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Dozens of Reported Plagiarism Incidents On Coursera's Free Online Courses 210

Posted by timothy
from the but-I-both-copied-and-pasted dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The discussion forums in Coursera's Massive Open Online Courses are full of talk of plagiarism these days. 'Plagiarized essay — so disheartening,' said one post. 'Continued Plagiarism in the Assignments,' says another. Students are cheating even though the courses carry no credit. Plagiarism-detection software may be in the future, the company's leaders say."
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Dozens of Reported Plagiarism Incidents On Coursera's Free Online Courses

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  • by 0racle (667029) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @10:57AM (#41011201)
    I'm hardly surprised. Since the benefit to student is actually in doing the work instead of official credits, I don't see that a lot of time, money or energy should be spent in weeding out those that don't wish to actually get the benefit out of it. A public shaming on the boards might be helpful though so people don't get advice from someone who can't be bothered to really learn the material.
    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:06AM (#41011343)

      Amazingly, a lot of people don't know what plagiarism is. The think "write an essay" means the same thing as "copy from an encyclopedia". From TFA: "He said one student wrote him soon after he posted his letter and confessed to submitting a plagiarized essay, but the student said he had not realized that copying and pasting from other sources was wrong."

      I think the problem lies in elementary school. Students are encouraged to copy texts (in order to learn writing) and they are simply never told that actual essays are supposed to be something that they invent themselves.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by darkwing_bmf (178021)

        Or at least cite what they copy from.

      • by medv4380 (1604309) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:33AM (#41011751)
        I'd also put that they aren't actually encouraged to have their own opinions and views. I remember being given an assignment, years ago, about writing why "Crispy Cream" was ethical as a business, but from my POV they weren't being ethical at all. Having that counter opinion cost me most of the credit on the paper.
        • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @12:07PM (#41012277)

          I'd also put that they aren't actually encouraged to have their own opinions and views. I

          Maybe, but what you describe here doesn't sound like that's the problem.

          I remember being given an assignment, years ago, about writing why "Crispy Cream" was ethical as a business, but from my POV they weren't being ethical at all. Having that counter opinion cost me most of the credit on the paper.

          There is value to being able to find, evaluate, and present the best arguments for a particular position whether or not it is your own. So, I can both see why the value in being assigned to right an argumentative essay for an assigned point-of-view, and see it as perfectly reasonable that failing to do so effectively when it conflicts with your personal POV results in a lower grade.

          In fact, I remember a number of classes with similar assignments (some written, some oral) where both the subject and which side of it particular students were to take were randomly assigned.

          None of this conflicts with students being encouraged to have their own opinions or views, its about students being able to understand others opinions and views, and is part of the foundation on which the ability to critically evaluate others' viewpoints, and their own, is built.

          • I remember this, too (Score:5, Informative)

            by Voyager529 (1363959) <voyager529 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday August 16, 2012 @01:41PM (#41013583)

            In four years of college, there were only two that were of any actual use to me. One was Cisco (CCNA 1-4), because not sucking at TCP/IP and router configs is a rather integral part of my job. The other was a critical thinking course from a ZERO-BS professor that actually placed value in teaching my classmates and me how to actually think critically.

            There was one particular lesson I remember. In the textbook, there was a court case whereby a mother, through neglect and (if memory serves) a lot of alcohol, and a sizeable amount of miscommunication caused the death of her very young (infant-toddler age?) child. We were all unanimous that she should be punished, but to a certain level torn as to whether it was a capital offense (lifetime imprisonment in a maximum security prison without the chance of parole was the alternative for those principally opposed to the death penalty). The room was roughly split 50/50 on it, so we divided the room into two halves - those who believed in death penalty/lifetime imprisonment, and those who believed in less severe prison time + rehab + community service. We then had a debate on the topic, having to defend the viewpoint opposite the one we held.

            When forced to find reasons to align with the opposing view in order to win the argument, a nontrivial quantity of people started to seriously reconsider their own viewpoints. It was an eye opening experience for many and (in my opinion) really should be required for everyone to get a diploma.

            • by pnutjam (523990)
              I took a general communications class expecting to get nothing out of it except some required credits. I still use things I learned in that class every day, over a decade later. It opened my eyes to another way of seeing things.
          • by pnutjam (523990)
            None of this conflicts with students being encouraged to have their own opinions or views, its about students being able to understand others opinions and views, and is part of the foundation on which the ability to critically evaluate others' viewpoints, and their own, is built.

            Spot on! This is what infuriates the right wing pundits most of all.
      • by Loughla (2531696) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:35AM (#41011767)

        THIS. In a college English classroom, intro level classes, the first MONTH is spent explaining to the students what plagiarism is, and what it isn't.

        I don't know where the attitude of "copy and paste != plagiarism" came from (I have theories see below if you want), but it is prevalent. If I had a dollar for each student who "just borrowed" a line or two from other papers or other sources, I wouldn't be a teacher anymore, I'd have a self-funded space program.

        My theory about that attitude comes in the form of easy and quick = best. That, above all else is the attitude in today's US society. If it's easy, if it's quick, it must be good. What we're seeing is the disposable consumer culture translated into an educational setting. That is all my opinion and is not rooted in anything outside of my personal experience.

        • by CycleMan (638982)

          If I had a dollar for each student who "just borrowed" a line or two from other papers or other sources, I wouldn't be a teacher anymore, I'd have a self-funded space program.

          Plagiarize
          Let no one else's work evade your eyes
          Remember why the good Lord made your eyes
          So don't shade your eyes
          But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize
          Only be sure always to call it please "research" [1]

          [1] Paraphrased from Tom Lehrer's song 'Lobachevsky'.

          To copy from one person is plagiarism. To copy from many is research. (citation not provided; quote is attrib. to various sources)

          • I see that you have made 'eyes' rhyme with 'eyes' and that you have also made 'eyes' rhyme with 'eyes'. Clever!
          • by HiThere (15173)

            Yes. A great song. But either slander or libel on the name of Lobachevsky. (I'm not sure whether publishing a record counts as slander or libel.)

            Lobachevsky may not have been well known, and may not have been well connected to the Western European intelligentsia, but he as an able and innovative mathematician, who is one of the true founders of non-Euclidean geometry.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          I can tell you where the idea comes from. It comes from the idiotic idea that doing a research paper on a topic that has already been researched a million times before is useful in any way shape or form. It comes from the notion that you can teach PROPER research procedures on dummy(fake/psuedo) research projects.

          IF you want to fix the problem, fix the process. Make it REAL research, on things that matter to the kids. Yeah that means more work for teachers, but teachers are supposed to be teaching, and not

          • I actually got an A on a book report in grade school for a book that didn't exist.

          • by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @01:04PM (#41013093)

            I can tell you where the idea comes from. It comes from the idiotic idea that doing a research paper on a topic that has already been researched a million times before is useful in any way shape or form. It comes from the notion that you can teach PROPER research procedures on dummy(fake/psuedo) research projects.

            IF you want to fix the problem, fix the process. Make it REAL research, on things that matter to the kids. Yeah that means more work for teachers, but teachers are supposed to be teaching, and not teaching by rote.

            You can't do original research until you learn what is already known, which by definition will be something that someone has already done. There is no way around this problem. No teacher can generate large numbers of projects that are both 1.) simple enough for an introductory student, and 2.) examples of original research. The easy stuff has been done in most fields.

            On the Cliff's Notes issue -- I just looked in WorldCat and got over 10,000 hits for Hamlet as a subject. This will include multiple entries for lots of titles (different editions, the German translation, etc.), but you're still looking at 4,000+ books published on the topic, in addition to no one knows how many scholarly journal articles. Do you really think that a high school English teacher is going to be able to come up with an idea for original research on Hamlet that hasn't been covered in one of the previous 20,000 publications on the topic? And then come up with another one for her second and third period classes as well? And then do it all over again next year? Not possible. If she could do that she'd have won a MacArthur Grant and would be running the Renaissance studies program at Harvard. The same problem applies (to a less extreme extent) to every book in and around the Western canon. Now, a good teacher will know what's in Cliff's Notes and whatever it's Web equivalents are, and will assign work on something they don't include. But that's as close to original research as you can get with the average student.

          • by pnutjam (523990)
            Interesting, you sound like someone who reads as little as necessary...
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Funny, my class was never encouraged to copy texts. And in elementary school we were specifically taken to the library and taught how to do research, then close all the books and write in our own words.

        There are cultures where plagiarism isn't necessarily bad. I've come across some people who genuinely don't understand plagiarism, even in grad school. I didn't think the US was one of those places though.

        • by pnutjam (523990)
          Writing in your own words is easy, typing in your own words (when that other paragraph is just a copy-and-paste away) is difficult.
      • by ChrisMP1 (1130781)

        If, at this age, they are too stupid and thick to figure out that "copy from an encyclopedia" is not actually writing an original essay, despite whatever they learned in elementary school, they deserve whatever comes of their plagiarism. What kind of moron seriously thinks that it's actually okay to copy from other sources without giving credit, and then take credit for it yourself?? I think they'd be upset if someone did it to their original writing.

        The problem lies in people being assholes and not conside

      • by jpstanle (1604059)

        Amazingly, a lot of people don't know what plagiarism is. The think "write an essay" means the same thing as "copy from an encyclopedia". From TFA: "He said one student wrote him soon after he posted his letter and confessed to submitting a plagiarized essay, but the student said he had not realized that copying and pasting from other sources was wrong."

        I think the problem lies in elementary school. Students are encouraged to copy texts (in order to learn writing) and they are simply never told that actual essays are supposed to be something that they invent themselves.

        I suspect most of the students who genuinely did not realize they were plagiarizing were actually from developing nations with little in the way of formal schooling. I've met plenty of people who manage to morally justify or rationalize plagiarism in their own mind, but I've never met an American student in high school or college, no matter how academically shitty they may be, who ACTUALLY believed cutting and pasting essays was acceptable to their respective academic institution. They may have though it wa

      • by Cito (1725214)

        Hell even in highschool/college I never fully wrote my own papers, I copy and pasted also :) course this is before the computer age, so it was written word for word from books and encyclopedias.

        and it was allowed cause teachers said to attach a bibliography of sources, which I did, and still got a's and b's

        as long as my bibliography was attached it didn't matter to my teachers.

        I was lucky I guess.

      • Students will say all sorts of things when confronted with cheating. I could give you example after example of outrageously implausible denials. I find it's best to make the accusation in writing, via e-mail, in a dispassionate tone "I discovered X passages in this paper that directly match text in sources A, B, and C." Then the student has time to come to terms with the deep doo-doo they're neck-deep in before speaking with me about the problem. Confronted in person, students tend to immediately go into "I
    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      I'm hardly surprised. Since the benefit to student is actually in doing the work instead of official credits

      Actually, what the student values is that piece of paper showing they completed the class. Nary a single fck is given these days to actually soaking up any of the material. That said, I think the way we teach, and the way we assess, needs to be addressed first rather than how we police the cheating.

      • by 0racle (667029)
        I'll be nice and assume you don't know what Coursera is. Any 'piece of paper' Coursera gives is worthless. The only benefit to the student doing these free courses is learning and understanding the material.
  • by DJ Jones (997846)
    If the courses carry no credit, why do you care that they are plagiarizing? I'm not a fan of ripping others work but if professors can't develop unique questions then don't expect unique answers.
    • Re:So (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <.gro.hsikcah. .ta. .todhsals-muiriled.> on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:01AM (#41011285)

      What I'm more curious about is why people even bother plagiarizing at all. If you don't want to do an assignment, can't you just not do it, since there are no consequences to failing to do it? Are people hoping to use the "completed Coursera course" certificate on their CV or something, making it worth the effort of cheating to obtain it?

      • I don't think that I'd feel entirely comfortable turning my back on somebody who would cheat even without a reward...

        People who cheat for rewards are abhuman scum best recycled for their valuable phosphorus; but at least they exhibit a certain value-rational predictability. Somebody who would cheat purely for its own sake...

        • I feel even less safe turning my back on someone who fantasizes about the death penalty for cheating.

          • Yeah, don't give them any ideas.

            Plagiarism == copying == piracy ...

            Death penalty for pirating music, movies and software!

            QED.

      • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @01:25PM (#41013377) Homepage

        What I'm more curious about is why people even bother plagiarizing at all. If you don't want to do an assignment, can't you just not do it, since there are no consequences to failing to do it? Are people hoping to use the "completed Coursera course" certificate on their CV or something, making it worth the effort of cheating to obtain it?

        Yes. Believe it or not, that is the motivation. Plagiarism is rampant in the CS/IT sector. This is one of the reasons more and more companies (at least companies that care) are demanding live code interviews.

        True story from a company that I interviewed a couple of years ago. They needed quite desperately to fill a senior position that became vacant. How it became vacant? Well, the person who was in it apparently couldn't code himself out of a wet paper bag. During his hiring process, the applicant, who was in another country, went through all the phone interviews, answering questions flawlessly. The company decided to pick him for the position and paid all relocation expenses.

        Fast-track a few weeks later and the guy was unceremoniously kicked out. He simply couldn't code at all. To this day management is 100% convinced the person they interviewed was not the same person who actually showed up for the job. And this is very common. Having learned their lesson, any applicant must go through a battery of live tests, and then more tests in person. This obviously increases the expense of hiring, but that is always cheaper than getting an incompetent code monkey on a critical senior position.

        It wasn't like this before when the number of professionals weren't that many, nor computer systems were so ubiquitious. You gotta give thanks to the dot-com for opening the gates. Computer systems have become ubiquitous, which is great. But the bad side of the coin is that you get any savant idiot trying to weasel his way into a good salary without paying the academic/work-related dues.

        There are simply no ethics in our industry. None at all, a reflection of society, both ours and globalized. So now that people know companies will look into the coursera or udacity results, you bet they'll try to fit themselves in, like an badly made cog lubricated with pig shit.

        I never saw it coming, but I should have given everything I've seen in this industry.

    • Re:So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by simoncpu was here (1601629) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:06AM (#41011337)
      If Slashdot points carry no credit, then why do Slashdotters care if they have mod points or not?
      • Re:So (Score:4, Insightful)

        by M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:11AM (#41011405)

        If Slashdot points carry no credit at all, then why do Slashdotters users care if they have moderation points or not?

      • Well, there's the "credit" of being able to shape the visibility of the discussion so I don't think this particular analogy is very accurate. There's a real and demonstrable use of mod points.

        On topic: I did a bunch of courses Intro to AI and a couple of udacity's and found them quite interesting. I understood cheating was a possibility and that many people did but fixating on that seemed pointless. Producing something of value, applying the new knowledge, sharing and seeing what others had produced. A

      • Simple enough, because it is some kind of measurement of the value of your comments. So, it is self rewarding to know your comments are actually appreciated by some/many people. However, it is difficult to cheat and you earn not this reward if you cheat. Somewhat different since I guess in some countries, getting an accomplishement certificate from Coursera may have some actual value nonethless it earns you credit for a university or not. You know, some countries are having really bad education systems. I c
      • Gotta hand out Flamebait and Troll mods to opposing viewpoints. IT MUST BE DONE!

    • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

      by crazyjj (2598719) * on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:06AM (#41011341)

      If there is some sort of certificate or recognition, then allowing cheating makes said certificate even more worthless than it already is. It essentially makes it impossible for legitimate students to gain any recognition for their REAL work. It's the same reason that a big cheating scandal at an accredited school ultimately cheapens, at least a little, the degrees from all institutions accredited by the same organization.

    • Re:So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:38AM (#41011849)

      "if professors can't develop unique questions then don't expect unique answers."

      Go ahead. Develop a unique essay question. Just one. Post it in reply.

      • Re:So (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16, 2012 @12:44PM (#41012823)

        "Who are you? 500 words."

        • by mark-t (151149)
          Oh.... if I only had mod points. The AC parent to this one would so be getting a mod up. Brilliant.
      • by epine (68316)

        Go ahead. Develop a unique essay question. Just one. Post it in reply.

        Thick much? It's easier by the trillion. Suppose we have a body of 1000 short stories, each of about 30 pages in length.

        Using the vocabulary of source A, the imagery of source B, the structure of source C, write a five page story in the style of source D. Follow this with a two page essay on the challenges posed and the opportunities discovered in combining these sources.

        1000^4. Done. For the grading system, you need to send four

        • Most of my typos tend to be whole word substitutions. I tend to catch the ones where two or three letters are jumbled. The single letter substitutions from one valid word to another with similar letter shape are the most likely to squeak through.
             

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Right, because it's completely impossible for someone to find a story that's written in a particular style, which will also tend to have a similar vocabulary, and grab, reorder and glue together parts of it to make a story in a particular structure.

          Oh, and "write a story" isn't an essay [reference.com] assignment, it's a creative writing assignment.

          Yes, you do seem to be being (probably deliberately) thick.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @10:59AM (#41011233)

    Is there any reason to believe that the problem is any worse at Coursera than at meatspace universities? When I was at NGCSU, there was apparently enough of an issue with plagiarism that more than one professor spent a whole class period on discussing the issue, and a centralized system (Turnitin.com) was used to detect the most blatant forms of cheating.

    • by sqlrob (173498) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:09AM (#41011375)

      Given that coursera courses tend to be orders of magnitudes larger than those at universities, dozens actually sounds pretty low to me.

      • by OutLawSuit (1107987) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:31AM (#41011717)

        There's little incentive not to cheat in this setting though. The repercussions for cheating at traditional schools are significant in that there are real career and financial ramifications. Here you're simply kicked out of a free online program where you likely can just re-enroll under another name.

        Until cheating is dealt with in a satisfactory manner, I don't see how these online offerings will ever be a credible alternative to traditional schooling.

        • Until cheating is dealt with in a satisfactory manner, I don't see how these online offerings will ever be a credible alternative to traditional schooling.

          I'd like to think that "schooling" is not just about proving that you knew stuff because you passed exams and here's the certificate. What you're saying IS important in that sense but we must not lose the objective which SHOULD be imparting and encouraging knowledge.

        • And yet people still cheat in very high numbers in traditional schools despite the high penalties. The problem is that the systems are designed to encourage cheating and so it happens. No matter what penalties they come up with people will still do it.

          I have seen some very draconian anti-cheating policies and they pretty much accomplished nothing. People even use drugs now to focus and do better on tests regardless of the long term consequences because those drugs actually work. Do you propose we drug test

      • The peer review system could depress the number. How many users, when asked to review a paper, will take the time to look for plagiarism?

        I suppose the same though could be asked of academia.

    • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:25AM (#41011589) Journal
      It's a bigger deal at the meatspace universities because 1. The courses usually do carry credit, and being caught cheating can result in failing the class at best and/or being completely expelled from the university at worst, and 2. People pay money, sometimes lots of money, for those meatspace classes. Having a class you paid $$ for count as a failing grade against your GPA is pretty lame.
    • by fermion (181285) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @12:47PM (#41012859) Homepage Journal
      No it is not any worse. The problem is in the presentation. Online courses are presented as a cheap easy way to deliver an education to the masses. It is presented as a new, innovative method to create the group of critical thinking and highly creative professionals the world needs. Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with education knows this is crap.

      Online courses like this are just another way to deliver an education to those easiest to educate. Those that are motivated, can learn well from lectures and books, will take the time in recitation and practice, and will seek out peers and mentors. Before online courses these people learned from libraries, auditing courses, or just forming connections with knowledgable people. They would carry their desks to school, and spend thier teenage years figuring out how to fund college, sometimes traveling to foreign countries to do so.

      I am not saying the online courses are useless. They may very well bring an educational opportunity to motivated persons who did not otherwise have the resources. What I am saying is that we might consider applying the adage that if we are successful if we manage to educate one additional person. I know this is not PC in the no child left behind, but it is perfectly consistent with race to the top, where we encourage all students and provide all possible resources to maximums potential. So the dicks who want to go through courses and cheat are as inconsequential as the dicks in college who cheated in high school and spend all day bragging about their high GPA. It does not effect the personal learning of those who want to learn.

      At some point it is not the responsibility of the school to babysit the kids. It is the responsibility of the school to provide valid learning opportunities, and the students are responsible to make use of those opportunities. The world will punish those who screw up. I was recently at a presentation at a major engineering firm and it was stated that they hire as many graduates as they can, but the new hires have only months to learn the job and prove they can apply this knowledge. Do you think that your friends are going to help you cheat when six figures are involved and competition is fierce? Even at telemarketing jobs I have seen 300 page binders that are expected to be assimilated in two weeks, and then employees given two more weeks to start producing. For $10 an hour.

      So no, online courses should not be singled out for cheating. But they are not going to be the means of overall educational savings. As the students who are easy to educate get filtered out to these other learning opportunities, more money per student is going to be needed to educate those who are more resistant. IMHO, this is the key to the whole debate. Online education is going to be a critical part of training kids, but it is no silver bullet.

  • My SO who is an engineer and a research scientist who is currently finishing graduate degree. This is fairly late-in-career move, with SO entering program already with large number of successful projects, dozen published peer-reviewed articles, and established reputation in the field.

    Frequent comment I hear is "I wish I didn't have to do all the busy work and could just focus on my research" when I talk about school to my SO.

    Perhaps temptation to plagiarize in online courses like Cursera is mainly dri
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      "If you adequately test, why do you also make people jump through the unnecessary steps?"

      Because tests don't test various things that you want students to be able to do. Thinking, for example. Assignments also seem to be quite good at testing integrity....

    • by garcia (6573)

      Perhaps temptation to plagiarize in online courses like Cursera is mainly driven by dislike of busy-work? If you adequately test, why do you also make people jump through the unnecessary steps? It makes very little sense to swamp people with pointless work in such setting.

      That's what grad school is...busy work. Reading unending amounts of bullshit written by professors who have little else to do while on their tenure track. and writing more stuff only because that's what those same professors did themselves

  • Anonymity makes normal persons jackasses. This looks like another aspect of that syndrome.

  • Honesty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:30AM (#41011685) Journal

    Why should any student worry about getting ahead honestly when the most powerful people in the world commit massive amounts of fraud and nobody seems to care? Haven't we sent the message to people that fraud is OK? Why not academic fraud?

    Why should I give a shit about adademic dishonesty when fraud is what makes the world go around?

    • Why should I give a shit about adademic dishonesty when fraud is what makes the world go around?

      No-one is asking that you give a shit. Go watch a movie or something while we talk this over.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        I'll rephrase, why should anyone give a shit? Who can look at the world and then tell their students that honesty is the best policy? Arent you doing them a disservice?

        If you're an educator, you have to choose between teaching your students that cheating is bad, and teaching them what they need to know to be successful in life. What is an ethical educator supposed to do?

    • by cffrost (885375)

      Why should any student worry about getting ahead honestly when the most powerful people in the world commit massive amounts of fraud and nobody seems to care? Haven't we sent the message to people that fraud is OK? Why not academic fraud?

      This form of fraud involves unauthorized copying. Allowing mere students to engage in this activity unchecked may send the wrong message about what isn't allowed when it comes to those powerful peoples' imaginary property.

  • by Ambassador Kosh (18352) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @11:31AM (#41011709)

    So long as you give the same assignment to large groups of students year after year cheating is going to remain since the system is built to encourage it. It is just a natural result of how assignments are given, graded and how much depends on the grades. So long as we stay with this system we will continue to have cheating.

    I think we need to move to a more modern system based on our technology and instead of having all students in lock step have each student work one on one with a computer with generated problems. I don't know how that would work for art type stuff but it would work for math,engineering, chemistry and physics type stuff. What I would have is students would learn some material in about a 30 minute chunk and then be given some created questions based on what they have learned. They would go on to the next step of material once they had answered a high enough percentage of questions correctly. If the rate is too low have the computer go back and go over the missed points and try again. Keep doing this basically forever since there is no point in going on until you understand the current material.

    Every so often the computer would give you a test. If you do well enough you go on otherwise you go back and work on the material some more. There would be no grades since you can't complete a class without complete understanding so there would be no point. If you can't master the material you are not done with it yet. Everything would proceed at your own speed. In the end this is feasible with our level of technology and would cost a tiny fraction of what our existing education systems cost and should give better results.

    There is really no way to avoid cheating so don't worry about it. Since the problems are dynamically created it is hard to do a search for them online. Instead what I would do is employers could have the system give you a test based on the information required for the job and see if you pass. That way the point of enforcement is at the point of usage and the companies would have an interest in proctoring that test to make sure you don't cheat. If you cheated to get there you would never pass. All they would do is check some boxes on the required material and the same system that taught you the material would give questions to answer.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      And you will get mostly people who are very good at passing your computerized tests. People who know lots of facts, but aren't very good at thinking.

      One of the best courses I took in grad school was (human) Anatomy and Physiology for Engineers. The first question on the first test was along the lines of "a giraffe has a neck that is 2 m long, but with the same number of cervical vertebrae as a human. Comment on the anatomical and physiological implications." Then you wrote a long form response, actually

      • Someone has to also Think to correct those answers though and if you suddenly have 300000 students you are going to find yourself in need of a lot of staff to do so.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Yeah, imagine that. Maybe good education isn't as simple as making videos and posting them on the web.

          • Very very few people get that. From grade school through undergrad at least most people get a very poor education and multiple choice memorization based exams. We can do better than that with computers and there is no reason not to. If places can survive by doing better than that great for them. I want to improve the education that most people get and we can certainly do that for a tiny fraction of what do spend now on it for better results or at the worse case equally bad results which is still a net win i

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              "Very very few people get that"

              I've heard in the US that's true. I still find it kind of hard to believe. For what you guys spend you should be able to do a lot better. A lot of the statements like yours seem to come from commentators who haven't set foot in a school in quite a while too, so it's hard to sort out what's true and what's not.

              I'm not sure what you expect from "computer generated questions." Most big multiple choice, fill in the blank, numerical answer, etc. exams are generated by computer

              • Actually I have recently gone back to school. I was tired of programming and am working on getting a degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering so most of this experience is current. What I can say is that over the last 10 years since I was at school before the system has gotten worse.

                There is a lot more emphasis on what can be done on a scantron exam except for the engineering department. They seem to have gone the other direction entirely. No memorization, all materials on exams and practical problems

          • trades based learning and apprenticeships can go along way in fixing issues with education and testing.

            And in can give people the skills needed to do the job in a quicker time then the old education system.

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              Absolutely. I think it's important for everyone to get a basic, broad education, but not everyone needs to do it for seventeen to twenty years. Postsecondary trade schools and apprenticeships are extremely valuable. But notice how trades are taught. Hands on, working beside an expert in the field. Essentially the opposite of the video lecture craze.

      • Some of the classes I had in chemistry, chemical engineering and fluid mechanics have used online homework systems that used dynamically created problems that did a very good job at least at the undergraduate level.

        However the point is that tests or homework like you describe are incredibly rare. Most tests I have encountered are straight multiple choice exams and that is a lot worse than the dynamically created computer problems. The computer problems I am talking about are NOT multiple choice.

        I agree that

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          As someone who's taken, written and marked tests up to the graduate level (not in the US), I'm sorry you had such a crappy education.

          You took chemistry and didn't have any labs?

          How are you going to have a computer grade a complex problem like you suggest? Does the whole two-hours-of-work problem come down to one (or a few) numbers that are either right or wrong? That's a horrible way to evaluate. You'd probably be better off with multiple choice.

          • The chemistry labs I have had where basically recipes. You are given an exact procedure to follow and you just do that. No learning involved.

            For how a computer would grade a complex that does get more difficult. On some online engineering problems I have had problems where broken down into many steps and each step had various answers you needed to put in for numbers. It worked pretty well but could be improved.

    • by spidercoz (947220)
      Spot on, but you're pretty wordy for a Vorlon. Can't you be more enigmatic?
  • If there are no credits given for this free course, than why would anyone care if they cheat?

  • How many ways are there to answer the same question? Sooner or later a couple of people are going to have the same thought about something, it's not plagiarism, it is nature. There are finite ways of expressing the same concept. That's where I see the big failing of these services like TurnItIn happening; sooner or later their databases will be so huge there's no way to NOT plagiarize something. You can't account for it and you can't prevent it. I think the larger issue is being completely ignored: does the
  • That's why people take them. If they could afford to pay, then they could afford keyboards that didn't have the ( " ) key missing and you'd know they weren't plagiarizing, they were just quoting.

    At length.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @01:48PM (#41013689)

    plagiarism is real big in lecture classes and cheating / cramming on tests goes up in classes where it all about the test.

    Also you see plagiarism in Busy work classwork that has little educational value

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