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Web site holds auction for sale of knowledge

By Stephanie Corns
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 21, 1999
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In the tradition of the Internet phenomenon Ebay, a new website offers a forum for college students to auction off their knowledge - a practice that has some UA faculty members raising questions about academic integrity.

The site, Knexa.com, provides students with an auction block to sell their knowledge to the highest bidder.

"It's a tool to educate people about the knowledge they possess and how they can package and sell it," said Lorraine Brett, director of media relations for Knexa.com. "It's the coming together of knowledge and the mechanism of an auction."

The site, which started Sept. 1, allows students to sell their knowledge in the form of text, photographs, video and audio, including research papers, advice, and theses, according to the site.

Knexa.com defines knowledge as "experiential information, intelligence applied through and gained from experience."

David Brett, founder of Knexa.com, said the site aims to help people profit from their knowledge, and the Internet makes that easily attainable.

"The logic behind it is that knowledge is valuable and that people buy and sell knowledge all the time in the form of books," Brett said. "My idea is that knowledge is valuable, and through the Internet, we can put a value on that."

While bidding will not begin before the end of the year, the site is now accepting items for students to put on the block.

Lorraine Brett said one Virginia Tech student received 7,000 bids for a thesis through another on-line auction, while another student received 19,000.

While the lure of paying for information may appeal to students, some University of Arizona professors said they don't like the Web site because students should research material themselves.

"It violates academic integrity," said Karen Anderson, a history professor. "You're here to develop certain skills. A lot of assignments are about students producing their own knowledge. It's not about having certain facts at your disposal."

Web sites that allow students to download academic information, such as class notes and research papers, foster "an atmosphere of dishonesty between faculty and students," Anderson said.

Another professor said he does not allow students to use the Internet for research papers because the information is not always reliable and because sites like Knexa.com make it easy for students to buy the information.

"Clearly it's academic dishonesty, if it's not a product of the student," said Gary Wenk, a psychology professor.

But Associate Dean of Students Alexis Hernandez said student use of the site does not violate the principles of academic integrity if students provide attribution.

"If you don't cite the source, it's academic dishonesty," he said. "(But) if I pull references off a Web site, and I go and check them, that's not academic dishonesty."

Another professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and a member of Knexa.com's advisory board agreed with Hernandez that the site does not call a student's academic integrity into question.

"Academic dishonesty is when a student tries to pass someone else's work as their own," said Nick Bontis, who teaches business at the university. "If students are getting information from the library or other resources around the world, what difference does it make where they get it?"

Regardless, Anderson maintains that students are cheating themselves by purchasing information from the Internet.

"You don't have a right to short cuts," she said. "You're here either to learn or to buy a degree."

Professors may be happy to hear that some students said they would not use the site to purchase information.

"I've always been one to do the work myself," said molecular and cellular biology junior Stephanie Vanata. "Plus, it's free."

Another student said that although he wouldn't use the site, he didn't think it was wrong for other students to do so.

"The actual selling and buying isn't wrong," said electrical engineering senior Victor Ling. "It depends on how it's used though."

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