I'm pretty conflicted after reading this Wired article about a University of Maine project to openly circulate academic work. The concept is a copyright-free commons where individuals can share ideas, find collaborators and get feedback.
One of the students behind the initiative describes the frustration of permanently shelving all finished projects and papers -- once submitted for grading, student work tends to be mothballed and never looked at again. Under this system, old work would circulate free, allowing students to build incrementally on past work: "distributed creativity", the UMainers call it. I agree -- but as someone freshly introduced to the harrowing process of grading, I worry that students fail to differentiate between embryonic work and finished, peer-reviewed research. I see many students who rely almost entirely on internet-published working papers when researching their own term papers.
Beyond the obvious threat of an open pool of work to pass off as their own, I would be concerned that this type of open sharing might be viewed by many students as a substitute for adequate, scholarly research. A dilemma: encouraging original student research through incremental development on one hand -- and encouraging the sloppiest possible research on the other.