allows course notes online through a university sanctioned student group.   This course notes service is supported by UCB administration and approved by the University of California Board of Regents.

Browse safely.