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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Teaching 500+ Students - Part 3 (Excuses for Copying)

Continuing with my experience of teaching the first year programming course to 525 students, I am today writing just a short note. I wanted to share some of the excuses students have been giving me when we catch them using unfair means in labs and/or quizzes. And, believe me, I am not making them up.

  1. (This is about a quiz, where we had multiple versions of the paper, and this student had written the answers which were correct for a different version of the quiz paper.) His explanation was that he was writing random characters and random numbers. There is a small but finite probability that it will result in the answers that will exactly match the answers given by the neighboring student. I should offer him stronger evidence of copying than just that his answers don't make sense for his questions, but are answers for questions given to his neighbor.

  2. What I have done is not copying. This can be called cheating in an exam, but not copying. And you have always been saying that copying will result in an "F" grade. You have been silent about cheating. Since I have done cheating and not copying, I should be given a lighter punishment.

  3. My program has been written by a senior, who is not even doing this course. This is not copying, but just taking help from friends. If someone who is doing this course had written the code, that would be wrong.

  4. I did not copy from any classmate, but searched on google, found the code for the problem, and submitted it. What is wrong in that.

  5. I have only seen function definition, variable declaration, for loop, while loop, if conditions, and few other things that I did not understand. But, believe me, I did not copy 100%. (Yeah sure, there was indeed a one line difference between the two submissions.)

  6. Sir, moss (the software developed by Stanford University) is saying that 96% of the lines are same. It is obviously wrong. See, I changed all the variable names, and deleted all comments. So, there is hardly any line which is same. You are using a buggy software.

  7. We are so used to copying in other courses. Even previous instructors of this course ignored copying. It is difficult to remember to do things differently in just one course. (The implication being that I should change, not him/her. And remember, these are students who have just joined IIT less than 2 months ago.)

  8. And this is from a faculty member (thankfully, not from IITK). When everyone is making 1000s of crores, you are trying to teach honesty. You are spoiling their careers. They should become more practical and a better fit in today's society.

I don't want to give an impression that everyone is cheating. In fact, that is a small minority. But the excuses and arguments that they come up with are truly remarkable, and I just wanted to share some of the gems.

14 comments:

Saurabh Nanda said...

This is hilarious! I think the faculty should create a 'wall of fame' of such gems across courses and release it at the end of each semester.This is hilarious! I think the faculty should create a 'wall of fame' of such gems across courses and release it at the end of each semester.

ahannaasti said...

I think an important problem is that "copying and not getting caught" was seen as a "cool" thing to do, at least in my batch. I think an important part of any solution to the problem of copying would have to change this popular perception among students.

I was part of at least one incident where I was left with the feeling that at least some instructors were just content with the idea that even "being copied" (even without your knowledge) was a more damaging "sin" than "copying and not getting caught".

KUNAL said...

copying is not fully bad part ..... at all .....since somebody already done that work why should wasting energy to recreate it taking Google help is very beneficial ....if u look at game engine code they are 25000 thousand to 10 lakh lines ......people just borrow these stuff and do addition to it ..... if somebody add something to already consisting code then its not copying its modifying .............

there is not define definition of copying ..... if somebdy need small code which is outside of its domain say device driver code he needs it ...if take google and use open source code for small part ...wht wrong with that its not copying ...............rather learning whole device driver stuff all that

Saying from Faculty member is not incorrect at all "They should become more practical and a better fit in today's society" ......

if somebody has to survive in Industry .... his views are different for seeing things.......

chitta said...

At our university all copying cases are required to be reported to the Dean. I am told that after a second report students are thrown out of the university. (I did not check.)

The Third Eye said...

Whether we like it or not, IITans are considered as role models as the rest of India. So cheaters should be punished early and often.
At the same time, faculty should also make an effort to come up with new exercises/exams. My hostel library used to archive all the question papers from previous years. To ace the exams, all one had to do was to go through the previous years' question papers.

Prof.Vyas said...

Yes, i also had similar experience while i was teaching Java to a class of 225 students at IIIT-A. Excuses for copying were there as well of similar nature then with the next batch i tried to remove the 'grading' part away from submissions for few initial weeks so that each and every one gets settled down with object-oriented way of thinking and programming without fear of being graded badly. It initially seemed to work as there were fewer cases of copying but as soon as i introduced grading and some complex stuff then again malpractice started but was reduced to an extent. i think like in European Universities, we should have larger number of Lab assistance and may be it will help if we give them ample time/support for learning without fear of beinggraded from ab initio atleast in a programming course.

Rangachari Anand said...

The generation gap is really beginning to hit me now: Things were a lot more innocent back in the early 80s when I was in IIT!

Mohit said...

Since it is the first year students, it is good that they are getting an awareness of copying right at the start. It will go a long way for them in the next four years and the rest of their life.

I think it is also important to make the students aware about plagiarism as part of their orientation. Some of the excuses they offer are something they really think are fine or have done so in their schools.

If I may, I would also suggest that you keep these excuses for next year and give them as true/false questions asking whether they would consider it as cheating for next year students as a first quiz.

k said...

The actions by students is a reflection of IIT Professors themselves not believing fully in the core value of intellectual honesty. If no visible penal action is not taken against such students, ultimately 'Brand IIT' and students with 'Scientific Temperament' will lose out.'

Shantanu said...

@k .. .I was expecting someone to raise this point of intellectual honesty and eventually you have made the point ..."Honesty" is an inherent quality of an individual and I believe if one is dishonest, it shows in all aspects of his or her's life and not in just one aspect. I completely disagree with your point of intellectual dishonesty among IITK students. The reason for the same is the example that you are citing to base your belief. Fact of the matter is that IITK students (in general) are possibly more honest than any other college in India. We needn't go too far from the campus itself. The canteen owners in IIT also have other canteen branches in other colleges in Kanpur (including a famous medical college). You can go and interview any canteen owner (I did it as a part of a project) and you would come to know that how "honest" IITK guys really are when it comes to payment in canteen. In other colleges they first take money and then give the items which is exactly opposite to what happens in IITK.
Hence I wouldn't question "integrity" and "honesty" of IITK students just because some (or most) of the students copy. Copying is more of a culture in India as a whole and one learns this right from school. Though I believe it is not a good practice but it is a byproduct of our inefficient primary and secondary schooling than "intellectual integrity".

Shishir said...

The copying can not be condoned. It is not proper to justify the fact on the strength of 'even in my old days it existed'. Surely it existed then, but it was not right then also .

Yes, what came to me as a surprise was these students are just 2 months old in IIT and they believed it was ok to copy. Truly audacious!

We may condone it as young person's adventurous & non-conformist behavior, but a good institute has a responsibility of teaching ethical ways of life also.

The value system taught in educational institutions go a long way in making up the moral values the person holds in his/her later life.In fact , good value system is practical way of leading life . It keeps a person happy.

I have been a votary of IIT just on one count that it has been very fair (right from JEE to your pass-out). Come to think of it,that has gone a long way in establishing its value, more than the Ph.Ds of the faculty members from envied universities.(I've been critical of IIT on many other counts !!!).

So keep up good work. The students will realize the value of your mode of evaluation later, particularly when they pass out.

[Sorry for looking at things from a little so called 'serious' perspective! But really liked the arguments given by the young students. They are creative indeed.]

Mahla said...

Few Changes Education System Demands:

1.)50 % of exam/quizzes/assignments should be done in teams (random)of 2 or more students. (Marks weight-age 40% )

Supporting argument: This will increase students aptitude for team work.Also relatively weaker student learn how to attempt
a exam in better away from the brighter student .This will automatically reduce cheating as they are already doing in teams.


2.)In 25% of exams cheating has to be allowed officially .(Marks weight age 10% )

Supporting Argument: This will make students free from the mental barrier of cheating that professors put on them. This way
students professor gap will reduce and they become more open to professors thought.

3.)In 25% of exams cheating should result in F . (Marks weigh-age 50%)

Supporting Argument: Students should be exposed to extreme discipline.


Summary: In this process student will be exposed to three different systems, that system closely resembles to professional situations.
He will now in a condition to analyze each situation by its own positive and negative aspects .As we do in our day to day life.
After a while i believe students will get more self awareness, their honesty will increase and they become pragmatic individuals.

shirshadeep bhattacharyya said...

beautiful writing :-) hilrious but true....

shirshadeep bhattacharyya said...

beautiful....hilarious but true :-)