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10 Percent of Harvard's Popular 'Introduction To Computer Science' Class Accused of Cheating (thecrimson.com) 131

theodp writes: The Harvard Crimson reports that more than 60 of the 636 students enrolled in last fall's CS50: "Introduction to Computer Science I" course appeared before the College's Honor Council in a wave of academic dishonesty cases that has stretched the Council to its limits over the past few months. Former students and course staff, though, said course policy was unclear about what constituted cheating, creating the potential for unintentional violations. Consistently, one of the most popular courses at Harvard, CS50 is known for an unconventional atmosphere, complete with flashy promotional videos and corporate-sponsored events.
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10 Percent of Harvard's Popular 'Introduction To Computer Science' Class Accused of Cheating

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    learning how to cheat was just part of the curriculum.

    • It's CS, not an MBA.

      • But that social network movie tho

      • It's CS, not an MBA.

        I work in CS, and I grab code from Stackoverflow everyday and copy-paste it into my own work. I also regularly get other people's code from our internal git repository as well as Github. I very rarely write anything 100% in my own. I get paid for getting stuff done, not for originality.

        When I was in college, I worked on projects with classmates, and we shared code and ideas all the time. There was no auto-cheat-detectors back then, but I wonder if today that is considered "cheating". We certainly didn'

        • by Jerry ( 6400 )

          @ShanghaiBill
          Exactly.
          Show me someone who has written an original sorting algorithm in the last 20 years, or made non-trivial improvements on a double linked btree list.

      • Don't be obtuse; it's Harvard.
    • Considering how many students are actually cheating in college now a days, this goes to show Harvard mostly only admits students smart enough to not get caught.

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @07:13PM (#54364555)
    Come on. Zuckerberg copied - and he's a billionaire now.
  • Expel them all (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2017 @07:14PM (#54364561)

    Of course they won't though, Harvard is already trying to redefine cheating to sweep this under the rug.

    This begs the question, if people there need to cheat at an intro computer class, how many of them are cheating for actually difficult classes? 20%? 50%?

    If Harvard wants to truly save face, they'll expel these losers. But they won't.

    • This begs the question ...

      No, it raises the question. Begging the question [wikipedia.org] means something completely different. If you went to Harvard, you would know this.

      ... if people there need to cheat at an intro computer class, how many of them are cheating for actually difficult classes?

      When I was a student, I made money coding assignments for other students. Cheating is way more common in intro courses. By the time students reach upper levels, they either know how to do the work, or they have already switched to an easier major.

      • To be fair, the phrase "beg the question" is a very poor transliteration of the latin original, and is not intuitive of its own meaning at all.

        I say we redefine "beg the question" to mean what it seems to mean, and use a more appropriate term for what is essentially circular reasoning.

      • This begs the question ...

        No, it raises the question. Begging the question [wikipedia.org] means something completely different. If you went to Harvard, you would know this.

        I bet you're one of those people who complain every time someone uses "decimate" to mean something other than kill one in ten.

      • No it begs the question. Your own link describes the modern usage at the bottom. Get with the times.I mean I know some people are old fashioned, but seriously man get with the times. That was 400 years ago.

      • No, it raises the question.

        For all intensive purposes, it now means begging the question, irregardless of what it used to be. I could care less, and you should too.

  • Collaboration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @07:16PM (#54364569) Homepage

    I don't see how a course that encourages collaboration between peers can then turn them in for cheating when they come up with the same answer. You can't collaborate without often coming to the same result using the same methods.

    While coding, in its purest form, is a creative act the same is not so of most 'coding 101' problems. They are often rote mechanical pieces, intended to highlight a particular software concept, with little room for creativity (especially if, like any sane student, you're trying for the simplest and shortest solution).

    Unless they are monitoring the entire typing history for students, and they only brought students up on charges where their submission was created with a single keystroke (Ctrl+V), I don't see how this is a fair system.

    • I don't see how a course that encourages collaboration between peers can then turn them in for cheating when they come up with the same answer.

      My Introduction to Java class had a similar situation. Each student was to write their own code file after collaborating with each other. A pair of students turned in identical code files but one file used the x variable and the other file used the y variable. That got a good laugh out of the class. The students got warnings after class to submit their own code files in future assignments.

    • by RedMage ( 136286 )

      There is a definite conflict between what the course encouraged and what the Harvard academic policy discourages when it comes to collaborative classwork. I ran into it headfirst at the last time a Harvard cheating scandal happened - and I was in THAT class, so had firsthand knowledge. I know people in CS50, so have some real knowledge here too - it will be interesting how/if it is resolved. The panel that does the academic honesty reviews is not something you want to face - it has some real bite, and st

  • In my day (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @07:22PM (#54364599) Homepage Journal

    Consistently, one of the most popular courses at Harvard

    In my day you wouldn't get into Harvard if you used commas like that.

    Not even to look around.

    • by epine ( 68316 )

      Your day must have been a good while back.

      Consistently, one of the most popular courses at Harvard, CS50 is known for an unconventional atmosphere,

      Should be:

      Consistently, one of the most popular courses at Harvard, CS50, is known for an unconventional atmosphere,

      The comma after "consistently" is less obvious.

      Steven Pinker [newrepublic.com] — 1994

      It is simply not true that an English adverb must indicate the manner in which the actor performs the action.

      Adverbs come in two kinds: "verb phrase" adverbs such as "carefully

      • Or perhaps he thinks Consistently is it's^H its name.

        David, one of the fattest gits to waddle the streets of Wigan, ...

    • What would Harvard know. They don't even have a comma named after them.

      Sincerely,
      Oxford.

  • DIY (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @07:25PM (#54364619)

    I taught myself to program on a Commodore VIC-20 reading magazines. No internet. No BBSes. I slept through my CS101 class and aced it.

    In this day and age, if you need to cheat in Intro to CS, you probably shouldn't be in CS.

    • by crgrace ( 220738 )

      Same here, I learned LOGO on a VIC-20 as my introduction to computers, then aced Pascal (ECS30) when I got to college.

      It's a different time, that's for sure. Back when we were in college most students didn't know how to program when they started, that's why I was (and you were too) able to crush the first classes. Now the level of competition is much, much higher.

    • In this day and age, if you need to cheat in Intro to CS, you probably shouldn't be in CS.

      You don't understand the mentality. CS graduates are getting six figure offers right out of school. The students majoring in CS want that money. It doesn't matter if they hate CS. It doesn't matter if they have no talent for programming. It doesn't matter if they've flunked the "Intro to Programming" course three times in a row. It doesn't matter if they get caught cheating.

      All that matters is that starting salar

      • This isn't something new. I remember talking with a guy that was graduating that year with a degree in CS from Ga Tech back in the early 80s. The guy said he hated programming and didn't know what he was going to do after graduation. Blew my mind that someone would dislike a subject and go through years of study to get a degree in that subject and then possibly decades of work in that area.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Itro to computer science is default for nearly every single course in university, cheating is the norm and to be expected (arts students who see computer as magic box). To be fair it is a first year course and every one who has actually been to university and experienced the difference between parking in the first half of the school year and in the second half of the school year, should appreciate why. A lot of those absent in the second half are often caught cheating in the first half, not expelled simply

    • by RedMage ( 136286 )

      Yeah me too - but I know someone in this class, and I've looked over the material. It's the real deal here, no way someone with no CS background could pass this course from a cold start. I'm not surprised at cheating here, but there are some facts that haven't come out here (disclaimer, I'm a Harvard CS grad). First of all there's a grey area in this class on what was allowed - collaboration was encouraged but each student had to submit their own work. This leads to some ambiguity. Also the Harvard aca

    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      My first computer was a TI 99/4A my parents got me for Christmas in 1983. I was one of three or four self-taught programmers my first year of college, the other couple hundred had heard it would be a good career. Many of them had never touched a computer before and were not particularly interested in learning about them beyond what it would take to get a piece of paper. Some of them simply had no aptitude for it whatsoever. I don't know how much cheating was going on, but I know at least one guy got caught
  • They are guaranteed an A no matter what they do.
    • by RedMage ( 136286 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @11:10PM (#54365577) Homepage

      Yeah, don't speak about what you know nothing of. This class is actually pretty tough - not a walk in the park by any means, and someone without some CS knowledge would struggle. I have a Harvard CS degree, and it's not a joke, and don't even get me going on how hard the courses are, because they are very rigorous. I earned my degree, and I think everyone who makes it out of that program has too.
      C

  • What's the news here - that only 10% cheated, or that they were accused of it?
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @07:41PM (#54364663) Homepage Journal

    In going through Engineering Calculus and Engineering Physics, it became fairly obvious that some of the students were collaborating in team homework sessions, and labs, borrowing text and illustrations from each other. Apparently this is considered normal nowadays.

    I'm not saying that working in a group and "hey I'm stuck on 5, this is what I get, what did I do wrong" kind of thing, but more of a "from our twenty people, two each work on 1,11,21,31 and so on, and if we agree, pool the answers and randomize the text you write it down with" and a "here are the six sections of the lab, you four redo this graphic differently for each team and write down this text in a different order" kind of thing.

    Sad.

    The easy way to tell was many of them would skip the class sections.

    • They check homework in college classes?

      When I was in college, homework was not checked. If you didn't do it, you would fail the exams and everybody knew it.

      Checking homework is high school, sophomore and younger.

      • They check homework in college classes?

        Came here to say that too. I often collaborated on the work. We sort of naturally split off into groups of 3 or 4. Sometimes spend hours with heated arguments back and forth. Then of course on those problems (i.e. the difficult ones) we'd turn up to the tutorials with identical working. Those questions would then usually get the majority of the attention, because what's the point in going over the ones everyone found easy?

        The sessions made absolutely zero contribution

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If only 10% were caught cheating, that's actually pretty damn good by international standards.

    Upwards of 90% of H-1B's from India either outright purchased their diploma, or cheated to pass.

    Source: My H-1B co-worker who was very honest in explaining to me why there are so many Indian programmers. He's pissed off because he actually worked for his diploma.

  • "Unclear" policy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timholman ( 71886 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @08:32PM (#54364935)

    ... course policy was unclear about what constituted cheating ...

    I've heard that argument before. The student caught copying someone else's work first denies, then pleads, then goes into "lawyer" mode, trying to argue that what he or she did wasn't really cheating because the syllabus was either badly worded, or didn't specifically say not to do it.

    I recently had a situation where a student taking a lab course did not attend several labs, and then tried to turn in lab reports and have the TA grade them. This student was shocked ... shocked ... when told that this was academic misconduct. After all, the syllabus said that data could be shared between lab partners, and the person he got the data from was his partner from one of the few labs he did attend. Furthermore, he argued that the syllabus did not specifically say that lab reports would not be accepted for labs that the student did not attend. I kid you not.

    Anyone smart enough to get into Harvard knows exactly when the line between collaboration and plagiarism is being crossed. Unfortunately, some of them also have learned that denial, pleading, "lawyering", and then threats of legal action by their parents are quite often sufficient to avoid the consequences of their actions.

    • Computer programming is a little different....

      CS50 has always been fast and loose. I can remember showing weaker students my code and letting them copy a few lines or the answers to early problems. And vice versa. Many times TAs were in the labs shoulder to shoulder with us helping us with problem sets. Collaboration was always encouraged as long as you came up with some original ideas for harder problems and you weren't blatantly ripping off other people. Intro to CS is designed to get to pretty chal
    • by rknop ( 240417 )

      I've heard that argument before. The student caught copying someone else's work first denies, then pleads, then goes into "lawyer" mode, trying to argue that what he or she did wasn't really cheating because the syllabus was either badly worded, or didn't specifically say not to do it.

      "Nowhere in your syllabus did it say we couldn't make up our data."

      Actual quote from a student in my astronomy lab class, after he got past the denial (I didn't cheat!) and pleading (I took some of the data, I thought it was OK to use our knowledge to fill in the other points) stages.

      (The attempt to kiss ass with the "use our knowledge" was pathetic. Mostly because the cheating was done so poorly that it was clear that he didn't have any actual knowledge.)

      • "Nowhere in your syllabus did it say we couldn't make up our data."

        That is one I have yet to see, but thanks to your anecdote, I am going to add this to the list of unacceptable actions in my lab syllabus.

        Before this semester, it never occurred to me that I would need to put "Turning in a lab report for a lab you did not attend will result in an automatic grade of zero" into my syllabus, either.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      The dirty little secret is that Universities want a lot of students to pass. Thus a lot of cheating is ignored, and the point where someone is going too far is not consistent.
      I had a lot of students cheat in my lab classes some years back but was told to put up with it since it had been changed to be only a tiny fraction of the assessment.
  • The school where larval politicians go to pupate.

  • This is also the august institution where, in 2012, nearly half of students taking 1310 "Introduction to Congress" (~125 students out of 279 in all) were investigated for cheating on the take-home final exam. (The jokes practically write themselves.) "Somewhat more than half" were forced to withdraw.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • After seeing the video with so many smiling faces basically doing cool-looking anything, I cannot even imagine how anyone could cheat. Some of the students didn't accept the terms of the cool site from where they downloaded the cool videos submitted to their assignments? Were some of the smiles in the evaluation provoked by beyond-acceptable amounts of alcohol/drugs? Or perhaps some of them cheated in the tough cool-and-serious-looking-while-holding-a-laptop part by taking forbidden yoga lessons? Poor stude
  • by Magnus Pym ( 237274 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @12:10PM (#54367797)

    A few months back, Slashdot was united in their agreement that a similar incident of cheating that was exposed in some Indian school was confirmation that Indian education is of low value, Indian degrees meaningless, and Indian programmers lack basic understanding of CS fundamentals.

    Interesting to note that the arc of discussion in this case is completely different.

    What, we are not willing to consider the possibility that this indicates that a significant % of `US programmers' may lack an understanding of CS fundamentals, which may be the reason why US multinationals like H1Bs?

    • by dwye ( 1127395 )

      You must have responded too soon; by the time that I am replying, almost no one is taking the cheaters' side.

      Of course, going to Harvard for CS is like going to MIT for pre-law or French Lit.

      Finally, someone above claimed that CS50 at Harvard is only for non-programmers, and so has nothing to do with whether US programmers are better than H1B hires or not.

  • That's a pretty low number for an Ivy league school.

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