Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Taking Cheating Seriously

Not me, but the U of Central Florida.  I guess I was spoiled by Oberlin's approach with an honor code.  This story at UCF suggests that the atmosphere is one of distrust and suspicion.  Was the cheating problem so bad that they needed to go to these lengths? 
When a proctor sees something suspicious, he records the student’s real-time work at the computer and directs an overhead camera to zoom in, and both sets of images are burned onto a CD for evidence.
Feels like Vegas.  In Vegas, cheating causes the House to lose heaps of dollars.  At UCF, what are the costs?  Are they worth the sacrifice in atmosphere?  Did they consider there to be tradeoffs?
“I will never stop it completely, but I’ll find out about it,” Mr. Ellis said (Associate Dean)
Insert reference to Ahab or the dude from Les Mis here.  Um, what is the point of universities?  To punish cheaters?

Some social science is handy here:
For educators uncomfortable in the role of anti-cheating enforcer, an online tutorial in plagiarism may prove an elegantly simple technological fix.
That was the finding of a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in January. Students at an unnamed selective college who completed a Web tutorial were shown to plagiarize two-thirds less than students who did not. (The study also found that plagiarism was concentrated among students with lower SAT scores.)

It is one thing to educate the next generation about what plagiarism is, but another to suspect any and all.  Where is Tom Cruise and his group of precognates (Minority Report) when we need them?


Bill Ayres said...

One thing this suggests is that university & student have radically different ideas about what their transaction is about. The university's position is, we're here to give you something called an "education," which you can't get by cheating, so we're going to prevent you from cheating so we can make sure you get what you paid for - even if you apparently don't want it.

The student (or cheating student) perspective is, I'm here to get a piece of paper, and however I can get that paper is fine. We've all known LOTS of students who think this way, to one degree or another; indeed, it's become culturally endemic (and, I think, reinforced by many things universities do).

To the extent that this chasm of perceptions is the real problem, the whole enterprise is failing. Universities really have only three choices: change the culture; accept that students are there to buy a credential, and sell it to them efficiently; or go out of business. UCF's camera strategy serves none of these goals.

Chip said...

Hey Bill, I have a question about this comment, I'd like to do something on this issue in my freshman seminar in the fall, could you email me: