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Building A User-Generated e-Reserve System: a glance into the archives of CourseHero (part 1)

April 21, 2010, 12:25 pm

My
post “
File Sharers Swap Scholarly Materials
Too

has been the most read item on this blog. People seem to really like that theme
so I’ll explore it a bit more. Often when we talk about Open Access,
Institutional Repositories, the Publishing Crisis, or similar topics it tends
to be very esoteric. There is a lot of rhetoric, debate, and models that honestly
I think only accountants and lawyers can get excited about. I’m not so sure
that the average faculty member really cares about the economics of the
publishing industry or a court’s interpretation of fair use. We’ll save that
for another day.


What
I’m really interested in is how all this stuff applies to the world outside of
libraries. I found it fascinating that The
Pirate Bay
had some (expensive) academic materials and not just Jay-Z
tracks or episodes of LOST. So, what if there was a site designed to collect
academic materials? Or, if students designed their own reserves system, what might it look like?


Lately
I’ve been seeing a lot of ads and facebook fan pages for CourseHero. This isn’t new site, in
fact,
The Kept-Up Academic Librarian alerted
us to this emerging trend
nearly a year ago. But what exactly might one find inside?


First
off, you have to admire their
confidence: “Over 93% of
our users report they maintain or raise their GPA after subscribing to Course Hero.” And they don’t hide what
they have to offer:
Homework Solutions, Test
Answers, Lecture Notes, and Exams. Hmmm, I wonder who owns the copyright to all
that stuff?


In order to become a member you have
two options: pay or participate. I have to admit, t
his is an intriguing and ingenious
model. If you want access to the material then you have to upload content.
Everyone helps everyone else! Plus they can charge people for other people's content.

CH_upload
 
 

Or,
you can pay a fee. It works out to about $83 for a year… cheaper than most
textbooks.

CH_pay
 

 

Let’s
take a look at what’s inside:

CH_textbook2
Textbooks anyone? Actually, they didn't link to these titles, but instead to related materials:
CH_textbook_related
This is false advertising because students are going to think they can pay $100 and get all these textbooks. The supplemental material might be useful, but I'm pretty sure access to the text is a key point of interest. 

That said, there are some textbooks, but not many.

CH_textbook CH_textbook3 CH_textbook4

What about articles? Not many actually. They probably do a decent job of weeding those out. But some did turn up, like this one from the Harvard Business Review:

CH_journal_article

Lecture notes are the bread and butter. Tons of that stuff. Most of it comes right from what the prof gives out– handouts, powerpoint slides, practice tests, etc.

CH_class_PPT CH_lecture_notes CH_lecturenotes

And some of it is user-generated: (exam answers, study guides, and homework solutions)
 CH_midterms CH_studyguide CH_homework_solutions
 
 
 Let's not leave the grad students out:

CH_diss CH_Diss_comics

And a few odd things:
 

CH_elsevier
Elsevier's copyright policy.
 

CH_blank_pages
Some blank documents. This is to be expected when membership is driven by number of uploads.
 

CH_newsletter
Even a library newsletter from the 1970's. 

And oh yeah… term papers, how could I forget!

CH_term_papers CH_paper
 

That's it for now. Next week I’ll toss out some things to think about
regarding this service and provide a little more context about what they offer and how it is arranged. Perhaps there is something that libraries could learn in terms of site design? I'll also test out their "homework help" experts and see how well they respond to a typical reference question or two. They have to be better than those jokers at KGB.

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