Is An Online Study Group Cheating?

from the once-it's-on-facebook,-it-must-be dept

Vincent Clement writes in to let us know that that a student at Ryerson University in Toronto is facing expulsion for setting up an online study group for his chemistry class using Facebook. The school is saying it wasn’t so much a study group as it was a place for 146 students to cheat and share answers (though, it’s only blaming the student who ran the group). Students at the university are reasonably up in arms over the matter, as they don’t see how it’s any different than a traditional study group. Of course, the whole thing seems a little bit silly. As we discussed almost exactly a year ago, people working together to collaborate is an important skill in the real world, and what some people consider “cheating” these days seems a lot like the type of collaboration that kids are quite used to doing online, and which should serve them well later in life.

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Comments on “Is An Online Study Group Cheating?”

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20 Comments
Hellsvilla (user link) says:

Finding the people who have the answers

The skill of finding the people that have the answer is THE most important skill you can have in the workplace.

It’s not a matter of how much you know, its a matter of how fast you can solve a problem. How to best utilize resources to go from “we have a problem” to “problem solved” is EXACTLY what our young people need to learn.

Sometimes that’s going to mean they can just look up answers on teh intarwebbs. THAT IS OK. ’cause that doesnt stop when they leave school and enter the holey workforce.

Le Blue Dude says:

Re: Finding the people who have the answers

Except that the internet is not, and will not always be there: There are always those of us who have to learn how to solve the problems ourselves, the old way. And you have to know how to perform the process of problem solving to innovate: That is to say you can grab snippits of code from the net, but you have to know how to program to make a good program. You can find the answers to chemistry questions on the net, but to make new polymers you have to understand the process.

inc says:

Re: Re: Finding the people who have the answers

True but this was a study group. The whole purpose is to learn how to interact with people working on a common goal. These meetings in the real world even in technical fields with knowing how to communicate the important facts and not filibuster the issue.

sopuremusic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Finding the people who have the answer

I think that groupthink is a good thing, but independent thinking is a skill that needs to be cultivated.
Both systems of study is needed, because there may be a day that you need to be resourceful of your own accord.
The study group sometimes consists of “a smart guy” and the rest are the “followers”, just getting the answers.

Le Blue Dude says:

Re: Finding the people who have the answers

Also, we’re the ones who put the solutions up in the first place. Forgot to mention that. I’m not saying data collection skills are a bad thing, I’m just saying that you can’t have EVERYONE using them. If everyone’s a ‘specialist’ in data collection, then we would never get new data for them to use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Finding the people who have the answers

It’s actually not about solving a problem, its about understanding the science behind the problem. That’s why most science, math, and engineering programs give partial credit. There are plenty of computer programs to work the problems for you, but you have to understand the basics to know if the answers make sense.

Kevin says:

Re: Finding the people who have the answers

The skill of finding the people that have the answer is THE most important skill you can have in the workplace.

While I agree that this can be a valuable skill in the workplace, I do not believe that it is the most important skill. I think that being able to think for yourself to come up with answers and solve problems is far more important than being able to find the person who can. In the business world, companies would prefer to have a large number of people who can think for themselves to get things done rather than a small number of people who can think for themselves to get things done that end up supporting people who come looking for answers. It’s about having a more effective workforce. Not that you’ll always have the answers, of course, but the less time you spend looking for answers the more productive you can be. Not to mention the fact that the “answer-givers” tend to be worth more than “answer-seekers”. So why would you want to paint yourself as the latter?

VX says:

Re: Re: Finding the people who have the answers

I am an answer giver, and all of you “find the resource” people can be quite annoying. My group has about 9 people in it, two of us create the answers and the other 7 basically have a series of steps they follow until they are directed to one of us. I don’t have any special knowledge about their problem or system, but neither does anyone else, so I figure it out and explain it to them.

You can have 1000s internets but sometimes a solution requires a novel idea, not just some regurgitation of a previous solution (which was also novel at some point). It seems people just don’t realize that the information on the web is put there by someone who had to figure it out, if you teach everyone to search and noone to problem solve (not the same thing) you will end up with all questions and no answers.

That said, this whole story is ridiculous. If you are worried about collaboration on homework then don’t count it in the grade. If you give students work to do outside of class they will leverage all resources possible to finish it quickly and correctly (especially if it’s assigned on Friday night).

Sean says:

Are they using facebook during the test if so yes its cheating. If not NO its not cheating. Teachers do not give you a copy of the test to take with you until they have all been graded so its not like they can post the questions and answers. I have had several teachers tell the class if they know someone that took the class and can get an old test to do so to study from.

An online study group is a wonderful idea especially for people like me who are full time in school and at work. Getting up going to school then work leaving at 7 then eating homework will not start till almost 8 there is no time for a physical study group.

I like this idea a lot and might start one for my classes so if you see another report like this involving Northern Kentucky University it was most likely me.

Tim Cornia says:

independent home work

“While Neale admits the professor stipulated the online homework questions were to be done independently…”

“Each student in the course received slightly different questions to prevent cheating”

It seems the teacher intended for these assignments to not be an exercise in groupthink.

jobo says:

Disclosure policy

In many (most?) universities, students are required to state the sources of information they used when solving a homework. I haven’t seen exactly how that is then used when setting the grade, but it does seem like a more sensible model. More importantly, while it is IMO OK to discuss your homework with others, solution sharing and ‘incitement’ to it is a no-no in my view.

John Coleman says:

It's stupid and a waste of everyone's time.

Students have been collaborating, talking about and sharing notes, answers, and all other academic materials since learning was started. Whether they do it in the library, at the apartment or on the web is just semantics. The only way the teacher could have prevented this was to have them do the work in the classroom and turn it in before they leave. (Sounds an awful lot like a, hmmm, test.) It’s another example of the people in an establishment losing their common sense and trying to enforce something that is unenforceable.

Alexander McDonald (user link) says:

This is Relatively Hard to Believe

It seems like a bit of overreaction is taking place here.

The University, and their professors, have every right to dictate conditions for their homework assignments. Unfortunately, dictating students may not work collaboratively is a practice that does not support learning. The purpose of practice (aka homework) is to learn. If a summative assessment is required, a test in class is a more appropriate way to proceed.

I doubt the university has been working to stop the on ground study groups that likely exist. It might be time for them to rethink their instructional practices instead of making a hasty over reaction.

As I read about this situation, I found myself wondering what the real issue is here. A warning and new instructional practices might be more in order. Just think, encouraging students to work collaboratively on the practice assignments might allow professors to assign more challenging tasks!

Which practice best supports overall student learning?

Cheers

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