Academic misconduct for a discussion board?

Mar 7, 2008 by

A student at Ryerson University is being charged with 147 counts of academic misconduct for running a discussion board for his chemistry class (on Facebook) that looks like it could essentially be the same kind of collaboration that we advocate FOR in online mathematics classes (even the kind of collaboration that we AWARD points for). Read the article here. Notice that the students are not collaborating on the SAME problem, they all have different versions of the problem.

Given the instructions on the assignment: “assignments should be worked independently” it is hard to say whether the discussions constituted academic misconduct. If the discussions were general, and the students did do the homework problems independently of each other, then I think the student should be cleared here.

However, let’s just weigh in on whether an instructor should discourage students from discussing general principles of homework problems online (as it sounds like the discussions were from the description in the article). One wonders if it is simply a case of the “digital divide.” Is using the textbook a violation of “working independently”? What if the textbook includes a CD of hints for homework problems that correlate to the online problems as well – is that still “working independently”? How about asking the T.A. for help or asking the professor?

Maybe all these students should just start emailing every question to their professor instead?

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  1. Anonymous

    I thought the comment in the article about tutors was right on the money. I my Math-for-Liberal-Arts classes I have often had students hand in beautiful homework, only to have them receive something like a 30% on their first test. Its obviously that the student’s tutor is telling them how to solve the problem, rather than teaching how to do that type of problem. Its hard to see how this discussion is any worse. And as in the case of my student, if problems solutions were posted and copied it would have become evident on the exams.


  2. Taran Rampersad

    I can’t help but wonder what sort of signal this sends about working collaboratively in any way.

    Mind you, I agree that students should develop their own ability – but everyone asks questions. Everyone *should* ask questions.

    After reading the article, I don’t see how this could be something that is easily polarized. But it does bring certain questions to the forefront, as you have rightly pointed out… and it most certainly demonstrates that there is room for education to adapt even in the developed world.

  3. mm

    For many years, and long before the Internet, students worked together, shared homework and learned from each other. Faculty who wish to assess the individual student should do so in a manner that the faculty member can control.

    Too many students and faculty are of the opinion that it an us against them. Faculty should support and foster different learning modalities not stifle them with ridiculous rules and restrictions.

    Faculty should worry more about student learning and less about handing out grades. If a student learned by working with a peer, then the student learned. The faculty member has done their job. If the student received a grade because he/she obtained help, then the faculty member is at fault for assessing a non-learning environment.

    r. glass

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