Thursday, July 8, 2010

Is Cheating So Easy?

NY Times has an article on undergraduates cheating in their courses. I guess I'm not "with it" because I had never heard of some of these websites that "help" students complete their assignments. Cramster and Course Hero were mentioned, so I went and checked it out. At Cramster, there was a place holder for the textbook I was using, but no solutions were available. At Course Hero, there were no solutions available to courses from my discipline. I imagine with time that these things will change.

Do you care if your students cheat on homeworks? I am ambivalent about HW cheating because it is such a small portion of the grade. However, if I caught cheating on HW, I would turn it in.

Do you care if your students cheat on tests? Here, I care very much. My exams are open book and open notes, so to cheat would require students communicating with one another during an exam. Not cool. There, I would turn it in, too.

I've only taught 13 students in the last two years, and none have cheated. My next course will likely have 70+ students, so I'll have to keep my eyes open.


prodigal academic said...

In my big undergrad course (~200), I have online "keep up" quizzes. I know some people cheat, but don't really care since it is 5% of the grade, and the cheaters only hurt themselves on the exams. I deliberately made this a low percentage so I wouldn't have to police it.

I care a LOT about cheating on my exams. I caught 2 last year, and hope the response discourages future cheaters. I use 4 exam versions to reduce the temptation, and Prodigal U uses scantron software to look for similarities in responses (in conjunction with assigned seating).

In my grad class, if anyone cheated, I am not aware of it. I think it would be really hard to do, since I have lots of contact with them and don't evaluate exclusively through exams and HW.

Anonymous said...

Actually pretty much anyone can find solutions to any text through bit torrents and such. To combat this problem I give them the solutions to their homework and make homework a small percentage. Of course, 99% of them are lazy and just copy, but then they hurt for the exam. It seems like kids don't know how to do practice problems to study anymore like we did when we were in college and I think we are around the same generation so it was not that long ago!

Anonymous said...

PS. I don't know about your school, but the schools I've attended and worked at discourage punishing cheaters with anything worse than a slap on the wrist and at most an F on that assignment. A colleague of mine caught severe cheating and he wanted them to get an F in the class and he was told that was too extreme. He had to fight to get the blessing of the administrators to give them an F in the class.

engineering girl said...

Perspective from a recent graduate here...

I've found throughout my curriculum that sometimes what may be labeled as "cheating" could actually facilitate learning. Say you are looking at a problem set, and have no clue how to do it, and you find solutions online. If you just copy the solutions and turn it in as your own work, yes that is cheating and you didn't learn anything from the assignment. However, if you decide to be 100% ethical and not look at the solutions and the TAs are not providing enough information to give you the answer, well you're just going to ethically stare at the problem set and not learn anything. If a student puts in a good faith effort to do an assignment and then uses a solutions manual as a guide, I think they are taking their learning into their own hands and doing what a good student should. However, there is really no way to enforce a "look at the solutions only as a guide, and not just to copy" rule.

Then, there's also the issue of "teamwork," and what degree of similarity would constitute cheating.

On homework, these gray area problems are always going to exist. On exams, there is much less gray area - you are simply not supposed to work with other people or get outside help. Therefore, exams should count more. But making the homework count for something helps motivate students.