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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