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Online Study Aid Causing Controversy on College Campuses

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CHAPEL HILL — A new online service is ringing the ethics bell at two Triangle universities. Companies are paying students to take notes during lectures and post them on the Internet for free. Is it smart studying or a form of cheating?

College students would never have to attend a class if they log on toStudentU.com. It is one of several Web sites that pay students as much as $300 per course to take class notes that end up on the Internet.

The creator of StudentU.com says it helps students in large lecture classes who may not hear or interact with a professor.

But the potential to abuse this site is high. That has one school in the northeast angry enough that it is considering legal action against StudentU.com.

UNC-Chapel Hillphilosophy professor Geoff Sayre-McCord found notes from his ethics course on the Web site. He says students will have a hard time passing his course if they think the site can replace going to class.

"I've looked not only at the notes from my course, but notes for a couple of other courses, and as you read through them you can't make sense of what the lectures were," says McCord.

Drew Haywood, UNC's student attorney general, says there are only a few cases where using these notes would break the school's strict honor code.

"If a student were for example to go to these Web sites and take these notes and then use them on a paper or for a project and the student were not to give credit to that source, then, in that case, they would be considered in violation of the honor code," says Haywood.

StudentU.com and similar Web sites have class notes from schools all over North Carolina and the United States online. The sites are free.