Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Coursera Turns to Student Honor Codes

Media reports have described how students are cheating in at least three Coursera classes. The charges came to light when students complained on course discussion boards about plagiarism, leading the massive online open course site to institute additional honor-code reminders students must read and sign off on before submitting assignments to be graded.

That development probably shouldn’t come as a surprise since student cheating is nothing new. In fact, a 2011 Pew survey found that 55% of college presidents responding to the poll said they'd seen a rise in plagiarism over the last 10 years and 89% of those presidents blamed it on Internet and online classes.

The real question is why bother to cheat at all since the class is free and the student doesn’t receive credit?

Torrie Bosch, editor of Future Tense, which covers emerging technologies for Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University, says she believes it has to do with the “gamification.” Some individuals are so driven to do better in everything, whether a game or an assignment, that they’ll turn to cheating when it becomes frustrating.

“Technically, using cheat codes while playing a game at home for fun or copy-pasting a couple of sentences from Wikipedia on a Coursera assignment doesn’t hurt anybody,” Bosch wrote. “But it does diminish the experience for those who are playing by the rules, as evidenced by the many Coursera students who took to their class discussion boards to complain when they uncovered instances of plagiarism.”

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