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Georgia Tech Cracks Down on Learning 979

Posted by chrisd
from the as-told-by-third-person-limited dept.
The Washington Post has an article today on a Georgia Tech student who almost flunked his intro to comp sci course for just discussing his homework with someone else. Note that no one including the faculty accused him of actually copying any code from anyone. However, the "honor code" at Georgia Tech "forbids its introductory computer science students from seeking any help from other students on their homework." The faculty recorded part of his violation on the forms as "He was trying to learn it." This is something that high school seniors might want to keep in mind when selecting which university to attend.
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Georgia Tech Cracks Down on Learning

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  • by Dimensio (311070) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:48PM (#3354732)'s for drinking, partying, having casual sex and possibly absusing some illegal substances.

    It must be true, popular culture says so.
    • by yellowjacket03 (470997) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:59PM (#3354823)
      As a Georgia Tech alum, I can tell you that with a 73% male to 27% female student distribution, casual sex is anything but.

      Or maybe it was just me.
      • my college, Polytechnic University (Worst College Ever) had, I'm not making this up, a NINE TO ONE guy to girl ratio. Yeah, that's bad, but you're thinking to yourself "get some girls elsewhere". The college was in.. LONG FUCKING ISLAND. The only other "school" around was Trailer Trash University, otherwise known as Amityville Middle School.
      • by ShawnDoc (572959) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:19PM (#3355397) Homepage
        As a Georgia Tech alum, I can tell you that with a 73% male to 27% female student distribution, casual sex is anything but.

        Oh come now, I'm sure there's plenty of casual sex going on. In fact, I'd go so far as to say there's more casual sex at Georgia Tech than just about any other school in Georgia.

        Having a partner is not a prerequisit for casual sex at any tech school (I'm sure whoever operates the coin laundry is making tons of money from cleaning all those socks and towels), and being in Georgia, I know there's plenty of livestock walking around a little bow-legged.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @01:05AM (#3356484)
        As a Georgia Tech alum, I can tell you that with a 73% male to 27% female student distribution, casual sex is anything but.

        Joke seen scratched into a table in the GT library: Georgia Tech is like a pretty girl: you can't wait to get in, but 9 months later, you wish you hadn't.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's good that a school is finally standing up against learning. Out of all the things wrong with America right now its education - we need to make it our number one priority and ensure kids of all ages and races are not learning in school. The results of learning could be devistating -- one day a few kids are learning together and helping each other out, next day they form independent thought and do something for the world. Geez.

      Way to find a chisel on a tablet.

    • "'s for drinking, partying, having casual sex and possibly absusing some illegal substances."

      Uh, no; it's for drinking, partying, abusing illegal substances and possibly having casual sex.

      What college did you go to, and do they have a graduate program?

  • what? (Score:2, Funny)

    by AnimeFreak (223792)
    You'd think they'd crack down on drinking, drugs, and cheating first. :P

    If schools ban learning, then I guess the "fun factor" is what College is all about. :)
    • Re:what? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rgmoore (133276)

      They were cracking down on cheating. What the student did in this case was against the academic rules for the course. Now it's possible, even probably, that those rules are arbitrary and unfair, but what he did violated them. The proposed punishment, failing him in the class for cheating on one assignment that constituted 2% of his final grade, sounds excessive to me, but there does need to be some punishment for cheating.

      • Re:what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @02:11AM (#3356660)
        They were *not* cracking down on cheating.

        a computer science student is wrong to try to seek answers to questions ANYWHERE other than from course materials or Georgia Tech staff. Rooting around in old books in the library, checking the Internet, calling your cousin at Caltech--all are forbidden.

        If you research a problem outside the "official" materials you are flunked. I'm sorry, but reading Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming on your own shouldn't ever be used to flunk you from a required freshman CS class. Yet at Georgia Tech, it is against the rules!

        What the student did in this case was against the academic rules for the course. Now it's possible, even probably, that those rules are arbitrary and unfair, but what he did violated them.

        I repeat, its not cheating to read another textbook. Its *not* cheating to say, "I can't make my doubly linked list work because I don't understand C pointers. Can anybody explain C pointers so that even I can understand?" My God, they seriously listed part of the freshman's offense in exactly these words: "He was trying to learn it."
  • Assembly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Beliskner (566513)
    This happened at my college over an assembly language program. Simple 20-lne factorisation algorithm. They told the lecturers that it's real hard to get 2 different listings for the same simple ASM algorithm. The commenting was different at least, but they still got an official plagiarism warning.
  • If they learn from each other, they will progress faster, get better grades, and repreat fewer classes. Does this mean less money for the university?

    Maybe they do have a real motive for not letting students help each other: Greed.
    • Uh, no.

      It's because they don't want to overload their CS department with crapon-in-a-hat-nimrods. I'll give you points for your conspiracy theory, but it's bunk.

      If they were worried about money, they would let anybody go into higher CS. If you'll note, it's just the Intro to CS class. Because they want people that can learn on their own. I don't blame them, and think more colleges should do this for every major. If you can't get through the intro course with just the instructors help, you don't belong in that major.
    • Honor codes like this are designed to prevent diluting the reputation of a university by ensuring that each student really and truly learns the material in order to graduate. Most universities hire absured numbers of tutors from the upper class and graduate division to assist you. At my university half of them were let go because no one, not one student, went to see them.

      There is no accounting for laziness. To be honest, no university can teach computer science; anyone who will be successful in this field has to have enough interest to persue it as a hobby, if not a lifestyle, in order to succeed. It can be learned solo--I learned more in high school on my own than I ever did in college.

      There seems to be this opinion that everyone who takes the course should pass, and this quite frankly disgusts me. Iam currently still persuing my degree and I am saddled by group projects and burdened with seniors who cannot write a compilable line of C. These are not people who should be seniors; they got where they are now by "learning" from their partners.
      • by Omicron (79581) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:36PM (#3355173)
        My god, this sounds like something I was ranting about earlier today. %90 of the people in my final class from my CS major couldn't write a few lines of code to save their lives. We are doing the whole final project in C# (project requirements, not our choice). Being a programming class, and being that it is the capstone of the major, you'd think that the people would take the time to at least look at the language right? Wrong. I've written the entire project so far. They don't even have a clue how the code works.

        On the bright side, I did get them to do all of the documentation for the project but really scares me how many technically inept people are graduating along with me in my major. On the other hand, it made it a lot easier for me to score the job that I have =)
  • Unsurprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Torinaga-Sama (189890)
    Learning ceased to be a part of public education a long time ago.

    This makes me happy I went to a progressive college. Now if only I had been thinking ahead enough to go into CS instead of literature, I would be in better shape.
    • Re:Unsurprising (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gary Yngve (416254)
      Georgia Tech makes engineers.
      In a way, it's like boot camp, and things can get ugly, but when you come out, you are one helluva engineer.

      I recall a statics professor explaiing why he doesn't give any partial credit, even if the only error was an incorrect sign: "Would you get any partial credit for building the bridge upside down?"

      Personally, I don't want the people who are writing controllers for airplanes I fly in to be a bunch of cheating losers. Strict rules have their place, and I fully support Georgia Tech behind their decisions.
      • Re:Unsurprising (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jandrese (485) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:31PM (#3355133) Homepage Journal
        Obviously if the students aren't perfect in their field right from the beginning they will never be useful to anyone and we should just throw them out on the street.

        Last time I checked schools are a place of learning, a place where you can afford to make a few mistakes while trying to be the best professional you can be so you can be fully productive once you graduate to the regular workforce. While I don't believe in cheating (what do you learn from it?), I strongly beleive in discussing problems with your peers and comparing answers one difficult problems (to detect things like sign errors especially).

        As far as the caliber of Engineers/Computer Scientists this will produce I can't say, but in the real world people work in teams and don't have a professor/ta to consult.

        Final word: if you want to stop being vilified in the media GT, you need to release your side of the story and release your Honor code. An Honor Code is of no prestige value if nobody knows what it is, and the only real purpose of the Honor Code is to raise the prestige of your school (that and it's a wonderful dagger to hold over your students heads during tests "Remember, cheating is an _Honor Code_ violation")
      • by aozilla (133143) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:01PM (#3355295) Homepage

        "Would you get any partial credit for building the bridge upside down?"

        No, you'd get a career in management.

      • As someone who has experience this course (someone who does not even go to the lectures or ecitations and simply doe sthe hmeworks and takes the tests and still has an A and has never ask for help from ANYONE on the assignments) I have a differing opinion. The rules for this and its follow on course are completely unreasonable and I knew some kids got screwed for doing litterally nothing, but for me, this is the last straw. I'm a computer-engineering major of Georgia Tech and also a Freshman, and as of tomorrow I'm going to begin a petition drive to change the obscene rules on cheating in this course. They article is right on about how everything in the course is executed. The litterally devote lecture and sometimes even tack on reminders to the homework assignments about what cheating is. They have even told us that deriving an answer from lecture materials is cheating! If we didn't make the code up 100% outselves, it is cheating. It is obscene. Utterly obscene and I'm sick of hearing history majors who have no business even being in a programming class complaining that they can't do the assignments and have no one to help them!
        My two cents.
  • They are obviously preparing the students for a life in the corporate computing world; how long b4 u have to sign confidentiality agreements for doing assignments at uni? Doesn't seem as tho they like the concept of open-source.
    • Everyone knows that Universities do not encourage students to code like programmers in the industry. If they did nobody would ever learn how to write a simple linked list, they would just use the STL or java.util interface.

      The point of the do-it-yourself and do-it-by-yourself mentality at Universities is that knowledge it is nothing without integrity and a student who just knows the API's and interfaces will be obsoleted with those API's in 5 years. However a student who learns the fundamentals and reasoning behind these API's, will stand a chance at learning the new and interesting things the industry churns out.
  • Well Shit (Score:3, Funny)

    by BiggestPOS (139071) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:52PM (#3354766) Homepage
    Talking about your homework IS cheating. Hell, DOING homework is cheating yourself out of your spare time.

    Who turns someone in for something like this anyway?

  • you ask other people for help on something. they may know a better way to do it. in my eyes not being able to discusse ideas is bad.

    Teaching people not to be open with there source is bad. the student learns this habbit.Then it leads to the whole open source community will be hit.

    • People are taking the Georgia Tech policy way out of context and way too harshly. The policy is simple: students may talk (and are encouraged to talk) about high-level issues, but when it comes down to writing code, they have to do separate work. Unfortunately the average student fears getting caught for cheating and interprets this rule way too harshly.

      In some of my grad classes at UW, we have a similar policy, the Gilligan's Island policy. You may talk about the assignments as much as you want, but before you work on it yourself, watch an episode of Gilligan's Island.
  • Honor Codes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cato the Elder (520133) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:53PM (#3354771) Homepage
    Rigid "honor codes" lead to ridiculous situations. I am reminded of a story from a friend who went to Davidson, where someone she knew was disciplined for honor code violations after taking an extra can of soda that a machine mistakenly dispensed. A true honor code should be flexible. Otherwise, what is the point? Everyone knows what they are supposed to do when the rules are cut-and-dry, the purpose of an honor code should be to foster honorable/moral behavior in situations the rules do not cover.
    • Re:Honor Codes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Binky The Oracle (567747) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:51PM (#3355244)

      While not directly related, this seems to be indicative of the same mindset that public schools have taken on: it's better to deal with quantifiable things. It's better to teach the mechanics of a thing than to teach the student the underlying lesson. A history test is for memorizing dates, not for learning why events happened or what that event's impact might have been. An honor code isn't a framework for living your life, it's a rigid, static thing that exists in a vacuum.

      I'd rather have students learning why Napolean was sent trudging back through the snow than the date he headed back toward France. And I'd rather have teachers and professors (assuming they're capable) given the responsibility and authority to make their own decisions - especially when dealing with things as nebulous as an honor code.

      This episode reminds me of the recent case where the teacher flunked several students for blatant plagarism only to have the touchy-feely school board overturn the decision. Guess they didn't want to anger the voters and risk losing reelection.

      It's sad, really. We're turning out a bunch of automatons in the name of improving the percentage of students who can pass a standardized test. These overly-strict honor codes are simply the same film projected on a different canvas.

      Sixty years ago, schools in the U.S. taught Greek and Latin. Now they teach remedial English (or Spanish depending on your local election demographics).

    • Re:Honor Codes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aozilla (133143) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:08PM (#3355335) Homepage

      Rigid "honor codes" lead to ridiculous situations.

      And generally tend to encourage more cheating. If most of the students are already doing something which could get them expelled, it doesn't exactly give them incentive to report the "true" cheaters, for fear that they'll get reported in retaliation. It also gives teachers little incentive to penalize students for minor infractions. If I caught a student cheating on homework, I might give him/her a zero for that homework. But if the school rules force me expel that student, I might decide to let the incident go unreported instead.

  • Every CS course I've been in has ENCOURAGED group work. It's not like humans are social creatures who learn best in social situations. I'm glad I didn't go there... or all my friends would be screwed ;)

    • Same here at the University of Alberta, the profs all encourage us to work together and ask other students for help. In my logic course we even have to explicitly state wether or not we recieved help on the assignment and from who. It doesn't really matter how well you do on your assignments, in the end it comes down to the exams and lab exams. At that point the point isn't whether you recieved help it's how well you can do the stuff. If other people helped you learn it that's great, you and them will do great on the tests because you know your stuff. However if you got stuck on some trivial aspect of the basics and never asked for help or you copied all your assignments and never figured it out for yourself you better be ready to take it again.
    • If your friends could not get through Intro to CS without your help, why are they a CS major?
      • Generally people who have not coded before have problems in the intro classes. I've found that after this, they either become humble but good coders or get frustrated and leave. I have seen it go either way.

        The problem is that the people who are in to CS because they want a high-paying job are too damn stubborn to get frustrated after the intro class and muddle their way to a degree.
    • It's not the whole Georgia Tech CS department that's screwing up here. Believe me, I know, I just graduated from it a year ago. Two core CS classes after the intro they are specifically telling you to use other people's code, so long as you document it as such.

      The intro course is quite fucked up, though. For some strange reason they refused to accept AP credit for it but rather accepted the AB CS test for the Java class despite the two having nothing in common.

    • by Wakko Warner (324) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:26PM (#3355457) Homepage Journal
      I was in several classes in which work was assigned to "development teams" of 4 or 5 students. We were expected to hold "development meetings" and discuss "development strategies" whilst constructing the piece of software we'd been told to create.

      A noble idea, right? Work together, just like in the real world? Get help from your peers, everyone does their share, all that happy horseshit?

      Did it ever work that way for anyone? The smart kids in the group (if there were any) ended up doing all the work. The stupid kids hung around for one or two meetings and maybe sent off the occasional email asking when the next meeting was, but never contributed line one of code. The worst part came at the end of the semester, when we were all asked to rate our fellow teammates. What can you say? "This stupid retard was too busy fucking around and getting drunk to write any code, and when we asked him to debug this function, he sent it back exactly the way he received it"? Well, you can, but it doesn't seem to matter, as everyone always got the same grade.

      Come to think of it, group work is exactly like working in the real world, because it's full of people who don't do jack shit and make you wonder why they're still hanging around like a festering boil on an unwashed butt cheek. Honestly, I don't know how some kids in my class got their degree.

      - A.P.
  • No, wait, listen. There have been numerous discussions on slashdot regarding the difficulty in monitoring and analysing the types of programs written in intro classes. So rather than try to figure out collaboration vs. "let-me-copy-that-program-verbatim", this is an interesting solution.

    OTOH, being unable to discuss assignments, theories, etc. makes the class/program no better than a correspondence school.

    • by Gary Yngve (416254) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:16PM (#3354990)
      And the CS13xx courses have newsgroups for asking questions and have tons of TAs. There are recitations and labs and office hours. There is plenty of a chance for students to ask for help and get help. Unfortunately, too many students are lazy bastards and don't want to put forth the effort of doing the assignment honestly and getting help when they need it.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:55PM (#3354785) Homepage Journal
    A brand-new rule says a computer science student is wrong to try to seek answers to questions ANYWHERE other than from course materials or Georgia Tech staff

    An exam is one thing, homework is another. Homework is supposed to reinforce the skills you'll need later. One of those skills is research.

    How To Be An Incompetent Engineer 101...
    • by Gary Yngve (416254) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:01PM (#3354840)
      Those policies are really only for the introductory courses. Face it, coding is something that takes time. It is applied. You cannot be tested in just an hour on coding abilities. The homework assignments for CS13xx serve as a form of test.
      Once the students "pass" this test and take later CS courses, most of the projects are collaborative in nature from the sheer magnitude of what has to be coded. But at some point, people have to be judged on their ability to code. Find me a better way to judge and I'll be all ears.

      • by bigdreamer (465083) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @10:13PM (#3355729) Journal
        Write a java applet that does x with y functions using a hashtable. You can consult any paper materials you have on your person. No talking to anyone in the classroom except the teacher. You have an hour.

        In my CS courses, tests in this format are given all the time. The Chairman of the TCU CS Department, Dr. Richard Rinewalt, has been head judge of the ACM programming contest-THAT programming contest-for several years. He supports this format and knows that it works. I believe it's reasonable to trust what he is doing.
        • Dr. Richard Rinewalt, has been head judge of the ACM programming contest-THAT programming contest-for several years. He supports this format and knows that it works. I believe it's reasonable to trust what he is doing.

          The ACM programming contest is an awful model for assessing coding ability. The entire contest is based on time pressures and it encourages writing bad code, not doing design work and not commenting anything (it all just wastes time).

          Something that makes a good competition does not nessecarily make a good exam.

  • by loggia (309962) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:55PM (#3354787)
    If the student did research in a book?


    If the student asked his father or mother?


    If the student joined an online discussion group?


  • Schools are not made for LEARNING They are places to contain people until they have been indoctrinated properly. I sit through 8 hours of school every day, I learn nothing. Today was unusual, I learned one thing as a direct result of my classes. Typically, I learn nothing except that trying to stand up to my teachers or fellow students is futile. Every day, the system attempt to break my non-conformity. This incident at Georgia Tech does nothing but reinforce this point. This student wasn't in the class to learn something, he was in the class to receive more specific indoctrination for his selected profession.
    • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ghoser777 (113623)
      I agree in more ways than I want to admit. And I'm going to be a teacher next year! I've come to the conclusion that schools are set in place not to educate, but to make you proftable. It's not about learning, it's about money. How many times have I heard my professor say, "If only we had more time..." Why don't we get into the really important stuff? Because there isn't enough hours in the day to meet all the requirements that make me look like a good job applicant and see why math or computer science is really cool on another level.

      My philosophy: School is a hoop that I must jump through so that one day my students will not have to jump through so many. Never let schooling stand in the way of your education, or so Samuel Clemons says. My latest (guided) revelation is that I am part of a system that is ineffective at preparing students, and all we get are books about standards and attempts to change the system instead of deconstructing problems within the system. True change comes by recognizing the flawed assumptions that are inherent in the system, allowing us to come to a new and more authentic view of how education should work. But individual change is futile; all educators and all education must change as a whole or not at all. The task is difficult; are any of us up to the challenge?

    • Bull. Schools are made for education. I've had teachers at the High School and University level that did nothing but tell completely irrelevant stories all day. One of them in high school, would occassionaly just start chanting, "Hey Hey LBJ How many babies..." for no particular reason. (I'm not kidding). I had another at the college level that would repeatedly insult students who asked questions. Yet at the same time, I've had teachers and classes that left me thinking about things for hours, days, weeks after class ends.

      There are times in high school / college GECs and even some core curriculum when you are jumping through hoops, but AI with Jim Davis [], Software Systems with Paul Sivilotti [], 3D Graphics with Rick Parent [], LISP with Matt Curtin [], Algorithms with Mathias [], Discrete Math with Chris Miller, etc ... are all worth jumping through a few hoops.

      My first quarter at Ohio State, I had Samdeep Prabhu for an intro programming course. He was a grad student teaching his first class (of about 40-45 students). I was a quiet guy sitting in the back corner of the classroom. 3 years later I ran into him on campus. He greeted me by name (I didn't recognize him at first) and asked how my CS program was going and offered a little advice about some of the classes I was in. Now that's a teacher.

      From a slightly different perspective, classes are only half of what a school is about. There is something to be said about being immersed in a culture of 25,000 people attending a university. In an environment like this you can learn as much from your peers as you do from your classes.
  • by ebbomega (410207) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:57PM (#3354799) Journal
    I would send the following mail:

    To whom it may concern,

    I would like to apologize for my behavior. It was wrong and immoral. I suppose, because of my youth, that I thought it would be justifiable to learn. I now see otherwise, and hope to discontinue this behavior for the rest of my career.

    I thought that it might be a good dodge to spend some of my time in first year learning, and that it might be an investment towards my GPA for me to acquire knowledge from other human beings. Oh well, I guess we all learn our lessons of life somehow. I understand that in discussing in an academic forum setting is wrong and I promise that for the endurement of my University career, I will absolve any attempt at communicating with my peers, as it seems to only decrement my academic standpoint and tarnish the reputation of the University, as well as compromising the institution of Education on the whole.

    I promise I will avoid learning for the rest of my college career and rely only on myself and my own experiences with the natural environment to do so. Furthermore, I resolve to lock myself in my room for the remainder of the semester in hopes that social interaction will not tempt me into deteriorating my Computer Studies goals. As well, I will avoid going to lectures and tutorials, as well as any open labs, since the professors and TAs may accidentally teach me something, in which case I will compromise the goals the University seems to have set forth.



    Glad to know open academic forums (What Universities are intended to be) are still just that.
  • by cperciva (102828) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @07:59PM (#3354819) Homepage
    wouldn't it be good to wait until we hear the school's side of the story? It is very easy to claim that you were only trying to learn the course material, but with only a single quote -- which was certainly taken out of context -- to indicate the school's view on the situation, it is hardly fair to weigh in on either side.
    • Single quote? RTFA (Read The Fucking Article). IT is quite clear what the school's stance is.

      "A brand-new rule says a computer science student is wrong to try to seek answers to questions ANYWHERE other than from course materials or Georgia Tech staff. Rooting around in old books in the library, checking the Internet, calling your cousin at Caltech--all are forbidden."

      • by Anonymous Coward
        ... unless the student cites the work as a source. That's what the rule says. You simply have to CITE the work. It's not prohibited. This is just a hatched job from a D.C. reporter.
    • by molo (94384) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:17PM (#3354998) Journal
      wouldn't it be good to wait until we hear the school's side of the story?

      You must be new around here..

    • I think the policy's rather draconian, but I can see where they're coming from. The intro CS classes here nail you against the wall, the reasoning being that it's better to weed people out who won't be able to handle it in the beginning rather then let them into the concentration and see them fall apart sophomore or junior year.

      The reasoning here is probably the same -- they don't want students collaborating to make sure they can handle the higher level courses on their own.
  • by RN (21554)
    ok, i believe that georgia tech is in the wrong here because their rules were too vague and you shouldn't get busted just for discussing homework with someone else. But for chrisd to put such an inflammatory headline like "GA Tech Cracks Down On Learning" is just stupid and non-informative to anybody. This smacks of a cheap tabloid headline just to get pageviews.

    Also , GATech has one of the top engineering schools in the country, I don't think you should suggest people stay away from it just because of a stupid incident like this. They meant well, it backfired on them, and they will probably reevaluate their policy, as the article says.

  • Ok this is retarded (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Progoth (98669) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:00PM (#3354834) Homepage
    I go to Georgia Tech. Yes, the student was accused of cheating. Yes, this is because he was caught cheating. Yes, the article states this, and then goes on to tell how it's "not that bad." Whoever wrote this summary of the article needs to brush up on their reading comprehension skills.

    As for what happened to the student....He had a substantial amount of code (probably around 30 lines) that was verbatim with another student. As the article says, he should have not turned it in and lost the 2% instead of cheating. He can't handle responsibility for his actions so he and his dad pitch a fit and blame it on the college of computing.

    Tech may not be the top CS school, but I think our program is pretty good, and their strictness when it comes to cheating only adds credence to the degree you get when you graduate from the Computer Science department. The strictness is not a reason to avoid this school, but a reason to come here.
    • by btellier (126120) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:30PM (#3355125)
      No one who matters actually ever believes that stories or capsules on Slashdot are accurate. As soon as I read this I knew it was BS. The article summary makes it sound like this guy walked up to another student and said

      "Hey, did you use a sprintf() or two strcpy()'s to do merge those strings? sprintf()? Cool. Oh crap I just got expelled."

      Meanwhile, I'm sure the conversation was more like

      "Holy shit dude.. I haven't been to class in 6 weeks and I have some homework due tommorow or I'm going to fail. What's your advice? I see. I see. I don't understand what you're talking about, let me see your code."

      "OK, thanks for the help! Oh crap, I got caught. Crap, I'm expelled, but at least my dad built the Dr. Herbert J. Furnsworth III Memorial Science Lab. Hey Dad, let's raise a stink."

      "OK son. Maybe we can even get it posted on Slashdot, where even the most foul turd can be sprayed with enough perfume to make it smell like the cosmetics counter in Macy's!"
      • Coming from a dual tech-language arts background, you just don't know how encouraged I am to see such a quality turn of phrase like this posted on slashdot. I feel better about the whole ordeal already. :)

        More seriously, I think the above post is likely much closer to the truth than the "nuanaced" slashdot summary. But that's just my opinion.
    • by Above (100351) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:19PM (#3355399)

      I find it interesting you refer to 30 lines as a substantial amount of code. The article suggests the program was a rather large one, and that 30 lines was a small fraction of the overall code. My own computer science experience in the past suggests 30 lines probably was a teeny fraction of the code.

      Of course, the pureist will say, copying is copying, and even if it was 2 lines that's cheating. The problem is I see no proof he copied from another student. You may scoff, how else would the code be the same, well, that's easy.

      I remember more than a few times sitting in the lab working next to 5-10 of my classmates. A common activity was to repeat the problem to each other to be sure we understood it. "The assignment said the program should output the data in sorted order case insensitive, one on a line, right?" "Yes." That's not cheating. Then someone else might pipe up "Didn't the GTA give us a handout with a sorting example on it?" "Yes," another would pipe up, and a third would produce the class handout for all to read. Again, no cheating yet. Of course the GTA example was case sensitive, so it had to be changed to be case insensitive. It also worked on plain strings, and the data was stored in structures (which were all remarkably similar due to a similar process) so that change had to be made as well. Those two changes were done independantly.

      In this case I proport no cheating has happened. Students conversations were limited to the problem statement, not the solution. Materials "shared" by the students were class handouts that all had, although perhaps not at that moment. The probability code ended up the same, high. Identical, moderate.

      Several times after assignments were returned to us (graded et all, even after the course) I would then compare with a friend to see how to do the things I got marked down on, and vice versa. Several times I found whole functions that were only a few characters off of being identical, even though we never colaberated at all. Everyone uses x, p, i. "print_sorted_output" is a common function name choice. Add to the copied GTA (course) suppied code and you get a lot of similar programs.

      We don't have enough facts to determine if this student is guilty or innocent. The fact that 30 lines are roughly the same, or even identical does not, in my mind, prove he cheated. There must be other evidence to help lead us to that conclusion.

      As for Georgia Tech, there is a root problem here. They have a separate computer science college,so it's hard to tell where they fit. Most schools put computer education in the College of Arts and Science, or in the College of Engineering. This is important. If you look at other Arts and Sciences, students are encouraged to work together. If you are majoring in dance, and another student views your "final project" (a dance, of course) and suggests "hold your chin up higher while you spin" that's not considered cheating on your homework. If you write a book, and let another student read it before turning it in, and they say "you should be more emphatic in chapter 2" that's not cheating. On the other hand engineering has right and wrong answers. If you show someone your calculations on the load capacity of a beam for homework that's cheating.

      So what is CS? Is it a creative discipline, like dance, or painting, or writing? If so the root of improvement is working together, public performance, peer review. On the other hand, is it a hard science. There is a "right" program, and everyone should get the "same" answer, so any sharing would help a student leap to a conclusion without doing the work?

    • by nano-second (54714) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:57PM (#3355650)
      I agree that upon reading the article, it seems clear that there was excessive collaboration in this case. However, the policies described still sound a bit execessive. Not being able to compare solutions? (Oh look, I got a different answer, now I'll go off and double check my work). Not being able to discuss assignments? The guidelines they give us for cooperation at the Univ of Waterloo is to discuss assignments but don't write anything down, or only use a whiteboard. Then, wait at least an hour before writing a solution up. This is very useful because it means you can work together if you don't understand something, but you need to understand it in order to be able to write the solution later and thus what you hand in will be your own work.

      The bit about a new policy saying students will not being allowed to look for answers anywhere other than course material or Georgia Tech staff?! That's what research and learning is all about: using any resource available to you. This doesn't directly map to plagiarism and cheating. For example, using an alternate text book often helps more clearly understand a concept not well explained in the assigned text. Lastly, how on earth did they manage to write down "He was trying to learn it" in any context that makes sense?

  • typo! (Score:3, Funny)

    by jafac (1449) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:01PM (#3354838) Homepage
    Shouldn't this be:
    "Georgia Tech Cracks Down on Larnin'"?
    • Re:typo! (Score:3, Funny)

      by rho (6063)

      I'll allow "larnin'", as it might be a regional colloquialism to the GA-Tech area.

      However, as a born and bred Mississippi redneck, I can unequivocably state that the correct spelling/pronunciation is "book larnin'".

      T(H)GSB []

  • by billstr78 (535271)
    I like the rule some of the upper-division classes at my University has adopted. It's called the Gilligan's Island rule and is a nice comprimise between collaboration and cheating.

    You may discuss programming projects with your friends, but you are expected to abide by the Gilligan's Island rule3--the only thing you may bring to such a discussion is you, and no written notes may be taken away from the meeting. Looking at, modifying, or copying each other's files or solutions is forbidden. If you are unsure of what is and is not allowed by this policy, please talk to the professor before doing something that might be considered cheating.

    3The Gilligan's []
    Island rule states that following a discussion of the project, a break
    must be taken for at least a half hour before coding. Watching something
    inane like Gilligan's []
    Island on television satisfies this rule.
  • These days a Bachelors degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on anyway. Most companies typically view a Bachelors in most majors as proof that you're capable of learning how to perhaps do a job.

    A prof that actually cares about critical thinking in this day and age is a rare bird.

  • Georgia Tech adds DMCA clause to their entrance agreement.

    Don't laugh. I'm being satirical. It's funny because it's not far from the truth.
  • I'm fairly sure I know exactly how GT's 'No Collaboration' rule came into effect. As with any college CS body, a few students took advantage of their ability to code and modify code to cheat or alternate doing homework assignments.

    Rather than deal with the situation efficiently and responsibly, and probably also because of the stygian pro-intellectual property mantras that are chanted in most College CS departments, Georgia Tech introduced yet another ill-conceived Zero-Tolerance policy in order to take choice and discretion out of the hands of individuals and place it in the hands of administrators... who usually don't care or don't have time to investigate individual cases like individual teachers or professors would.

    Mediocrity and inefficiency in administration is the direct result of Zero Tolerance policies in almost all circumstances. Any ZT policy will result in innocent people being punished for an imaginary wrong-doing. This is the case with schools who have zero-tolerance drug and weapons policies who expel students for having kitchen utensils or aspirin on their persons. This is the case with schools who expel students for even the most innocent public displays of affection.

    Still, the lure of not having to have any personal responsibility for the wrong-doings of their students is too great a reward for the administrators of public and private schools to pass up. After all, how can the life of one student compare to the well-being of all the rest?

    As long as people are able to have this mentality and not feel reprocussions from it, this kind of mass anti-social behavior will continue.
  • I have to say, I pity those students.

    One of the most refreshing and enjoyable aspects of my [] university years was the opportunity to discuss what we were being taught with fellow students who actually wanted to learn. Anything less and it would have been mind-numbing highschool all over again.

  • What?!?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rmohr02 (208447)
    Sometimes a teacher just doesn't explain something very well. I have a couple of teachers who don't always seem to grasp what some people are trying to ask them, so they ask someone else in their class. Just because of this merely talking about an assignment should never be cause for an "F".

    Many of the cases appear to be just like his--similarities in a few lines of computer code on a very complicated assignment which he discussed with a friend.... But the freshman was accused of similarities on 30 out of hundreds of lines of computer code.

    Ooh, big deal. There is a pretty good chance of people getting similar code on the same project. I do not claim to be an expert in Computer Programming, but I do know that if two different people make a routine for the same thing it will pretty much look the same.

    I do realize that the unnamed student that the article refers to actually did cheat, but there is no proof at all, and certainly not all the people with similarities in coding cheated.
  • Many of the cases appear to be just like his, similarities in a few lines of computer code on a very complicated assignment which he discussed with a friend.


    so how many ways are their to code a introductory coding assignment.

    To cite from another field. I know one person whose intro music assignment (writing out a set of changes) accidently came up with a a tune known to the teacher (but very very obscure) - As an example the chord progression of the Flintstone's Theme, like hundreds of other tunes, is derived from the Gershwin tune "I've Got Rhythm." Jazzers refer to this progression as "rhythm changes," and it is second only to blues as a vehicle for improv (a jam tune!).

    In music, you are looking for depth and complexity, etc. In Code, you are going the other way, into simplicity.

    There are only so many ways to code simply.

  • But... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meggito (516763) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:08PM (#3354921) Homepage
    An intro comp sci course has problems with simple answers. Its kind of like everyone's doing the same math proof. You just have to figure out the right order of steps. If someone just tells you those steps then its not problem.

    For example, we had this game where you had to pick up stones and make sure your opponent picked up the last one. You can only pick up three at once. Assume one line of stones... We were supposed to write an 'AI' (I use the term losely) that would play to win. The truth is that its as simple as making sure that it takes stones so that the remainder modulus 4 equals 1. That way, no matter what the other guy picks you can get it back down to that modulus 1, and when there's only 1 stone left he takes it. I was the ONLY one in my class to figure it out before class was over, but within a minute or so I was able to explain it to most of the others and they easily implemented my strategy.

    My point is that computer science is not the same as other classes. Discussing the problem often means giving someone the method that they could not come up with on their own. They can implement it, but thats not the point of the class.
  • by totallygeek (263191) <> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:09PM (#3354933) Homepage
    When I was at Texas A&M [], I was a physics major. To have a better time in college, and because I like to learn, I took many computer programming courses.

    For the bonehead award, Programming I was basically just Pascal on personal computers. Well, I had gotten into "trouble" for not commenting my source code. So, for my final program, I wrote it in Pascal, compiled, disassembled, rewrote the assembler code to Pascal inline assembly statements, and lined up the original Pascal as the assembly inline comments. My prof wasn't amused.

    But, on the other end, I took another programming course which was supposed to be COBOL, c, and FORTRAN. The first day, the prof said that we will not need our FORTRAN book and would not write any FORTRAN programs or be tested on FORTRAN. However, we were instructed to learn FORTRAN on our own. Well, almost no one kept their FORTRAN book or even bothered learning FORTRAN. I was lucky enough to have already learned most FORTRAN working on physics stuff. Our final program was to write a source converter in c to convert FORTRAN programs to c. Not only did we have to know FORTRAN, but we had to KNOW FORTRAN!

  • I'm a third year computer engineering major. I'll put it this way, I have had some very difficult classes. If I had not had the opportunity to work with other students on much of my homework in many of my classes, I would not have passed.

    Number one example, my class on algorithms. Each week there was a written homework asignment. Each week, me and several of my peers would gather to work on this homework. We spent many, many hours teaching this material to each other. If one person did not understand a question, the others would go out of their way to teach it to him. We knew we would bomb the test if we didn't understand the homework. Yet by Georgia Tech's standards, we were cheating.

    Luckily, I ended up doing very well on the tests because I studied a lot and had the help from my peers on the homework. It made the material bearable and understandable.

    To deny students the ability to work together on homework denies the oppurtunity to some of the best learning opportunities of their educational careers. I would probably be much worse off without help from other students.
  • one solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mkcmkc (197982)
    This is an unfortunate gray area, and I think the University would be wise to eliminate it. In this case, 100% of the course grade could be given for
    • things students can't cheat on, like class participation, or
    • things for which the distinction between cheating and not is exceedingly clear cut.

    So, for example, 45% of the grade could be the final, 10% for participation/attendance, and 45% for a project written by the student alone in a restricted environment (e.g., a proctored computer lab). Problem solved.

    This is not to say that there shouldn't be other learning projects. There should be, and they should be non-credit and for the explicit purpose of having the students freely discuss and learn from.

    That aside, I think this issue is more complicated than the article allows. I was a TA for an undergrad CS course once, and noticed that several of the brightest students turned in clearly duplicate work on one of the programming assignments. I worried over it for a while and ended up not pursuing it, but I'm not at all sure that was the right thing to do.


  • I was expelled for plagiarizing a multiple choice exam. It seems my answers had an incredibly high rate of correlation with many of the other students.

    Since then, I've been a homeless bum, and I better hurry before the internet cafe attendant chases me out before I can finish this...
  • When I did my studies in CompSci discussion was encouraged, the but the formulation of the solutions to excercises had to be you own. This gave a reasonable balance.

    On the other hand as a TA I have seen so many attempts to cheat (up to and including trying to get points for photocopies), that I am willing to punish cheaters rather severely by now.

    On the other hand we did not get a grade in the exercises, it was pass-fail and there was a requirement to get something like 50% of the possible points in order to pass. So while cheaters often found a zero score on their solutions, there was the possibility to compensate.

    Caveat: This was in Germany, meaning no tuition fees and the possibility to try again a year later with no additional costs.

  • spring 00, unix class at another 'southern school' our department's most stubborn, self-absorbed professor taught unix, at the time, my first unix exposure. anyway, I could go on about how horrible the teacher and how he taught unix, I'll just say that there was no legislation that specifically say we couldn't work together [abstractly] on a project with different code. all involved were suspended, including me. after a calendar year, I withdew [this semester] because the grade I got in the class was a double-weighted F which prohibits me from getting a decent GPA. so whatever the person did, do NOT take it lightly, involve as many of the dept faculty as you can... and hope they don't suspend you.
  • by Filoseta (519421) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @08:47PM (#3355222)
    Most of you are misinterpriting the idea behind this type of rule. Yes, in the real world collaboration is increadably important, infact it is so important that we actually take classes in software design where the entire class is in groups. Learning how to interact with people and function in teams, methods of interaction and teamwork, dealing with problem members and managment, these are REQUIRED classes, and yes, groupwork is a required part of them. We even cover different philosophies of team interaction, the ancient methods and new concepts such as Extreme Programing. However, these rules are for the very begining, we are talking CS1 and 2 here, collaboration is not permitted. Yes, when I was taking the classes, I complained about the very constraining rules, and I did say that "In the real world, collaboration (and while I'm at it, not re-inventing the wheel) is important." However, it is also important to learn the basics yourself. Everyone in the entire university must take CS1 and most CS2, these are just intro programing classes to get people familure with coding and thinking on there own. That is their point, and to accomplish that, they must seperate the students out. Some of the strictness is misunderstood. The java API is not looked down upon, we are told to print it out and sleep with it under our pillows, to use it so much that by the end of the year it looks a bit the something from the 12th century. Granted that is in jest, but the point is, documentation, man pages, that type of stuff is encouraged. It is just the first few classes need to focus on the individual, not the team. You must first build yourself before you can build on yourself, and in order to assure that, rules must be in place. The CS majors know, or eventually realize once they reach the 2000 and above CS classes, that they benifitted from the artificial division. Maybe they knew everything going into CS1 and 2, but now all (or most) of their peers are strong on their own. So when it comes time to work together, each programmer could stand on their own, but together their skill is greater than the collective sum. In addition, it goes to teach the true value of working together, they know first hand how hard it can be to stand alone. Maybe it is difficult to see looking in, but there is a good concept behind the rules. Yes, they might not need to be there if everyone was honest, but unfortunately this is not a perfect world, and the restrictive environment helps in the long run.
    • by FreeUser (11483) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:36AM (#3357913)
      However, it is also important to learn the basics yourself. Everyone in the entire university must take CS1 and most CS2, these are just intro programing classes to get people familure with coding and thinking on there own. That is their point, and to accomplish that, they must seperate the students out.

      What utter nonsense. Please keep in mind that you are being taught that your University is right and its critics are wrong in each lecture you attend, if not overtly, then certainly on a subliminal level.

      I attended the University of Illinois at a time when it was considered the 2nd or 3rd best university for computer science (Engineering College ... there is also an LAS compsci program which I know little about). These rankings change from year to year (and source to source), so I don't know where the U of I stands currently, but I'd be surprised if it had slipped all that much.

      In any event, that particular university had an impeachable reputation in computer science. They never had such an asinine rule that students could not discuss the subject and their homework assignments amongst themselves. Not only would such a rule have been unenforcable, or led to the kind of absurdities you are defending here, but it would have precluded one of the most important facets of education, through which people learn any subject, at any level, rudimentary freshman level through advanced post-doctorate: studying, discussing, and digesting the material.

      Instead, the homework assignments were made to be sufficiently challenging that, even if you were to collaborate with others, you would learn the material and your grade would reflect how well you learned it. Keep in mind if your work resembles another's too closely you'll get nailed for cheating, so even if several people solved the problem together they'd essentially have to reimpliment it differently from one another ... reinforcing the very lessons they are to be learning. And if you choose to be a lazy bastard and let someone else do all the work, then try to rewrite it so that it is sufficiently different, you'll either learn despite yourself, or screw it up sufficiently to get the grade your laziness has earned you.

      Then there is the bell curve to contend with ... so there is a disincentive for people to be too free with their solutions built in. In short, the complexity and demands of the assignments coupled with the grading model (bell curve), and a systematic check for plagorism, were sufficient to prevent and punish cheating without resorting to draconian absurdities such as disallowing any discussion of assignments amongst students.

      Georgia Tech is simply wrong on all counts, and probably too arrogant to recognize and fix the real problem, which isn't their students, but their approach to education.

      Maybe it is difficult to see looking in, but there is a good concept behind the rules. Yes, they might not need to be there if everyone was honest, but unfortunately this is not a perfect world, and the restrictive environment helps in the long run.

      Now it becomes clear what Georgia Tech is teaching its students. Obedience, and the sublimation of one's intellect to the authority of others, without question. The fact that you would write something like that with a straight face (and for your sake, I truly hope this was a clever troll and not meant in earnestness) is indicitive of the kind of education you are receiving at your university.

      I humbly suggest you start shopping around for a more sensible university to transfer to, one that concentrates on teaching science and technology rather than obedience.
    • by ajs (35943) <> on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @10:14AM (#3358242) Homepage Journal
      I understand your point of view, and how you got there. However, you should consider that there are other paths to walk than the one you have gone down.

      When I was a first year student, it went very poorly because I was excited about learning, and the school wanted to break me of it. Large lecture halls were not a place to ask questions; data structures courses were not a place to question why teaching linked list handling in a language that didn't support pointers was wise; etc. In the end, I dropped out and worked for the school for two years, maintaining their systems and writing code for funded research projects.

      If schools think of freshmen as a crowd of clean slates that can be penned up for a semester or two for forced-rationing of rote learning, they're going to get graduates who are equal to the challenge of those first few semesters. Perhaps a few gems will squeek through, but I'll guarantee you that all of THOSE students will either test out of the first few classes or will "cheat" by discussing new concepts as they learn them. My great and little gods, can you imagine being a talented programmer who just learned what a hash is, and not being allowed to talk to anyone about it!? I was practically on the rooftops screaming when I learned what a hash was and why it was so beautiful!

      Please, if anyone at any school with a policy like this reads this message, consider the point of view of the first year student who has been prepped all through high school to believe that college is where the rubber hits the road, learning-wise. When you hit them with more rote, mindless sentence memorization than they had in high school, what do you think the impact on the brightest, most promising students will be?
  • by JiNG (149991) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:07PM (#3355334)
    I'm an CS undergrad at Columbia University in New York and I can at least say that from my experience, college ISN'T for learning.

    What I mean by that statement is the following: CS professors here assign homeworks but don't give you any guidance or assistance on how to do them. At least at Columbia, CS homeworks are essentially depth first searches using trial and error as a heuristic. Googling for answers is not a frequent method of finding answers, but often the only method. Professors are essentially useless. It's nice to know that all my money has gone to the free teachings of Google. Sigh...

    As far learning from others, I personally would argue that two minds are better than one. Of course the problem lies among students who aren't trying to learn, but trying only to get a good grade. Professors claim the line is too fine to allow learning from other students. My claim is that if students want to copy, it's their own loss. When it comes time to actually do something on their own, they will be completely lost. Try proving P=NP by copying an answer from a friend.

    Perhaps it's analagous to the seatbelt law. If people don't want to wear seatbelts, it's their loss, yet wearing seatbelts is still a law (at least in my hometown of NJ).

    Such are my experiences here for anyone deciding where to go.
  • I'm a graduate student in CS at Georgia Tech, and I recently graduated from their undergraduate program.

    Georgia Tech is in no way against teamwork. In fact, in many LATER courses, it is not only encouraged, but required to pass. In the introductory course, however, students are expected receive a firm foundation in the BASICS of programming and computer science like recursion, searching, sorting, algorithmic complexity, data structures, trees, graphs, etc. If a student cheats his way through ANY of these concepts, and expects to survive a later computer science course, he will not only damage his own grade, but the grade of his teammates as well.

    I'd also like to point out a couple things either pushed aside or conveniently not mentioned in the article. First, the student in question was NOT accused of discussing his assignment with another student. To my knowledge, regular discussion of assignments is a very commonplace occurrence--especially on the four newsgroups available for the class. He was accused for CHEATING. No cheatfinder, however good, is going to find out if people DISCUSSED anything. It's only going to find people who have VERY similar, copied, code. Secondly, I'd like to mention that the person in question is also, apparently, the son of a Washington Post editor.
  • by Salamander (33735) <`su.pyta.lp' `ta' `ffej'> on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:14PM (#3355371) Homepage Journal

    I found a copy of the course-specific honor code here []. Here's the relevant excerpt:

    All assignments must reflect an individual effort, and must be completed "from scratch." It is a violation of the Honor Code to copy or derive solutions from text books, internet resources, or previous instances of this course unless specifically instructed to do so in assignment directions. When instructed to do so, all material not created by you and its source must be clearly identified. Copying solutions from other students, including those who previous took the course, is prohibited. A good guideline is that you must be able to explain and/or reproduce anything that you submit for any assignment.

    It actually looks pretty reasonable. I'd like to direct people's attention particularly to the last "good guideline" sentence. Now, what did the student do? From the original story:

    When he found himself with a homework assignment he did not understand, and no teaching assistants or professors available on a campus off-week, he convinced himself that just chatting with another student would not violate the rules.

    Now, "chatting" is obviously vague; there's a big difference between "what are they asking us to do" and "how do we do it". However, it doesn't matter. According to the "good guideline" in the honor code, the student would be in the right even if he discussed answers with the other student, so long as neither was looking at or copying from the other's actual code and both could explain independently how their solution worked. If anything, the honor-code standard as stated in the referenced link seems a little too lenient to me.

    It's entirely possible that the student did something more egregious than what's mentioned in the article. It's also entirely possible that someone's being a little overzealous about enforcing their own interpretation of what is really a pretty lenient standard. Assuming either to be the case would be premature, based on the information available. All of the political rhetoric, on either side, seems just a little bit misguided in the absence of anything but the most fragmentary and incomplete information.

  • by Stu Charlton (1311) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:14PM (#3355375) Homepage
    I've seen a lot of posts suggesting two defenses for the university:

    a) he can collaborate, but he has to CITE his references
    b) he can't collaborate because they want to weed people out that can't do the work on their own.

    (A) isn't really applicable in this case because of the university's anti-collaboration policy (as far as I can tell). If it were the case, I'd agree with the university, citations are important.

    But (B) is bullshit.

    There is this pervading attitude that if you didn't put in the EFFORT into solving the problem, then you can't have learned it or somehow your learning experience is "diluted".

    Results are all that matters. Excessive effort is for masochists and bleeding hearts ("but boss, I worked all weekend!").

    If I ask someone a question, and they explain to me how they got the ansewr, and I incorporate that experience into my skills & knowledge, then I:

    - probably can solve similar problems on my own
    - solved that problem
    - got what I needed out of the assignment (i.e. immediate answer and long term thought pattern to reach that answer).

    The problem usually stems from people that just ask questions for the immediate answer and then refuse to incorporate that into their knowledge, they just want the quick grade.

    That's unfortunate, but it's more indicative of the failure of examinations to catch such losers than of the evils of collaboration.

    Once you leave university, you're going to be judged on what you produce -- not how you got there. If you leverage the knowledge of others, you're going to go farther. That's why design patterns are so popula -- so you don't have to solve things from first principles unless the situation is truly unique and warrants such an analysis.

    If universities are institutions of higher learning, I really don't see a much in the way of modern pedagogy. As one person already said, they're more about indoctrination than learning. And for that reason (among others) they're not going to last much longer in their current form (give it a few decades).

    Picasso once said: "Good artists borrow -- great artists steal."
  • by inveratulo (574219) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:34PM (#3355527)
    Well, I'm a Computer Engineering student at Georgia Tech, and as such, I was required to take CS 1311 (what is now known as 1321).
    One thing that I noticed about the class was that discussion was rampant, and so was cheating. I openly admit to discussing general points of certain programs and concepts with my best friends. Did I get caught? No. Was I guilty of something? No.
    Everyone's code is automatically scanned and then the suspect programs are then checked by an undergraduate assistant. At some point, someone decides that there is enough evidence to point the finger.
    If anything, the system doesn't catch enough cheaters.
  • by EvlG (24576) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @09:54PM (#3355637)
    While the circumstances of this particular case seem a little harsh, the fact is, cheating is a HUGE problem these days in university.

    Where do you draw the line between another student discussing the homework, and a student asking for the answer? How do you distinguish between academic inquiry and laziness?

    There must be a strict rule that everyone abides by. In this instance, why didn't the student ask the instructor, or the TA for help? Those are the officially sanctioned channels for asking questions. ESPECIALLY if the honor code forbids students consulting others, why did the student do otherwise?

    The problem is, cheating is undermining the integrity of many student's degrees. This is becoming a huge problem at my school - how do you detect the cheaters? Where do you draw the line?

    While this case may be a bit extreme, the fact is you have to look at the overall picture. If the student was forbidden to discuss with other students, then he should have asked the teacher/TA.
  • by apk (120253) on Tuesday April 16, 2002 @10:16PM (#3355746)
    Having taken several undergraduate CS courses at Tech as well as having earned a Master's in CS there ('95), I read the editorial with a very self-interested eye.

    Frankly, I've got mixed feelings.

    On the one hand, as many have persuasively pointed out almost no one can defend the notion of prohibiting general conversation and interaction involving course material/ideas/concepts as a good thing for learning in the long run. And I agree with this -- for obvious reasons, engineering as well as literature students should be encouraged to discuss technical as well as philosophical ideas and approaches.

    On the other hand, this is an introductory course meant to intellectually test (both figuratively and literally) the capabilities of the students, and it is by design meant to generate a gradient/differentiation of the students' skill sets. This is perhaps the one course that may demonstrate to non-CS majors the work involved in understanding a problem set, designing a solution, and implementing the solution via a programming language -- this is a good thing, and the fact that it's challenging to many doesn't mean that the assignments are patently unfair.

    As far back as 1993 (and probably before) Ga Tech was submitting programming assignments to "similarity/copying detection programs" which aimed to detect, and thus deter, near verbatim occurrences ("copying") of code in students' submissions. Students were told UP FRONT that this was being done, and that they would be caught if they cut-n-pasted even a portion of their friend's (or classmates' whose directories/file permissions were a bit too lax allowing visibility to group/world users) assignment.

    I think we need to be careful about indicting an entire university or department based on an editorial. At a minimum, we need the cold, hard facts (ie, the likely verbatim similarities -- variables, spacing, comments, etc. -- involved in the code submissions) before getting too one-sided either way.

    Yes, you could use this "details unknown" case to condemn Ga Tech's College of Computing of being too much of a nit-picking hard ass, but you surely can't use it question the integrity or individual accomplishment of those that successfully completed their curriculum -- and in the technical fields of CS and engineering, this is a Very Good Thing.

  • Short opinion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lictor (535015) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @12:42AM (#3356395)
    I teach university computer science courses as part of my job. Yes, I agree, it looks like GATech went way overboard here, but unfortunately this is burying the root problem.

    Computer science programs are LOADED with cheating. Not just a bit. A *lot*. The faculty at my institution didn't think we had a problem... until we looked. And what a problem it was.

    It was, of course, inevitable. Lets face it.. CS is a hot program these days. Mom and Dad see lots job ops and strongly push junior to go into CS. Perhaps junior isn't really that interested in it; perhaps junior can't do math, but Mom and Pop are paying the bill, so...

    Now you have a problem. Junior needs to pass (lest his winter vacations of beer drinking, etc. be untimely ripped from him).. but junior could care less about the material. He doesn't want to bother learning it.. and there is a *lot* there to learn.

    How does one pass, yet do the bare minimal amount of work? Doesn't take a genius to figure this out... does it?

    The trouble is that, in general, computer science courses (especially 'systems' type courses) usually heavily weight assignments. Sure, you could just do exams... but I believe that seriously cheats the students. Being able to parrot back 4 solutions to deadlock on a final exam is a world away from being asked to actually think through and then solve these problems IN CODE.

    So we need assignments... but they are OH so easy to cheat on. Much easier than exams.

    Net result: Every year thousands of people graduate with CS degrees that can not: explain the sleeping barber problem; do OMT diagrams; define a Turing machine; give an example of a non-computable function; demonstrate even the remotest knowledge of what the "NP" means in 'NP-complete', use structured programming concepts, comment code, apply even the most basic software engineering techniques, etc.

    There seems to be a lot of people against these heavy-handed measures to weed out cheaters. I'm a libertarian at heart, so I agree in a lot of ways. On the other hand, do YOU want to graduate from a school that cranks out CS majors who go into a coma when someone says "Scheme" or "LISP"? Do you want people in industry to have experience with graduates from *your* university that can't even apply a simple waterfall model of software development?

    If you don't take measures against cheating, the people who will lose (and lose big) are the good students. Think about it.

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw