Cooperation in college
Plagarism in college CS programs:
"Many of the cases appear to be just ... similarities in a few lines of computer code on a very complicated assignment..."
"A brand-new rule says a computer science student is wrong to try to seek answers to questions ANYWHERE other than from course materials or Georgia Tech staff. Rooting around in old books in the library, checking the Internet, calling your cousin at Caltech--all are forbidden."
Re: Cooperation in college
Wow! That is somewhat frightening to say the least. Some of the article uses indicative statements that fail to make its point. For example, the article says:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Do you think I am setting too low a standard? Are you telling me that you don't cheat? Let me ask a few questions: Have you ever exceeded the speed limit? Crossed a street against the light? Parked in a no-parking zone? I thought so. Nearly all of us break the rules, in many instances with potential consequences far more deadly than copying a friend's homework.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
That is all true, of course, but a little disingenuous in some cases because, of course, colleges are (in part) supposed to teach students how to think. And if the way they "think" is simply by plagiarizing work, they are not being taught to think. They are being taught to simply do what is the most expedient to get the job done. And that is the same logic, often, behind speeding, parking in handicapped/no-parking zones, crossing streets against lights, etc. So, one might argue, if the "cheating" starts in school, it will simply carry over into life outside of school. That is one possible argument, I suppose.
I would not argue that, however, because it suggests a correlated causal dependence relationship that I am not aware has been shown to exist. I agree, though, that the Georgia Tech concept of how to "root out" plagiarism (in this case of code) is very lacking. Like anything, it is an overreaction to a problem that has been growing worse. That brings up another interesting part of the article. It says:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>There is no evidence that today's students are any more likely to break the rules than any member of the species has ever been.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Actually, that is largely untrue as many studies have shown. Put more accurately: it is true in terms of inclination, which has remained fairly constant. However, in terms of opportunity, it is much easier these days to plagiarize than it previously was and, as such, instances of it have been on the rise in massive numbers. There are numerous studies that attest to this. Granted, some of those are questionable and could be called circumstantial in a lot of cases but the sheer amount of evidence that has been adduced does indicate a growing trend. (One also has to look at the studies that also show the correlated decrease in plagiaristic activities due to the programs some universities have put in place to check on known sources of material.)
What worries me, again, is the overreaction by the school. For example this line:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>A brand-new rule says a computer science student is wrong to try to seek answers to questions ANYWHERE other than from course materials or Georgia Tech staff.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
That is pathetic. Part of teaching students to think is to teach them to seek information, some of it of a more or less dubious nature and then sift that out. The Web is actually a great training ground for that. When students go into the world they are going to have to collaborate with others at various jobs and, as such, learning to do so in a viable and productive manner is necessary.
As the article says at the end:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Georgia Tech is too fine an institution to tolerate a speech and homework police. It allows collaboration in other courses and, I hear, may be reevaluating its computer science policy.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
With that, one has to be careful to draw sweeping conclusions about Georgia Tech or even the educational system as a whole. Hopefully these cases of the students will cause a re-evaluation of the policy. Since Computer Science seems to be the only course that Georgia Tech is currently doing this with, it suggests they might have gotten burned a few times by students who did not really do their work at all (hence the intense overreaction) or, alternatively, they have leadership in that area of the curriculum that needs to be replaced or at least be brought more in line with standard educational policies.
Re: Cooperation in college
Plagarism? I wouldn't think of it that way, unless accounts of what people are doing are WAY off.
In IT, how often are things like pairs programming and pairs testing advocated? Peer review? Code inspections? Why, then, would it make sense to educate them in a system where they can't research information ANYWHERE? I'd much rather work with a developer who WANTS to research things, learn, and be sure he's writing things in the best, most efficient way possible - and if that means sharing or researching information, I see nothing wrong with it.
The other thing I'd wonder about is how similar things are. Consider any script in testing, or any programming application. If everyone's assignment is the same, and they all attend the same course, you would expect some of the lines of code to be similar, if not identical. If each of us was writing a script against the same application, in the same language, that would be almost impossible to avoid.
I'm afraid I'd be with the group of them 'still fighting' the University - right as I was transferring my educational dollars elsewhere.
** To affect the Quality of the day, that is the highest of arts ** H.D. Thoreau
~ Annemarie Martin ~
Re: Cooperation in college
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by QAGirl:
Plagarism? I wouldn't think of it that way, unless accounts of what people are doing are WAY off.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I think that is where Georgia Tech's Computer Science Department fell afoul. They must be using a very strict formulation, depending upon the student's actions. Plagiarism is defined as "taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own". That could apply to source code as well. The issue is not so much the use of the words or ideas as it is the claim that they are "your own". (Even the lack of a claim for attribution is taken to be a form of plagiarism because it is a case of not giving credit where it is due.)
That said, it sounds like Georgia Tech's policy even extends to just the use and that is scary because code re-use is one thing that is part of the industry. Granted, if one strictly lets students rely on code-reuse, that student's ability to generate such code on their own is not really tested at all.
There is definitely a balance in these things. Speaking as a programmer myself, I can tell you that there is a world of difference between seeing what you can come up with on your own (one aspect of your creativity) and what you can re-use or gather from other sources (another aspect of creativity). It sounds like Georgia Tech's Computer Science Department is not really striking any sort of balance at all and, in fact, is not really reflecting how things are often done in the actual industry.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>I'm afraid I'd be with the group of them 'still fighting' the University - right as I was transferring my educational dollars elsewhere.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I hear you. I would be in the same boat!
Re: Cooperation in college
"Through the university level, assignements are designed to produce grades for individual work, not for teamwork. This reaches a culmination in the Ph.D. dissertation, where originality is a core requirement.
Upon showing up at work, though, the same people are told by the business owners that they should not write new programs but should scavenge solutions created throughout the industry over the history of the field. They should use as many existing solutions as possible, without violating intellectual property rights.
The rewards offered for this behavior are meager. People continue to receive low evaluations for reusing code instead of writing new code. Promotions come to those who do the most and the best programming, not those who successfully hook together existing components."
- "Agile Software Development", by Alistair Cockburn, page 51.