Monday, November 15, 2010

Some More Thoughts On Cheating

I assume most of you have seen this CHE story (h/t Joey) written by someone who writes custom papers for students who pay for it (and they pay a lot). It's interesting, if not terribly noteworthy (except for how much he and the company he worked for gets paid. Particularly the company, which seems to be extracting close to a 100% profit). However, certain responses to the story are worth noting. Take this one, for example (h/t Craig). There seems to be a general argument from both the author of the CHE story and the author of the blog post that rampant cheating is somehow the fault of the faculty. But I don't care about that, here is what I care about: That in a desire to better police cheating, many educators seem willing to decrease the effectiveness or excitement of their pedagogical assignments. I have before taken a stance for anti-cheating measures, but only because they allowed me to become less of a cop and more of an educator. However, many educators admit to going to only in-class writing assignments or in-class tests in order to deal with such for-hire plagiarism services. Other educators admit to moving toward smaller and more narrow focused assignments in order to thwart such cheating.
Now, there are surely many appropriate times and places for tests, in class writing assignments, and certainly for narrow focused assignments. However, it seems many professors are moving to these assignments, and almost exclusively toward these assignments, not because of any pedagogical demand, but because of a policing demand. I am tempted, at this point, to write something cliche, like: If you assign this the cheaters have already won!
What really galls me from the CHE article is how the author seems oblivious to how his work and his stated goals are at cross-purposes. It is exactly the sort of assignments that the CHE author claims he supports, open-ended assignments that allow for the maximum creative and academic freedom, that are the most vulnerable to the sorts of services he provides. Most professors do not read the CHE article and feel that an effective response is to provide more academic freedom to students. I don't think anyone here believes that students are willing to pay $2000 (!) for an assignment simply because they felt it was too restrictive.
Anyway, if I am ever going to have to choose between being an educator or a cop, I am going to choose educator every single damn time.