Technology can be very useful for helping teachers reach out to more students and for spreading information efficiently among schools. Some grading can be automated, but obviously not all grading can be done with heuristics and strict rules. Here are just a few examples of grading challenges that teachers are already facing that might need some technological improvement.
It's hard to really know how many cheaters are actually caught taking shortcuts. Generally, people assume that the ones who get caught are representative of all cheaters -- but maybe the smart cheaters are never caught... and really do prosper. Here are just a few known cheaters... and not all of them have faced up to any consequences.
Gamers who cheat are an issue that lots of online games have to deal with, though some are much more aggressive than others. In the past, we've argued that it's overkill to ban such players completely, especially when the "cheats" are really just exposing glitches or bugs in the game itself (i.e., fix the damn game, don't blame the players for your lousy coding). Either way, there's a legitimate concern that some people are getting an unfair advantage and harming the experience for everyone else. Well, now it appears that Rockstar Games has come up with a solution that's slightly more elegant than the sledgehammer of a complete ban. Instead, players caught cheating will be quarantined to a version of the game with each other. So, yes, you can keep playing, but only against other players who are cheating as well.
Anyone found to have used hacked saves, modded games, or other exploits to gain an unfair advantage in Max Payne 3 Multiplayer, or to circumvent the leaderboards will be quarantined from all other players into a "Cheaters Pool", where they'll only be able to compete in multiplayer matches with other confirmed miscreants. In the event we decide to absolve any of these cheaters for their past transgressions they may re-enter play with the general public, however a second offense will result in their indefinite banishment. In either case, we will be removing invalid leaderboard entries to ensure that the players at the top of the charts have earned their spots fairly.
I am a little curious about the appeals process (it would be awesome if they built an in-game courtroom...), but overall, the solution seems a lot more sensible than outright bans. While some are wondering if some players may prefer this "Cheaters Pool," I don't see how that's a problem. It basically allows Rockstar to offer two different versions of the game, in which the skills required are slightly different.
Ah, baseball. The national pasttime (for every month the NFL isn't playing) is rife with the most wonderful of traditions: Fenway's Green Monster, cheating, Wrigley's ivy, cheating, the divisional rivalries, cheating, the evil empire Yankees, and, of course, cheating.
Yes, it seems that for as long as baseball has been in existence, scandal has followed in its wake. We're finally beginning to emerge from the steroids era, but those of us that love the game are also familiar with the spitballs, corked bats, stolen signs, Pete Rose, and the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. And so it's perhaps with little surprise and a shrug of the shoulders that we receive news from Deadspin that at least one of this year's $1 Million dollar candidates of 2K Sports' MLB2K12 Perfect Game Challenge rigged things in his favor. And there may be more.
For those of you not familiar with the game or the promotion, for the past several years, 2K Sports has paid out $1 Million to the winner of their Perfect Game Challenge. If you can manage to pitch a perfect game against the computer opponent (no hits, walks, or errors in a complete game shutout), you're entered into their bracket to play against the other perfectos, culminating in a championship being awarded on Spike TV. It's a big deal, especially for a game franchise that basically has this contest going for it and nothing else. But, as Deadspin's Owen Good notes, there's a problem:
"Two days ago, I reported on an exploit within MLB 2K12's $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge, in which contestants in the qualifying round of the contest could substitute opposing batters before the game began and still throw an eligible perfect game. I reported very strong evidence indicating that one of the eight finalists 2K Sports is flying to New York this week used the exploit in pitching his perfect game. And that same person has said he believed others in the finalist pool used it too."
That player was William Haff, who insists that his perfect game is legitimate. Ah, it's so simple! Just sub out every good hitter on the other team before the game starts! Face nothing but .200 hitters and we're in the clear.
In the end, I don't know that I can put the blame for this on Haff or any of the other finalists who may have also used this exploit. The blame belongs on the game developers and the ones running the contest. The very idea that 2K Sports would have allowed this in their famous (now infamous?) contest surely caused the kind of stunned embarassement that would result in a heartfelt mea culpa, right? Especially since there was something like 900 other players that threw perfect games, most of which likely were far more legitimate than Haff's substitution-filled no-no. According to 2K Sports...not so much.
"The contest was run properly," 2K Sports said. "We look forward to awarding someone a million dollars on May 10 in New York."
In the end, I'll feel a bit bad for the honest gamers who threw a perfecto and won't get the chance at the money because of dubious actions such as those of William Haff. But mostly I'll chuckle at the fact that 2K Sports' game at least got one part of their baseball simulation correct: cheating. Haff used the exploit that 2K Sports allowed for and explained it away by pointing out there's no rule against it in the contest...much the same way as Jose Canseco could explain his steroid use in the 90's by saying Major League Baseball had no rules against it. And technically, both of them are right.
The sheer chutzpah of Universal Music is really quite stunning. As you may recall, in 2009, it came out that the major record labels had been screwing over musicians in Canada with a bit of sleight of hand called "exploit now, pay later if at all." The way it worked was that labels would put old works on compilations without getting artists' permission, then put the artists' names on a "pending" list, which was supposed to mean that payment to those artists was "pending." Except the pending lists were never touched and the royalties were never paid. Labels not paying artists royalties is a pretty common issue, but here they weren't even getting any credit at all. Pretty sneaky. Realizing they had been caught red handed, the labels "settled" by agreeing to pay the $45 million in royalties owed.
However, it turns out that Universal Music Group actually seems to think that its insurance company should be paying the $14.4 million it owes (UMG's share of the $45 million). It's now suing its insurance company for refusing to pay. If you think about it for a second, you realize just how insane this claim is. Basically, Universal Music is claiming that it can simply not pay any royalties at all, then wait to get sued... and if it loses and has to pay, it believes its insurance company has to foot the bill. Now there's a business model!
The professor, Panagiotis Ipeirotis, wrote a very detailed blog post about what happened, but after it went viral online, and some others expressed concerns that it may have violated the privacy of some students, he took the post down. The Chronicle of Higher Education had a mirror of the post up for a while, but have since taken it down. What was really amazing is that Ipeirotis spends much of the post explaining just how "effective" his efforts to catch cheaters was. He was mainly using the (somewhat controversial) service Turnitin, and certainly found a lot of folks who were clearly copying answers from elsewhere. Reading just the first part of the post would make you think this had all been a huge success and that Ipeirortis was actually singing the praises of such software.
But he's not. The key point was that it absolutely destroyed classroom morale. Rather than coming to class each day eager to learn, students (apparently even those who weren't cheating) just weren't as happy about the overall learning experience in the classroom. And part of that may have come from Ipeirotis, who notes that he spent a ton of time that semester "dealing with" cheaters and his general distrust may have carried over into the classroom. He notes that the whole class was a lot less fun and a lot less focused on actually learning.
That was clear in the classroom and later came through in the evaluations, which were significantly lower than usual -- which also resulted in him getting a smaller raise. While some responded to the blog post by focusing just on the evaluations and the raise, he noted later that the evaluations was a lesser issue compared to the more general one, and in a later post, he noted it was the other issue that was the real problem:
Even if I had received a $1M bonus from NYU for my efforts, the basic problem would still be there: the teaching experience would degenerate into a witch hunt, focusing on cheating, instead of being about learning. And yes, I would still write the same blog post even if I were fully satisfied with my annual evaluation. In fact, the blog post was in my folder of draft posts for a few months now, long before receiving my annual evaluation.
This is a key point that we've been trying to make about enforcement in the copyright world. Even when it seems "effective," the overall environment -- created by suing fans, by trying to lock down technologies, by pursuing new draconian laws and by blaming people for sharing information -- is simply toxic. It's not a positive environment in which new beneficial ideas and solutions come forth readily. It's an angry us-vs.-them world, rather than a "let's learn and solve problems together" world.
And just as we've suggested all sorts of new business models that simply take "infringement" out of the equation, Ipeirotis similarly suggests that professors get around the whole cheating/plagiarism issue not by trying to crack down on cheating, but on creating situations where cheating is impossible or less effective:
He suggested several options. You could require that projects be made public, which would risk embarrassment for someone who wanted to copy from a past semester. You could assign homework where students give class presentations and then are graded by their peers, ratcheting up the social pressure to perform well. And you could create an incentive to do good work by turning homework into a competition, like asking students to build Web sites and rewarding those that get the most clicks.
The simple fact is that some people will always find a way to infringe, just as some people will always find a way to cheat. But plenty of others will not. Plenty of people want to support the content creators they like, just as plenty of people at universities really do want to learn. What many who focus on enforcement and punishment don't realize is that creating an environment that focuses solely on punishing those who infringe or cheat does have serious and significant spillover effects and unintended consequences on the rest of the "market/class." If, instead, you focus on the people who do want to support or who do want to learn, and provide them with a positive environment to do so, it actually ends up creating consequences in the other direction -- often turning around those who wanted to infringe or to cheat, and turning them into good actors as they see what's happening around them.
A year ago, we wrote about how a report had uncovered that the there was widespread cheating by FBI agents on a test to get them to stop abusing surveillance tools. Apparently, agents passed around the answers to one another, and many -- including the head of the FBI's DC office -- finished in such a short period of time that it was impossible that they actually went through the exam.
Yes, it certainly appears that the FBI's response to FBI agents rushing through the exam and cheating... is to make the test that much easier.
It's also not at all clear if anyone was disciplined for the cheating, though it certainly doesn't sound like it. If anything, it sounds like rather than recognizing that the agents did anything wrong, the FBI has determined that the cheating just meant that the agents didn't want to spend so much time making sure they understood the rules for surveillance.
A friend passed on this Telegraph story about how 200 students in a Strategic Management class at the University of Central Florida came forward to admit to "cheating" on the midterm exam after the professor in the class, Richard Quinn, gave a lecture where he noted the evidence that about 1/3 of the 600 student class had "cheated" on the exam. He then gave them an option: saying that, if they admitted to cheating within a week,re they would be able to complete the class and the incident would not go on their record and they would not face discipline (they also had to take an ethics class). If they did not, and they were still caught, then they could face expulsion for violating academic integrity policies. You can watch the video of the lecture here:
Not surprisingly, the story of 200 students "turning themselves over" made all sorts of headlines. It's a good story of "cheaters" being pressured into 'fessing up... right? It's leading to typical hand-wringing stories about what should we do about cheating in schools. But, as I watched the video, the whole thing started to feel just a little bit off... My main interest was to learn two things: (1) what the students did to cheat and (2) how the professor was identifying who cheated. Both points seemed like pertinent details.
The answer to that first one surprised me. The "cheating" was that students got their hands on the textbook publisher's "testbank" of questions. Many publishers have a testbank that professors can use as sample test questions. But watching Quinn's video, it became clear that in accusing his students of "cheating" he was really admitting that he wasn't actually writing his own tests, but merely pulling questions from a testbank. That struck me as odd -- and I wasn't really sure that what the students did should count as cheating. Taking "sample tests" is a very good way to learn material, and going through a testbank is a good way to practice "sample" questions. It seemed like the bigger issue wasn't what the students did... but what the professor did.
In looking around, it looks like a lot of the students agree. They're saying that the real issue is that Prof. Quinn simply copied questions from the publisher, rather than actually recreating his own test, and noting that this seems like a massive double standard. The professor is allowed to just copy questions from others for his tests? In fact, some of the students have put together a video pointing out that, at the beginning of the year, Prof. Quinn claimed that he had written the test questions himself. As the article notes:
Can the UCF students be blamed for using all the available tools to study for the test? How were the students to know that Quinn would take his questions from the test bank, when he explicitly said that professors do not do so any more? Moreover, why did Quinn tell his students that he is the one who creates the mid-term and final exams, when in fact it wasn’t so?
The students have put together a video pointing out where he said (in the first lecture) that he writes the questions himself:
The local student news operation sent a reporter to speak to Quinn and ask him about the double standard and his copying of questions, and Quinn totally ignored him:
Now, there's a pretty good chance that some of the students probably knew that Quinn was a lazy professor, who just used testbank questions, rather than writing his own. That's the kind of information that tends to get around. But it's still not clear that using testbank questions to study is really an ethical lapse. Taking sample tests is a good way to practice for an exam and to learn the subject matter. And while those 200 students "confessed," it seems like they did so mainly to avoid getting kicked out of school -- not because they really feel they did anything wrong -- and I might have to agree with them.
We've seen plenty of stories over the years about professors trying to keep up with modern technology -- and I recognize that it's difficult to keep creating new exams for classes. But in this case, it looks like Prof. Quinn barely created anything at all. He just pulled questions from a source that the students had access to as well and copied them verbatim. It would seem that, even if you think the students did wrong here, the Professor was equally negligent. Will he have to sit through an ethics class too?
For whatever reason, every few months or so, yet another clueless video game company exec spouts off about how the used video game market is somehow unfair or hurting video game developers. We've seen it again and again and again. However, since a whole bunch of you keep submitting the story that Cory Ledesma from THQ has made the downright laughable claim that the used video game market "cheats" developers, it seemed worth discussing.
This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, basic economics and the customers THQ is failing to serve. On the law, Ledesma and others should familiarize themselves with the First Sale doctrine before making silly statements. On economics, repeated studies have shown that a healthy secondary market for products actually significantly helps the primary market. If you take more than a second and a half to think about it, it's easy to understand why. If there's a healthy secondary market for products, it reduces the risk for the buyers in the primary market. That is, if they buy the product and don't like it, they know they'll be able to resell it and recoup some of their losses. That makes it effectively cheaper for them to buy the primary product, increasing the number of sales. On top of that, the secondary market also helps in markets like video games in acting as a good way to segment the market, and get new buyers into a game or series of games. I'm sure many of the folks who are now buyers in the primary market, at one time purchased an earlier game in a series used. How is it that so many video gaming execs have so much trouble recognizing these basic concepts?
Two years ago, we chronicled what seemed like a bizarre story of Ryerson student Chris Avenir, who was threatened with expulsion for daring to setup an online study group for his chemistry class on Facebook. The university accused him of cheating, when he noted that this was really no different than if a bunch of the students all got together to study. The whole thing seemed pretty ridiculous. Eventually, the school decided not to expel him, but still punished him by giving him a zero on one assignment and putting a "disciplinary note" in his file. This still seemed ridiculous. How dare he get students together to study the material! In fact, many schools now encourage those kinds of online study groups.
A statement of claim filed on Mr. Avenir's behalf says that students enrolled at Ryerson have been denied the right to have a lawyer present at disciplinary hearings. According to the document, the university violated its policy requiring that all hearings comply with the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, which guarantees a right to legal counsel. The policy states that all its Senate hearings must "be conducted in a manner consistent with" the act.
This is just taking it too far. Yes, the disciplinary action was crazy, but a $10 million class action lawsuit? That seems like a response purely out of spite.
Christopher Best: Now what did I miss on DoJ and Department of Edu? Don't see what article (if any) you guys are referring to... silverscarcat: Well, since you guys can't seem to find it... http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/05/the-fire-the-government-has-mandated-speech-codes-on-all-campuses/ Mike Masnick: we have an article upcoming about that, which ssc appears to be undermining by revealing to all of you. ;) Rikuo: DEATH TO THE HERETIC /sarcmarc Christopher Best: Wow, just when I thought there was no way to make college campuses more intolerant... silverscarcat: Well, Mike, I'm glad that you had it in the upcoming posts, I called my senators and rep today about it right after I read it. Jay: Wow... Some Guy created a new form of acronym for the DMCA. Automated Rights Trampling System. I think I'll use ARTS from now on. silverscarcat: Well, this is so true. Someone needs to tell their Senators that they're fulfilling what Bin Laden said in 2001. "I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in â€” and the West in general â€” into an unbearable hell and a choking life." - Osama Bin Laden, in sole post 9/11 interview dennis deems: http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/05/reporters-use-google-find-breach-get-branded-as-hackers/ Jay: @Dennis It seems that hacker has become the new witch hunt... silverscarcat: BURN THE WITCH! Man, AJ has lost his marbles. Imagine if the law was not only working against DRM but paywalls... bob and AJ would be foaming at the mouth. Rikuo: paywalls? I wonder - since the new Xbox requires anyone getting a used game to pay for access to it (a paywall) what will bob say about it? silverscarcat: I won't be getting one, I know that much. A lot of gamers aren't either. As long as Sony doesn't do the same thing, they'll be the clear favorites for this generation along with the Wii-U Jay: By the Gods is the Xbox One a horrendous DRM machine...