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Computer Science Students Outsource Homework 512

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "'If U.S. companies can go online to outsource their programming, why can't U.S. computer students outsource their homework--which, after all, often involves writing sample programs?' Wall Street Journal colummnist Lee Gomes asks. 'Scruples aside, no reason at all. Search for "homework" in the data base of Rent A Coder projects, and you get 1,000 hits. (An impressive number, but still a tiny fraction of all computer students, the vast majority of whom are no doubt an honest and hardworking lot.)' Some of the Rent a Coder users appear to be outsourcing their way through school, at low costs--probably less than $100 per assignment. The posting are, of course, anonymous, but Gomes traces one to a student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where an instructor tells him that Rent a Coder contributed to a problem of plagiarism last semester."
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Computer Science Students Outsource Homework

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  • Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:12PM (#14506388)
    Why even bother getting the degree in something if you don't want to do the work anyway? Isn't that shooting yourself in the foot? Besides the fact that you won't have a clue what you're doing since you'll never have learned anything, if you don't have any desire to do it in the first place, why are you in the field?

    • by 19061969 ( 939279 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:24PM (#14506463)
      They're aiming for middle management.
    • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:25PM (#14506471)
      Why even bother getting the degree in something if you don't want to do the work anyway?

      Because Universities have become the 13th grade, a prerequisite for even unskilled labor. A bachelors degree is worth about the same as a a high school diploma was worth 50 years ago.
      • Then why not go into a field easier than computer science? Going into something technical when you don't actually want to learn it is the easiest way to get overwhelmed and fail.

        • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:03AM (#14506719)
          Then why not go into a field easier than computer science?

          ... see that's just it, that's the problem with college. It's become job training. Anyone with any SATs score can attend almost any university and obtain a degree in bullshit. But even the most apathetic student recognizes a degree in communications, business, marketing, multimedia design or basket weaving is worthless ... so they'll attempt to get a "respectable" in one of the sciences. Most are going to get weeded out when they hit linear algebra or CS II, but there will always be a few slackers who are basically intelligent enough to pass the tests and sly enough to con their way through the coding. I can't really blame them, anything is better than having to tell your parents you've decided to major in communications.
      • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by guacamole ( 24270 )
        Only if your major is political science and the like. AFAIK, people in engineering, many sciences, computing, operations research, statistics, accounting, CIS, and the like are getting decent job offers because their years of study weren't wholly 'wasted' on subjects that do not find direct applications in the real life. Going back to the topic, a bachelors degree in Computer Science from a respectable university is still worth a lot. I had many friends who graduated with BA in CS and related subjects from
        • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

          by ilyaaohell ( 866922 )
          I had many friends who graduated with BA in CS and related subjects from a respectable state university in the US and all of them seem to have gotten excellent job offers right after graduation from -major- e-comerce and software companies.

          It's not 1999 anymore. When I graduated with a CS degree this past spring, I don't know of a SINGLE person in any of my classes who get any offers AT ALL. From ANYONE. As far as I know, immediately after graduation, people either continued at the company they were interni
          • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

            by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
            I guess that depends on where you live. I also graduated last spring, and all my classmates (that I know of) have found good jobs. We didn't get people running up and giving us jobs, but we applied for jobs and got them. Mind you, this was Software engineering, with Coop, so we all had experience. I think the most important thing you can do in school, apart from actually doing the work, and learning the material, is to get into the co-op program, and get some real world experience. It pays well too an
    • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by general_re ( 8883 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:27PM (#14506485) Homepage
      Besides the fact that you won't have a clue what you're doing since you'll never have learned anything, if you don't have any desire to do it in the first place, why are you in the field?

      The types of people who cheat in their CS courses are likely the types of people who'd cheat regardless of their chosen field. My wife teaches history (on the high school level, though), and there's just been an explosion of plagiarism in the last few years or so - it's just tremendously easy and tempting to CTRL-C CTRL-V some website into your paper.

      Of course, what these knuckleheads don't realize is that the same developments that make it easy for them to cheat also make tremendously easy to catch cheaters - there have been course sections where literally half the class has gotten caught with a hand in the cookie jar, and it really, really makes me wonder what the fuck these kids are thinking. Forget about not learning the tools for your career - some of them are bound and determined not to learn a goddamn thing, period.

      • Of course, what these knuckleheads don't realize is that the same developments that make it easy for them to cheat also make tremendously easy to catch cheaters.

        If I were teaching, I'd explain to the class on the first day that I not only know how to use the Internet to check for plagerism, I'm going to, and that I'll fail any and every student I catch. Depending on how I feel I may or may not actually check, but as long as the students think I will...

        • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:37PM (#14506544) Journal
          Easier than that... Just call them up randomly to walk the class through their code, and explain what the code that they ostensibly wrote does.

          • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Informative)

            by p00ya ( 579445 )

            Requiring a code-walkthrough isn't going to catch the skilled but lazy CS students. I don't have a problem explaining fragments of code I've never seen before (providing they're reasonably sane). This is basically what happens whenever I need to patch something so it Just Works. OTOH, should students who write insane code (and thus can't explain it the next week) be labelled as plagiarists?

            It's much harder to explain why you chose a particular design (especially for complex OO systems) if you haven't ta

            • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Informative)

              by Valar ( 167606 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @02:45AM (#14507489)
              Well, even for other reasons than catching plagarism, making students explain code is a good idea. Firstly, it builds up their communications skills. Secondly, it catches shotgun debugs (I'll just twiddle everything around until it works). Thirdly, students shouldn't write "crazy code" that they can't explain. If they can't explain it, it isn't maintainable. Nobody is going to want to see that in real life. Teach them while they are young. Fourthly, it catches code that accidentally get right, as in, they misunderstand some concept, but manage a working solution anyway. Next time they won't be as lucky and by not making them explain code, you miss a chance to correct their error which wouldn't show up in your test cases.
        • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Browncoat ( 928784 )
          Today my professor (a communications class) told us a story of a student she had who kept on plagiarizing, even after she failed his paper (the first incident), kicked him out of class (second incident), and let him back into class when the Dean of the department asked her to give him another chance. He cheated again after that, when he submitted his final projects. The idiot was supposed to write two papers, one on something he was passionate about, and the other was a book report.

          For the book report, h

        • If I were teaching, I'd explain to the class on the first day that I not only know how to use the Internet to check for plagerism, I'm going to, and that I'll fail any and every student I catch.

          It's good to state that upfront. My school has a very strict no cheating policy that will, at worse, fail someone out of a course.

      • I think it's a bit different between college and high school, though - in high school, you don't have a choice of what you're going to learn. They tell you, and you comply. If you couldn't care less about history (as much of a shame as it is), you're not going to do the work.

        College, though, is supposed to be about choosing something that you WANT to be doing, and actually wanting to learn how to do it. It makes no sense to put time and money forth preparing yourself for a career in something you don't w
      • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by arcsine ( 541576 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:58PM (#14506687)

        Cheaters are everywhere, that's for sure. I was a teacher's assistant several years ago. I graded all the programs and quizes. My personal policy was to report every cheater. Generally we had them put on academic probation and removed from the class. I've caught 4-5. I only had 30 assignments to grade normally, so I had a pretty good memory of what someone did. I caught two because they had the exact same comments for their program, and upon closer inspection, had nearly the same program. The professor was a bit gunshy, and didn't have them removed from class. However, after I caught one of the students cheating with another, I at least got one removed from the class.

        You have to a zero tolerance policy, otherwise students will think that they can get away with it.

        • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tonywong ( 96839 )
          Well your policy would have got me kicked out of a class for reasons not of my own. I once had a linear algebra assignment that was graded and a name written over top of mine after it was returned to me.

          I never understood why that name was written until after the semester had ended. A person with said name came up to me and thanked me for allowing him to "borrow" my assignment. Apparently he was able to fish out my submitted work from the drop box and he cribbed my work. I was quite livid but I held my tong
      • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:02AM (#14506714) Homepage Journal
        with both my kids around about age 9-10 I discovered some paper they were going to hand in that was copied from the web .... sat them down, typed 3 words of vocab that so obviously wasn't written by them into google and lo and behold the web page they copied it from .... long discusion ensued - about how to write a paper, paraphrase a source (or quote it correctly) and an explanation about how their teachers could do the google trick just as well as I could

        It's a great age to learn this - probably Jr High teachers should do that demo to each new incoming class - "I can catch you out - it's this easy"

        • by miyako ( 632510 ) <> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @02:57AM (#14507526) Homepage Journal
          There is one problem with this...
          I remember once a few semesters ago in a class we were assigned to give presentations on some area of computing that we chose. I ended up giving one on Quantum Computing. I was under the impression that everything went well- until I got a letter asking me to be in one of the meeting rooms at school. I showed up and there were a couple of professors and deans and an FA. My first reaction was that my presentation was that good (yeah, I got an ego). Well they told me they had caught me cheating- and I was like "wtf?". Apparently my professor had googled around on the subject and found my website (everything on my site is under a psudoname) and found some of the stuff that I had used in my presentation that I published on my website.
          The professor assumed that I had simply ripped off stuff from a site on the net.
          I did eventually get it worked out- but it's worth remembering that a lot of people publish work on the web now.
          • everything on my site is under a psudoname

            One lesson here is that you should use your real name for things that you can be proud of. Sure, if you have a blog about anime and furries then use an alias. But for acedemic stuff, it's a good idea to use your real name.

            It also makes a nice google-trail for potential employers. When you go to apply for a job, they are going to google you. If everything you've done has been anonymous, they wont find anything. No big deal I guess. But if you published that pre
    • Besides the fact that you won't have a clue what you're doing since you'll never have learned anything, if you don't have any desire to do it in the first place, why are you in the field?


      I met my share of students who had no real passion for their major in college. They were simply there because they figured once they got their degree, they could rake in the cash.
    • Exactly. The people in businesses who are making decisions to outsource programming tasks are probably not programmers themselves and do not need to understand how to write stuff. People, such as the computer science student, are ultimately going to be doing said outsourced work, and they actually need to have a clue as to what they're doing.

      It's things like this that really tick me off. This is probably worse than the reason "I'm doing it for the money" when I ask people why they're getting a degree in c

    • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:45AM (#14507994) Homepage
      As long as schools keep grading students for producing work rather than acquiring knowledge (or grading at all), this problem will remain.

      School is now, and has always been, a system which teaches you to get good grades, not to actually learn anything. The irony is that this is actually a useful skill in corporate life.
  • by Chris Bradshaw ( 933608 ) * on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:12PM (#14506389)
    The obvious answer to the question is Hell NO! Students need to do their own work so that the University granting $StudentX with a degree doesn't loose credibility by certifying that "$GraduateX is now Capable of doing the job" when he really doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.

    What really needs to be done is for instructors to wake up and realize that most people don't even need to outsource in order to complete thier projects. After all, who needs to pay a "Rent-A-Coder" when so many instructors provide obvious shortcuts via working examples of the projects right along the assignment, i.e., Java classes, etc... Why "outsource" when you can decompile Jad, change a few variable names and viola! Project Complete. []

    To really combat plagarism, instructors should focus more on theory, algorithms, deisgn patterns, etc.., and less on the actual solution to a particular problem in $programmingLanguage. If you really must assign projects, insert subtle flaws or traps in the assignment that would make the project all but impossible w/out direct interaction with the Professor to clarify requirments, etc... This would expose the weak students, the obvious cheats. and give a clearer picture of what's really going on in the classroom. Problem is there are too many instructors out there who just don't care, and aren't in it for the right reasons. In other words, they just don't care!

    • Students need to do their own work so that the University granting $StudentX with a degree doesn't loose credibility by certifying that "$GraduateX is now Capable of doing the job" when he really doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.

      Too late. ;-)

    • by mfh ( 56 )
      The schools keep cutting prof wages. What do they expect?

      I look at this as a kind of moral erosion that will eventually lead to greater teaching discoveries.

      I'm a programmer and I did all my own work through college. But thinking about this problem of cheating in a realistic light -- so what if they outsource? They should get some experience in outsourcing, and if they start early then they will be well ahead of other coders who work in a project management capacity.

      That said, it's dishonest to pass work of
    • by freaks_and_geeks ( 773345 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:02AM (#14506707)
      If you really must assign projects...

      If? Look, maybe I'm just dumber than the average engineer, but without projects, I don't think I would have learned a damn thing in my Computer Science courses. It's important to discuss the theories of CS, but you won't survive in the real world without some practical experience.

      The projects also help reinforce what you've learned in class. Talking about object inheritance models is all well and good, but the benefit really hits home when you find yourself copy/pasting code all over the place. Talking about compiler theory is all well and good, but it's not a whole lot of help when gcc/javac has spit out some errors at you,and you've never seen them before.

      In short, someone who hasn't written much code at the college level will have a very rude awakening once he's out of school. Those who have cheated their way through the projects should not make it past the technical interview at a decent company, and even if they're hired by a second-rate one will be exposed within a week.

  • Let them do it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:12PM (#14506390) Homepage

    Go ahead and outsource your homework. When you graduate and get a job, your company will realize you don't know anything and outsource your job to the same people. I've seen it happen. []
    • Re:Let them do it. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:31PM (#14506513) Homepage Journal
      Or, you can become a consultant and bid out jobs locally, then have Indians do it for next to nothing. After four years of doing this at school, you would be pretty good at managing such projects.

      I know a few consultants in my area that don't do any programming anymore. They have a team in Asia and a team in Eastern Europe working on their projects 24/7. It's not a complete retirement, because you do have to negotiate cultural barriers (such as what "I need it tomorrow" means), and you are not within ass-kicking distance of the people you are relying on.
    • Re:Let them do it. (Score:3, Informative)

      by joe_bruin ( 266648 )
      Or maybe they won't realize it, and you'll be writing the kind of code that ends up on The Daily WTF []. The reality is, unqualified graduates have been coming out of CS programs for years. The problem is that many employers have no good way to guage whether a candidate can really write code or not. In the mean time, you can take comfort that these incompetent employees will be moved the where they can do the least damage, management (The Dilbert Principle [])
  • by ThaFooz ( 900535 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:13PM (#14506393)
    ...why not be a buisness major instead? I mean, if you're not really passionate the work, why not pick an occupation that a) pays more and b) is easier to fake your way through?
    • and me with out mod points.

      Love the "fake your way through" part.

      The truth in this rings so clearly.

    • .....why not be a buisness major instead?

      Outsourcing a programming assignment would be a great assignment for the Project Manager and future CIO.

      CIS 410: IT Managment and Outsourcing.

      I'm not kiddding that much. I actually had a class in my CIS curriculum that had a mgt class that dealt with this issue.

      Remeber, outsourcing can mean hiring IBM, EDS, or Joes Coding and Pizza to do your work.

    • ...why not be a buisness major instead? I mean, if you're not really passionate the work, why not pick an occupation that a) pays more and b) is easier to fake your way through?

      ... and c) explicitly supports and encourages cheating.

      (It's the perfect fit!)

  • Most geeks *want* to learn. They don't want to steal code
    to pass a class. However, stealing (borrowing) GPLed code
    is expected (why re-invent the wheel?).
    • However, stealing (borrowing) GPLed code is expected (why re-invent the wheel?).

      There's a pretty big divide between utilizing some code someone else created to help solve a problem and outright getting someone else to do your work for you. Let's face it, there's enough easily accessible code out there that someone can cobble together a program in relatively easy fashion. Of course, it would take effort to actually assemble a bunch of "free" code to make it work. Is it any wonder that so many script-kiddie

    • by NeoSkandranon ( 515696 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:29PM (#14506499)
      The times are gone when most people in CS are geeks.

      Many, many, *many* are in it for the money, or because people keep telling them computers are the place to be. I'm in computer engineering myself, but I've had to take up through jr level comp sci courses, and in each and every one I see people who fail to exhibit basic programming knowledge, or only a middling skill level in using the computer in general.
      • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:47PM (#14506613) Homepage
        Many, many, *many* are in it for the money, or because people keep telling them computers are the place to be. I'm in computer engineering myself, but I've had to take up through jr level comp sci courses, and in each and every one I see people who fail to exhibit basic programming knowledge, or only a middling skill level in using the computer in general.

        And a lot of them are just mildly ok at math and figure you have to major in SOMETHING. I mean a lot of them wouldn't feel passionate about anything, but you have to pick a major, so why not computer science? Why does everyone here think that computer science is a field of study so noble, so exalted, that it and only it should escape the mediocre masses that muddle along in any other field? I mean, plenty of those English majors don't read books outside of school, and plenty of those engineering majors never even looked at a schematic they weren't assigned in class, and plenty of those astronomy majors don't even own telescopes. Just have to learn to deal with the mediocre people instead of urging them to go infest another field.
        • Ok you had me until you said astronomy majors.
          It's not like there out for the money.

          Obligatory Dilbert quote:

          Kid:What's a black hole?
          Planetarium worker:Well my career would be one example.
        • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:57AM (#14507022)
          If you aren't passionate, or competant enough to participate in any course offered at a tertiary education institution without cheating - don't go through tertiary education. Try apprenticing in a trade instead. You can get good money as a tradesman, and they don't have the same intellectual focus as a university/college degree.

          If you aren't passionate or competant enough in any field offered anywhere, well, you're better served getting started on your french-frying career, because if you can't pull it together enough to get a degree or trade certificate, you're not going to be able to do it for a living.
  • Disgusting! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:14PM (#14506403)
    Why in the old days we had to post the problems on USENET and hope not to get *plonked*! Kids today are sooo spoiled.
  • Cheating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:17PM (#14506429) Homepage
    Well, cheating is cheating, whether you get to use the work from a classmate or from someone in another part of the world. And if someone is really determined to take the easy way out, there is not a whole lot you can do to stop them; I doubt the majority of cheaters in college ever get caught (but allow for the fact that stupidity probably is a major factor in the need to cheat to begin with so that by itself increases the capture rate).

    But what happens afterwards, when they're looking for a job and blow every interview since, well, they don't actually know what they're talking about? My guess, they blame the outsorcing trend for their failures...
  • Exams?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Freaky Spook ( 811861 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:19PM (#14506438)
    If I was to pay someone when I was at uni to do my Java assignments for me, apart from the good mark I could have got it would have been bugger all help for me in my exam.

    Going to a Java exam armed with a pencil and my brain was all the help I had, and by doing my assignments during the semester i learned everything i needed to know to pass my exam.

    Cheaters will get found out eventually, if they manage to pass uni, they will not get very far.

    You can only bullshit your way through something for so long before you hit the wall.
  • great idea! (Score:5, Funny)

    by pohl ( 872 ) * on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:19PM (#14506439) Homepage
    I want to become a really great guitarist. Maybe I can hire someone else to practice all those tedious scales, arpeggios, and chords. When they're done, I'll be able to play like Steve Vai!
  • by zjbs14 ( 549864 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:20PM (#14506446) Homepage
    I saw an Elance posting once for an obvious CS student project. Funny thing was that I recognized the professor's name as being from my alma mater, so I sent him an email with the project link.

    Th better part was that the student also used his real name in the listing.

  • Before anyone forms an opinion they should watch a movie called "Cheaters". []
    It made me think differently about cheating.
  • "the vast majority of whom are no doubt an honest and hardworking lot."

    If by "honest and hardworking" you mean "getting their homework from a knowledgeable friend rather than outsourcing" ... then yea. ;)
  • This happens all the time without pay. Hasn't everyone here been assigned to a group project, and one or two of the four members pick up all the work? And they don't get paid a dime to do the work of others -- they do it because they need the mark. It is pretty similar to the situation here, minus the renumeration and plus the frustration.

    Academic integrity aside, this isn't really a problem for the workforce. These student's will either not make it past the recruiting stage, and if they do, will likely b

    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:44PM (#14506597) Journal
      I had a teacher that let you decide your own groups, but with the understanding that along with the final paper/presentation/whatever, you would 'grade' your fellow group members.

      You had 100 points to split up between everyone in the group and he'd add up the seperate 'grades' for each student and then multiply the final grade by that number.

      So if the group paper was worth a 74% and your group 'grade' was a 94%... you'd get a 70%

      It gave you the opportunity to penalize the asshats who weren't pulling their weight. And the people who did outstanding work could get a grade higher than 100%.
  • When I took a C++ course back in 1996, I was writing all my code on a Unix system through the shell. Everyone was, that is how the course was taught, and that is how I got started with Unix/Linux.

    However, having come from an English and Biology major background, I was really confused when on one assignment the instructor praised one student who had used some GPL code to complete his assignment, in fact, all most all of the code was borrowed. The instructor told me about how code reuse was a good thing.

  • Why not? Because doing so violates the academic integrity policy of every last university in the nation, and as such makes you subject to anything from instant F in the class to being expelled.

    One would think that's a good enough reason, considering the student is paying for the privilege of being in college.
  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:29PM (#14506496) Homepage
    I took the time to RTFA. In the first example, a student who'd been more interested in night life than their studies found somebody to fill out a take home final exam. Letting the students take the final of all things outside the classroom is simply begging for them to cheat. If not this way, some other, such as getting help from an older friend. That instructor should be fired, unless there's tenure involved. If so, simply don't assign him or her any more classes. Let them strut about with their title of Professor, and their tenure, if they want, but unless they're actually teaching, I doubt they're going to get paid, and they won't be giving any more good grades to cheaters.
  • It really looks like we're (unwittingly?) creating a nation of managers whose only goal in life is to have a lot of money, live in luxury, and pawn off all the work to other people.

    Students are presumably going for CS/IT degrees to get those "high-paying" jobs by managing their outsourced schoolwork. Imagine a world of Office Space Bill's -- I shudder to think. But sadly, I see this more and more - why do/learn it when you can pay someone else to? Odd no one stops to think about where they'll get the mon
  • I used to get really frustrated about those cheater types when I was doing my degree. Of course, now they're making $15 an hour in data entry while I'm pulling $110k in design...

    (And you young whippersnappers who think $15 an hour is good - think some more.)

  • Oxford tutorials (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ScaryMonkey ( 886119 )
    I did my undergrad at Oxford (granted, it was history, not CS, so maybe slightly offtopic here) but the system in use there is a good model of how to eliminate this kind of problem. You write an essay (or program as the case may be) and then sit down and get grilled about what you wrote for an hour with your professor. If you are bullshitting, or god help you plagiarizing, it becomes obvious in about two minutes. It's not perfect, but you really have to focus on understanding, rather than regurgitating m
  • by keilinw ( 663210 ) * on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:38PM (#14506549) Homepage Journal
    I have a few thought on this:

    First of all, it is probably morally wrong for students to have "other" people do their work for them. However, sometimes it really helps to have some "example" code from which to start learning. I'm torn between the two teaching methods but I believe that a good balance is necessary.

    As an Electrical Engineer I was forced to learn to code (despite that fact that I really don't enjoy coding that much). I found that sometimes when a student jumps feet first into something they have a really steep learning curve. If they start with sample code and then get weaned off of it then that would be effective.

    Ironically, "some" of those idiots were blamed for plagiarism! Oh how sweet justice is when students learn "Quality Control" through cheating.

    On the flipside, I've seen arguments here that those students wont get anywhere in the workforce. I could imagine a scenario where individuals outsource their "personal" assignments (in the workforce) to India :) Hows that for Entrepreneurship? One can telecommute and then outsource all of his work to India....lets just hope those fools don't violate any NDAs!

    I know I'm ranting but its my style.... I feel that I'm at least semi-on topic and that, at a minimum, made an attempt to say something interesting...

    Matt Wong
    • Yes - working examples are usually very helpful. They greatly boost ones productivity.

      Especially on the Windows platform. Microsoft documentation can blather on and on and cross-reference a plethora of other items without once giving a simple example. If a picture is "worth a thousand words", working "hello world" programs, with all the logistical hoopla for the target platform, are worth two pounds of documentation.

      Many a time I have trolled the Internet for an example of something I needed to do in so

  • Ethics of cheating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gv250 ( 897841 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:40PM (#14506564)

    It is obvious to all of us that cheating is unethical from the cheater's perspective. It only hurts yourself, it isnt' fair to the others, yada, yada, yada.

    But, is the transaction unethical from the perspective of the industrious coder whom the cheater hires? Does the rent-a-coder have an obligation to look beyond the color of his client's money, and into the content of his character?

    From the article, we see that Rent A Coder has "tried but failed to curb the practice before." Is Rent A Coder obliged to try to stop the practice? Are they obliged to try harder?

  • As other people have said, perfect on every assignment won't help you in the midterm and the final. I am a physics major and I have seen the same sort of stuff, students will download the assignment solutions for next years classes and hope they are the same (often they are), or order the solutions manual from the publisher (alot of them are suprisingly lax in who they send it to).

    Personally I find that sort of pointless, sure it means I can get 100% on the assignments, but when the exam is worth 55% of the
  • I suppose if you did outsource your homework, you would then get killed on exams because as other people have pointed out, you would be a practical dunce. But, let's say you didn't fail the exam and went out and successfully passed yourself off and got employed. You would then end up living under the stress of being found out. Ultimately that's one of the biggest problems with being a fraud, the fear that you will be found out and nailed. Every time you hear someone is going to be canned, you will have the
  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Wednesday January 18, 2006 @11:51PM (#14506641) Journal
    It's fairly clear that particular person should've majored in Business Administration, not Computer Science.
  • sometimes the first one's for free ... for all those new incoming southern hemisphere comp sci students here you go:
    #include "stdio.h"
    printf("hello world\n");
    carefull though ... also like all good drugs, going cold turkey can be a killer
  • When I took my programming classes, I rocked and wrote good code. I found that some other students were stealing my discarded code printouts from the garabage can in front of the printer. I eventually figured out they were stealing my work and left them a present :)

    At the end of the semester, our lasy TA left our graded final project folders and CD's in a box in the hall outside his office and mine was stolen before I could collect it. No matter what you do, the slackers of the world are going to find
  • Questions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brennz ( 715237 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:03AM (#14506722)
    I'd be curious if it was all people outsourcing their homework to party or a combination of the following:

    1. Horrible public university student-teacher ratios making assistance in the learning process not only non-existent, but also frowned upon. Said student achieving the boiling point in frustration and failing to have help, seeks aid, even if paid.

    2. TAs teaching all the material, oftentimes in fields they have 0 training, with another person's lesson plan/material. I have endured too many upper division security courses now, with TAs that I rated between toilet paper and turd.

    3. Onerous assignments by some professor that can barely speak english and instead should be enrolled in ESL 101, where merely deciphering the assignment requires a 10 year background in cryptanalysis and NSA supercomputers. "ha, I'll just give this to some indian coder, he'll understand my professor for sure!~"

    4. Rote assignments that are equally dull, unchallenging and time-consuming

    5. True students seeking more elegant/better/high-graded solutions. How many times have you cobbled together something that was ugly, functional, but practically a monstrosity. Spend a few more hours on it, with 0 forward progress, or outsource the work, then analyze the solution to see a better algorithm and incorporate it? Why get a C, when you can outsource some superior work, get a better grade, and learn more in the process?

  • I couldn't tell you the number of times I was asked to do peoples' homework in college; from Intro to Word work, to HTML, to VB.Net/C++/PHP programming (and this wasn't hard stuff - our school is far from having any good programming instruction, and only covers basics).

    The pay would have been pretty good, too, but most of the instructors recognize my work (I was the among the few good programmers on campus - which doesn't say much for the campus :)), and I felt certain moral obligations.

    The point is, it

  • by bLindmOnkey ( 744643 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:05AM (#14506729)
    For a personal experience paper I hired this guy who emailed me a paper titled "the life of an underpaid outsourced homework slave" That didn't work so well.
  • by Maskull ( 636191 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @01:35AM (#14507180) Homepage
    ...then it's a sign that you're not teaching an obscure enough programming language. Using C++ is like asking the students to cheat. You want to require all answers in Unicon [], or Lambda Prolog [], or (worst of all) POPLOG-11 [].
  • by damne33 ( 947117 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @01:47AM (#14507235)
    At least at Carnegie Mellon, where programming courses were required for a vast majority of the students. Majored in Bio, History, Business..? Yup, you had to take programming. To me it seemed that these people were the ones that were likely to get someone else to do their programming assignments for them. The students who majored in CS? yeah, right.
  • by dstone ( 191334 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @02:13AM (#14507359) Homepage
    Sure, let the entrepreneurial students outsource all their projects. The wake-up call will be on them when, during their first real-world interview, I put them in a room, alone, for 20 mins with a whiteboard and ask them to pseudocode an algorithm or data structure.

    The students who aren't interested enough in the -science- of a computing project might bet better off majoring in Business Administration and, yes, doing the outsourcing. Leave the architecting, the design, and (maybe) the coding to the real future computer scientists.
  • it doesn't help (Score:3, Insightful)

    by penguin-collective ( 932038 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @03:30AM (#14507611)
    Homework usually doesn't count for a big part of a course, it's preparation for the test. Outsourcing homework makes about as much sense as outsourcing physical exercise or outsourcing an appendectomy--it may avoid short term unpleasantness, but it fails to achieve its long term purpose.

    (In contrast, when companies outsource, they may just care about the product, so outsourcing is arguably a correct strategy for them.)
  • by natoochtoniket ( 763630 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @03:04PM (#14511763)
    As a Ph.D. and adjunct professor, I am always amused by discussions of cheating. Undergrads and Bachelors seem to think of cheating as if the only purpose of school is to put some grades on a transcript and get a job. In every such discussion, there are suggestions for better or more efficient ways to cheat. There seems to be little understanding of the ethical decision, and even less of the longer-term consequences.

    The sad fact is that when you cheat, you are really only cheating yourself. If you do not gain the knowledge that is taught in a course, it is your loss. You paid for the course, and did not get the benefit (the knowledge) that was there for the taking.

    The most important thing that you gain from a college education is learning skills. By learning a variety of subjects, you gradually develop skill at learning new things. Learning is the only professional skill that really matters during the longer term (20-40 years) of your career. If you don't develop skill at learning, your career will plateau or fail very early.

    The other observation that many seem to miss is that the easiest way to get an 'A' in most courses is to actually read the text and learn the material. Reading most undergraduate computer-science textbooks only takes a few days, even if you are unfamiliar with the material. (The math books take a little longer, of course.) Then, if you actually know the material, writing a programming assignment normally only takes a few hours.

    The fact that cheating seems to be common has had an effect on the courses, though. I now give exams. It is amazing how a 3-hour exam can separate the people who know the subject from those who don't. I try to design the test so that I can write it in about 10-15 minutes. The students who really learned the material usually write it in less than an hour, and thank me for the easy test on the way out. But some of the students take nearly the whole three hours, and turn in messy piles of disorganized scribbling. I almost don't have to grade the papers -- I could just note the time that each student turns in the test and leaves the room.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler