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Thursday, July 21, 2011


What to do about student cheating?  It's a challenge for everyone teaching everywhere -- face-to-face and online.  This morning Stephen Downes linked to an article written by a computer scientist teaching in a business school,

He had many comments, but what I found the most useful were his suggestions for assignments that limit plagiarism:
Instead, I plan to use assignments that are inherently not amenable to cheating:

  • Public projects: The database projects that use the NYC Data Mine data (see the projects from 2009 and 2010) is one type of an approach: the projects are public and it would be meaningless to copy a project from a past semester. The risk of public embarrassment is a significant deterrent.
  • Peer reviewing: The other successful project is one in which students research a new technology, and present their findings in class; the only grade they receive is from their peers in the class. The social pressure is so high that most of the presentations are of excellent quality. This year, the student presentation on augmented reality was so amazing that for an MBA class we decided to simply show to the MBA students the recorded presentation.
  • Competitions: In order to teach students how the web works, I ask them to create a web site and get at least 100 unique visitors. The student with the most visitors at the end of the semester gets an award (most often an iPod). I had some great results with this project (e.g., one student created a web site on "How to Kill Nefarian" and got 150,000 visitors over 8 weeks) and some highly entertaining incidents.
I also use standard scaffolding techniques for research papers and other written assignments.  It's still possible to plagiarize, but that makes it a little more difficult.  Requiring current (very current) events topics and data sources also helps.  I'd like to hear from anyone using software such as Voice Thread for online presentations.  My gut says that will help reduce plagiarism and other cheating also, but I don't have any data. 

What do you do to reduce cheating in your classes?

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