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Dozens of Reported Plagiarism Incidents On Coursera's Free Online Courses

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the but-I-both-copied-and-pasted dept.

Education 210

An anonymous reader writes "The discussion forums in Coursera's Massive Open Online Courses are full of talk of plagiarism these days. 'Plagiarized essay — so disheartening,' said one post. 'Continued Plagiarism in the Assignments,' says another. Students are cheating even though the courses carry no credit. Plagiarism-detection software may be in the future, the company's leaders say."

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People are assholes (4, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | about 2 years ago | (#41011201)

I'm hardly surprised. Since the benefit to student is actually in doing the work instead of official credits, I don't see that a lot of time, money or energy should be spent in weeding out those that don't wish to actually get the benefit out of it. A public shaming on the boards might be helpful though so people don't get advice from someone who can't be bothered to really learn the material.

No. People are stupid (5, Insightful)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | about 2 years ago | (#41011343)

Amazingly, a lot of people don't know what plagiarism is. The think "write an essay" means the same thing as "copy from an encyclopedia". From TFA: "He said one student wrote him soon after he posted his letter and confessed to submitting a plagiarized essay, but the student said he had not realized that copying and pasting from other sources was wrong."

I think the problem lies in elementary school. Students are encouraged to copy texts (in order to learn writing) and they are simply never told that actual essays are supposed to be something that they invent themselves.

Re:No. People are stupid (3, Insightful)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about 2 years ago | (#41011407)

Or at least cite what they copy from.

Re:No. People are stupid (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011471)

The problem is societal, not simply restricted to 'copy and paste'.

The values society places on education, excellence, self-sufficiency, morality have been replaced with a standardized MTV polluted liberal version of education. Single mother families, drugs, you name it, there is no single root cause.

We are teaching our children not to be smart and to do well, but to learn the party line and be good little socialists; and this is what you get.

Ask any jr high schooler today - what party was Abraham Lincoln a part of when he freed the slaves. Nine times out of ten you will hear 'Democrat'.

We have a systematic problem here, plagiarism is just a small part of the whole. Surprising? Not at all.

Re:No. People are stupid (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41011691)

"liberal view of education"? Wha?

In the U.S. we're teaching right now that the "ends" are what its all about, whether it is a 100k job or whether it is test scores. The means remain murky and, as far as corporate values go, are often totally justified by the ends.

That isn't "liberal" anything, it's the corporate value system, and the corporate values system isn't a liberal values system.

One of the reason that education sucks in the U.S. right now is because the real value in education come in the journey itself. Learning something that doesn't contribute directly to the bottom line of a corporation doesn't make you money, but it does make you a person with experience, and that experience is worth something. When the ends justify the means and everything is cut out but the stuff that makes you a compliant little cube worker then you've got a system for stamping out robots.

Obligatory George Carlin (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41011939)

There's a reason for this, there's a reason education sucks, and it's the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It's never going to get any better. Don't look for it. Be happy with what you've got... because the owners of this country don’t want that. I'm talking about the real owners now... the real owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fuckin’ years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.

That's obviously not true for children of wealthy families - we'll send them to the best private schools we can muster, so they'll be well-trained to be masters of the universe.

Re:Obligatory George Carlin (2)

fair_n_hite_451 (712393) | about 2 years ago | (#41013435)

I'm confused. If big business owners "have us by the balls" and "have bought and paid for the Senate, etc" then why do they also need to "spend billions of dollars every year lobbying". Are you saying that's just theatre to keep people from noticing?

Re:No. People are stupid (-1, Troll)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 2 years ago | (#41012037)

No, we're not talking about "ends justifying the means". We are talking about the society that has a whole bunch of different rules for different classes of people, which IS a liberal point of view. We are talking about equal results, not equal opportunity, which is a liberal point of view. We are talking about "you didn't do that" mentality from the President, who thinks that people working their asses off to get ahead in the world should be punished for working harder than others. We're talking about the OWSers who are going after the "1%" in a despicable show of envy and jealousy.

Don't get me wrong, the right side has its issues as well, but THIS is a liberal point of view. You are correct, the point of education is to learn, and people who don't value that shouldn't be rewarded. However, the punishment comes when they get their asses fired for being stupid and not knowing what they ought to know. The punishment to employers are for those that accept that a piece of parchment means anything.

It means that in the future, you're going to have to work harder to find qualified people, and qualified people are going to have to work harder at being noticed. But the rewards for that hard work will far exceed those that accept that a piece of parchment and a certification means anything useful.

When I interview people I always ask a question or two about future educational goals, but never directly. I want to know that people want to continue to learn. Corporations that don't help educate their people who want to improve themselves will always suffer compared to those that do.

Re:No. People are stupid (0)

quintus_horatius (1119995) | about 2 years ago | (#41013249)

We are talking about the society that has a whole bunch of different rules for different classes of people, which IS a liberal point of view.

Oh, you mean like different rules like "you don't have to go to court because daddy is rich-and-connected" or "the rich kids get drug treatment while the poor kids go to jail when they're caught with pot"? Those kinds of different rules for different classes?

Different rules for different classes is NOT a liberal point of view. Liberals tend to prefer a level playing field for all.

Re:No. People are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41013379)

There has always been different rules for different classes since the beginning of civilization, there's nothing liberal about it. The higher up you are, the more power and wealth you have at your disposal to game the system.

Re:No. People are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012175)

What is a 'corporate value system'? I don't even understand what this means.

You are right that part of the failure is in teaching to the test - not teaching people how to think.

But you are proving my point with your very argument. Liberalism and corporatism are not opposites in any way. A corporation is simple a group of individuals working to achieve a goal. Liberalism - western liberalism (socialism or whatever you want to call it - I prefer statism because that covers it all) is a political belief that the collective takes precedence over the individual and that is antithetical to conservatism. Corporations exist in all of these political systems.

You don't understand that the problem you are observing and really are complaining about is crony capitalism - that is collusion of the leaders in industry and the state. Case in point government ownership of GM. Now that's NOT a conservative policy, this was driven by the left largely to support the unions - again the left. The same left that you seem to so aggressively support! Now that doesn't make much sense now does it MTI?

Re:No. People are stupid (0)

hackula (2596247) | about 2 years ago | (#41011797)

Agree. Teaching Intelligent Design in science class is so liberal. We totally need to go back to good ole american conservative creationism in the class room.

Re:No. People are stupid (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 2 years ago | (#41012199)

Actually, many Liberal Arts Degrees are just as idiotic as you make "Intelligent Design" (not a real degree btw) is. I know plenty of people with four year degrees that don't know anything useful, and are basically waiting for a government or teaching job because ... well that is all they are qualified to do. I have an issue with people who get a four year degree but can't do simple math without a calculator.

I was in a meeting where a liberal arts person thought that 10% of 1500 was 15, and proceeded to argue until I made them open calc on their computer. Four years of college to act all smug and superior, only to get mad at me for humiliating them in a meeting in front of everyone else. Yeah, that really happened.

Re:No. People are stupid (3, Interesting)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 2 years ago | (#41011751)

I'd also put that they aren't actually encouraged to have their own opinions and views. I remember being given an assignment, years ago, about writing why "Crispy Cream" was ethical as a business, but from my POV they weren't being ethical at all. Having that counter opinion cost me most of the credit on the paper.

Sounds like just not doing the assignment (4, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 2 years ago | (#41012277)

I'd also put that they aren't actually encouraged to have their own opinions and views. I

Maybe, but what you describe here doesn't sound like that's the problem.

I remember being given an assignment, years ago, about writing why "Crispy Cream" was ethical as a business, but from my POV they weren't being ethical at all. Having that counter opinion cost me most of the credit on the paper.

There is value to being able to find, evaluate, and present the best arguments for a particular position whether or not it is your own. So, I can both see why the value in being assigned to right an argumentative essay for an assigned point-of-view, and see it as perfectly reasonable that failing to do so effectively when it conflicts with your personal POV results in a lower grade.

In fact, I remember a number of classes with similar assignments (some written, some oral) where both the subject and which side of it particular students were to take were randomly assigned.

None of this conflicts with students being encouraged to have their own opinions or views, its about students being able to understand others opinions and views, and is part of the foundation on which the ability to critically evaluate others' viewpoints, and their own, is built.

Re:No. People are ignorant (4, Interesting)

Loughla (2531696) | about 2 years ago | (#41011767)

THIS. In a college English classroom, intro level classes, the first MONTH is spent explaining to the students what plagiarism is, and what it isn't.

I don't know where the attitude of "copy and paste != plagiarism" came from (I have theories see below if you want), but it is prevalent. If I had a dollar for each student who "just borrowed" a line or two from other papers or other sources, I wouldn't be a teacher anymore, I'd have a self-funded space program.

My theory about that attitude comes in the form of easy and quick = best. That, above all else is the attitude in today's US society. If it's easy, if it's quick, it must be good. What we're seeing is the disposable consumer culture translated into an educational setting. That is all my opinion and is not rooted in anything outside of my personal experience.

Re:No. People are ignorant (1)

CycleMan (638982) | about 2 years ago | (#41011923)

If I had a dollar for each student who "just borrowed" a line or two from other papers or other sources, I wouldn't be a teacher anymore, I'd have a self-funded space program.

Plagiarize
Let no one else's work evade your eyes
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes
So don't shade your eyes
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize
Only be sure always to call it please "research" [1]

[1] Paraphrased from Tom Lehrer's song 'Lobachevsky'.

To copy from one person is plagiarism. To copy from many is research. (citation not provided; quote is attrib. to various sources)

Re:No. People are ignorant (1, Interesting)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 2 years ago | (#41012339)

I can tell you where the idea comes from. It comes from the idiotic idea that doing a research paper on a topic that has already been researched a million times before is useful in any way shape or form. It comes from the notion that you can teach PROPER research procedures on dummy(fake/psuedo) research projects.

IF you want to fix the problem, fix the process. Make it REAL research, on things that matter to the kids. Yeah that means more work for teachers, but teachers are supposed to be teaching, and not teaching by rote.

I remember reading books, and doing book reports only to get C's and D's until I discovered CLIFF NOTES. I then did a papers based on those and got B's and C's, and it was much easier. Guess what, I never read the books again. Was the goal of those papers to teach writing or make sure you read the books, or something else? Because it didn't teach me anything of the sort, it taught me that if someone else has done the work, you use that. It also taught me to not do papers on things that didn't interest me at all. Perhaps that was the lesson I was supposed to learn ;)

Re:No. People are ignorant (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 2 years ago | (#41012643)

I actually got an A on a book report in grade school for a book that didn't exist.

Re:No. People are ignorant (2)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 2 years ago | (#41013175)

Necronomicon?

Re:No. People are ignorant (5, Insightful)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | about 2 years ago | (#41013093)

I can tell you where the idea comes from. It comes from the idiotic idea that doing a research paper on a topic that has already been researched a million times before is useful in any way shape or form. It comes from the notion that you can teach PROPER research procedures on dummy(fake/psuedo) research projects.

IF you want to fix the problem, fix the process. Make it REAL research, on things that matter to the kids. Yeah that means more work for teachers, but teachers are supposed to be teaching, and not teaching by rote.

You can't do original research until you learn what is already known, which by definition will be something that someone has already done. There is no way around this problem. No teacher can generate large numbers of projects that are both 1.) simple enough for an introductory student, and 2.) examples of original research. The easy stuff has been done in most fields.

On the Cliff's Notes issue -- I just looked in WorldCat and got over 10,000 hits for Hamlet as a subject. This will include multiple entries for lots of titles (different editions, the German translation, etc.), but you're still looking at 4,000+ books published on the topic, in addition to no one knows how many scholarly journal articles. Do you really think that a high school English teacher is going to be able to come up with an idea for original research on Hamlet that hasn't been covered in one of the previous 20,000 publications on the topic? And then come up with another one for her second and third period classes as well? And then do it all over again next year? Not possible. If she could do that she'd have won a MacArthur Grant and would be running the Renaissance studies program at Harvard. The same problem applies (to a less extreme extent) to every book in and around the Western canon. Now, a good teacher will know what's in Cliff's Notes and whatever it's Web equivalents are, and will assign work on something they don't include. But that's as close to original research as you can get with the average student.

Re:No. People are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011817)

The simple solution at least going forward would be to have copy-booking learn involve citing the source. AKA, Johnny copy this commie text book but write down what pages and editions you copied out of.

Also for Coursea, maybe they should give a course on how to write a collage level essay. This would be great for a lot of students and something I think isn't given enough attention, or at least wasn't in my high-school collage days. I understand getting this taught to students was probably one of the biggest reason for including it on the SAT.

Re:No. People are stupid (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41011823)

Funny, my class was never encouraged to copy texts. And in elementary school we were specifically taken to the library and taught how to do research, then close all the books and write in our own words.

There are cultures where plagiarism isn't necessarily bad. I've come across some people who genuinely don't understand plagiarism, even in grad school. I didn't think the US was one of those places though.

Re:No. People are stupid (1)

ChrisMP1 (1130781) | about 2 years ago | (#41011897)

If, at this age, they are too stupid and thick to figure out that "copy from an encyclopedia" is not actually writing an original essay, despite whatever they learned in elementary school, they deserve whatever comes of their plagiarism. What kind of moron seriously thinks that it's actually okay to copy from other sources without giving credit, and then take credit for it yourself?? I think they'd be upset if someone did it to their original writing.

The problem lies in people being assholes and not considering the "Golden Rule".

Re:No. People are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011947)

I think the problem lies in elementary school. Students are encouraged to copy texts (in order to learn writing) and they are simply never told that actual essays are supposed to be something that they invent themselves.

I doubt that teachers that complain about plagiarism have ever done any original research themselves.
In the case of combining the work of others it is way better to copy their work word for word and cite properly instead of trying to reformulate since that is likely to introduce values that wasn't intended by the original author.
The result that is most useful for others is created by writing as little as possible and only create a list of the recommended sources for someone interested in the subject to read. This will remove the problem you get when you try to find the original source of a statement and have to follow source after source after source only to find out that the original original source never made such a statement.

Re:No. People are stupid (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | about 2 years ago | (#41011991)

Amazingly, a lot of people don't know what plagiarism is. The think "write an essay" means the same thing as "copy from an encyclopedia". From TFA: "He said one student wrote him soon after he posted his letter and confessed to submitting a plagiarized essay, but the student said he had not realized that copying and pasting from other sources was wrong."

I think the problem lies in elementary school. Students are encouraged to copy texts (in order to learn writing) and they are simply never told that actual essays are supposed to be something that they invent themselves.

I suspect most of the students who genuinely did not realize they were plagiarizing were actually from developing nations with little in the way of formal schooling. I've met plenty of people who manage to morally justify or rationalize plagiarism in their own mind, but I've never met an American student in high school or college, no matter how academically shitty they may be, who ACTUALLY believed cutting and pasting essays was acceptable to their respective academic institution. They may have though it was justified, or "not a big deal," but they always made some kind of deliberate effort to avoid being caught. Any of these kids who gets caught and says "I didn't know it was wrong" is full of shit, and just trying to avoid the consequences.

A student from an entirely different culture in a developing nation, on the other hand, who may not have ever had to write an original essay at any point before being exposed to free online courses, may very well be completely unaware that they are committing an act of academic dishonesty.

Re:No. People are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012327)

racist much?

Re:No. People are stupid (1)

jpstanle (1604059) | about 2 years ago | (#41012891)

Uh, never at any point do I mention race or even allude to it. Perhaps my post is classist or culturalist (Is that a word?) or something of that nature, but racist?

I am not saying that most of the plagiarizers are from developing nations and Westerners are some kind of shining paragon of virtue. Quite the opposite, in fact. I am saying that those who grew up with formal schooling usually know better, and should suffer the consequences. I only said I suspect most of the students who genuinely were unaware that what they were doing was contrary to the expectation of the assignment, if there are really many cases like that, are probably people who have had little formal education.

Re:No. People are stupid (1)

Cito (1725214) | about 2 years ago | (#41012881)

Hell even in highschool/college I never fully wrote my own papers, I copy and pasted also :) course this is before the computer age, so it was written word for word from books and encyclopedias.

and it was allowed cause teachers said to attach a bibliography of sources, which I did, and still got a's and b's

as long as my bibliography was attached it didn't matter to my teachers.

I was lucky I guess.

Re:People are assholes (1)

Flipstylee (1932884) | about 2 years ago | (#41011843)

I agree with the shaming, but keep in mind while doing so that these people will come and go,
some will be here always (people are assholes). Considering some of the most elaborated yet efficient
posts i've read here we're by "anonymous cowards", we must encourage the many constructively, and question
the few Destructively. This is the scientific method, otherwise, fuck them.

Re:People are assholes (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 2 years ago | (#41012073)

I'm hardly surprised. Since the benefit to student is actually in doing the work instead of official credits

Actually, what the student values is that piece of paper showing they completed the class. Nary a single fck is given these days to actually soaking up any of the material. That said, I think the way we teach, and the way we assess, needs to be addressed first rather than how we police the cheating.

Re:People are assholes (1)

0racle (667029) | about 2 years ago | (#41012755)

I'll be nice and assume you don't know what Coursera is. Any 'piece of paper' Coursera gives is worthless. The only benefit to the student doing these free courses is learning and understanding the material.

Re:People are assholes (1)

jfz (917930) | about 2 years ago | (#41013111)

Since the benefit to student is actually in doing the work instead of official credits

LOL, where do people like you get this notion from? Whatever fairly-land of academic value you suggest, it isn't one in which undergraduates around me currently live. My university for example has numerous courses that serve no other purpose than to make payroll and give students a hamster-wheel like challenge. People are realistic and game the system.

So (1)

DJ Jones (997846) | about 2 years ago | (#41011225)

If the courses carry no credit, why do you care that they are plagiarizing? I'm not a fan of ripping others work but if professors can't develop unique questions then don't expect unique answers.

Re:So (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#41011285)

What I'm more curious about is why people even bother plagiarizing at all. If you don't want to do an assignment, can't you just not do it, since there are no consequences to failing to do it? Are people hoping to use the "completed Coursera course" certificate on their CV or something, making it worth the effort of cheating to obtain it?

Re:So (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41011873)

I don't think that I'd feel entirely comfortable turning my back on somebody who would cheat even without a reward...

People who cheat for rewards are abhuman scum best recycled for their valuable phosphorus; but at least they exhibit a certain value-rational predictability. Somebody who would cheat purely for its own sake...

Re:So (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 2 years ago | (#41012689)

I feel even less safe turning my back on someone who fantasizes about the death penalty for cheating.

Re:So (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 2 years ago | (#41013295)

Yeah, don't give them any ideas.

Plagiarism == copying == piracy ...

Death penalty for pirating music, movies and software!

QED.

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41013281)

I don't think that I'd feel entirely comfortable turning my back on somebody who would cheat even without a reward...

People who cheat for rewards are abhuman scum best recycled for their valuable phosphorus; but at least they exhibit a certain value-rational predictability. Somebody who would cheat purely for its own sake...

I believe it was Jesse Ventura who said, back in his pro wrestling days, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat". Of course, you wouldn't turn your back on him in those days....

Re:So (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012223)

Are people hoping to use the "completed Coursera course" certificate on their CV or something, making it worth the effort of cheating to obtain it?

The business plan* for Coursera and their competitors is to charge corporations money for the list of people that did the best in particular courses. You won't need to put it on your CV/Resume because the job offer will come to you and not the other way around.

* When Coursera "partnered" with a local university to have some professors do some Coursera classes, it was reported in the local newspaper. The articles included quotes from Coursera people indicating that this is indeed one of their intended revenue sources.

Re:So (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#41012295)

Ah interesting, I hadn't seen that until now. This Chronicle of Higher Ed [chronicle.com] article has a bit more. Apparently the agreement between Coursera and several universities included a section entitled "Possible Company Monetization Strategies" that discusses some of that.

Re:So (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#41012569)

For this to be true and accurate, the evaluation process itself and what it actually measure must be accurate. For many courses, it isn't simply the case. So, even students with high scores without cheating aren't necessarily what you think they are. But, probably you reduce your risk by putting aside a valuable and worthwhile candidate by picking only the highest scores, whatever it means. That is really unfortunate since valuable people will be put aside by bad evaluation/measurement process.

The "best" schools/universities are claimed the "best" base on the research quality/quantity and capacity to attract grants. The quality of the students they produce isn't a measurement at all of their goodness as an academic institution because they are picking the very "best" students at the beginning. Those who can learn even with bad teaching. It isn't in any way a measure of the quality of the education delivered by the institution itself, it is all about reputation and the power the reputation gives them to seggregate at the very beginning.

This being said, yes, they have some good teachers too, but they aren't alone.

You bet that is the reason. (3, Informative)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 2 years ago | (#41013377)

What I'm more curious about is why people even bother plagiarizing at all. If you don't want to do an assignment, can't you just not do it, since there are no consequences to failing to do it? Are people hoping to use the "completed Coursera course" certificate on their CV or something, making it worth the effort of cheating to obtain it?

Yes. Believe it or not, that is the motivation. Plagiarism is rampant in the CS/IT sector. This is one of the reasons more and more companies (at least companies that care) are demanding live code interviews.

True story from a company that I interviewed a couple of years ago. They needed quite desperately to fill a senior position that became vacant. How it became vacant? Well, the person who was in it apparently couldn't code himself out of a wet paper bag. During his hiring process, the applicant, who was in another country, went through all the phone interviews, answering questions flawlessly. The company decided to pick him for the position and paid all relocation expenses.

Fast-track a few weeks later and the guy was unceremoniously kicked out. He simply couldn't code at all. To this day management is 100% convinced the person they interviewed was not the same person who actually showed up for the job. And this is very common. Having learned their lesson, any applicant must go through a battery of live tests, and then more tests in person. This obviously increases the expense of hiring, but that is always cheaper than getting an incompetent code monkey on a critical senior position.

It wasn't like this before when the number of professionals weren't that many, nor computer systems were so ubiquitious. You gotta give thanks to the dot-com for opening the gates. Computer systems have become ubiquitous, which is great. But the bad side of the coin is that you get any savant idiot trying to weasel his way into a good salary without paying the academic/work-related dues.

There are simply no ethics in our industry. None at all, a reflection of society, both ours and globalized. So now that people know companies will look into the coursera or udacity results, you bet they'll try to fit themselves in, like an badly made cog lubricated with pig shit.

I never saw it coming, but I should have given everything I've seen in this industry.

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011297)

If online poker sites are free to play, why should we care that they are not for gambling?

Re:So (4, Insightful)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | about 2 years ago | (#41011337)

If Slashdot points carry no credit, then why do Slashdotters care if they have mod points or not?

Re:So (4, Insightful)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | about 2 years ago | (#41011405)

If Slashdot points carry no credit at all, then why do Slashdotters users care if they have moderation points or not?

Re:So (1)

Isaac Remuant (1891806) | about 2 years ago | (#41012667)

Well, there's the "credit" of being able to shape the visibility of the discussion so I don't think this particular analogy is very accurate. There's a real and demonstrable use of mod points.

On topic: I did a bunch of courses Intro to AI and a couple of udacity's and found them quite interesting. I understood cheating was a possibility and that many people did but fixating on that seemed pointless. Producing something of value, applying the new knowledge, sharing and seeing what others had produced. All these were more important than a grade no one would ultimately care about.

There are some concerns with these types of education but the most important thing , imo, is to not get caught up in the "certification illusion" where the end goal ceases to be knowledge and implementation.

Re:So (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#41012671)

Simple enough, because it is some kind of measurement of the value of your comments. So, it is self rewarding to know your comments are actually appreciated by some/many people. However, it is difficult to cheat and you earn not this reward if you cheat. Somewhat different since I guess in some countries, getting an accomplishement certificate from Coursera may have some actual value nonethless it earns you credit for a university or not. You know, some countries are having really bad education systems. I can imagine an employer will give some credit to an accomplishement certificate in those countries. And, to be frank, as an employer, I would certainly pay attention to a candidate completing some of the Coursera courses provided s/he didn't cheat. There is some good stuff there and this is an indication of the motivation of a candidate. Someone that care about self-educate himself and increase his/her knowledge on a regular basis.

Re:So (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 2 years ago | (#41012705)

Gotta hand out Flamebait and Troll mods to opposing viewpoints. IT MUST BE DONE!

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41013219)

And even better it can be UNDONE!

Re:So (4, Informative)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#41011341)

If there is some sort of certificate or recognition, then allowing cheating makes said certificate even more worthless than it already is. It essentially makes it impossible for legitimate students to gain any recognition for their REAL work. It's the same reason that a big cheating scandal at an accredited school ultimately cheapens, at least a little, the degrees from all institutions accredited by the same organization.

Re:So (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41011849)

"if professors can't develop unique questions then don't expect unique answers."

Go ahead. Develop a unique essay question. Just one. Post it in reply.

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012439)

Compare and contrast the situational utility of energy weapons and small guns in Fallout 3.

Re:So (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012823)

"Who are you? 500 words."

Re:So (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#41013337)

Oh.... if I only had mod points. The AC parent to this one would so be getting a mod up. Brilliant.

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012989)

"Compare and contrast the class strata and barriers to social advancement in Gilligan's Island and the Flintstones"

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41013307)

rand();

Any worse than elsewhere? (3, Interesting)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about 2 years ago | (#41011233)

Is there any reason to believe that the problem is any worse at Coursera than at meatspace universities? When I was at NGCSU, there was apparently enough of an issue with plagiarism that more than one professor spent a whole class period on discussing the issue, and a centralized system (Turnitin.com) was used to detect the most blatant forms of cheating.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (4, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | about 2 years ago | (#41011375)

Given that coursera courses tend to be orders of magnitudes larger than those at universities, dozens actually sounds pretty low to me.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (3, Insightful)

OutLawSuit (1107987) | about 2 years ago | (#41011717)

There's little incentive not to cheat in this setting though. The repercussions for cheating at traditional schools are significant in that there are real career and financial ramifications. Here you're simply kicked out of a free online program where you likely can just re-enroll under another name.

Until cheating is dealt with in a satisfactory manner, I don't see how these online offerings will ever be a credible alternative to traditional schooling.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (1)

Isaac Remuant (1891806) | about 2 years ago | (#41012729)

Until cheating is dealt with in a satisfactory manner, I don't see how these online offerings will ever be a credible alternative to traditional schooling.

I'd like to think that "schooling" is not just about proving that you knew stuff because you passed exams and here's the certificate. What you're saying IS important in that sense but we must not lose the objective which SHOULD be imparting and encouraging knowledge.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 2 years ago | (#41013179)

And yet people still cheat in very high numbers in traditional schools despite the high penalties. The problem is that the systems are designed to encourage cheating and so it happens. No matter what penalties they come up with people will still do it.

I have seen some very draconian anti-cheating policies and they pretty much accomplished nothing. People even use drugs now to focus and do better on tests regardless of the long term consequences because those drugs actually work. Do you propose we drug test every person before every exam at a traditional school? How about as our technology continues to progress and we come up with better ways to cheat?

Face it the education system is at fault for the cheating, the students are just taking the path of least resistance. If you want cheating fixed the industrial education system has got to go.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 2 years ago | (#41011903)

The peer review system could depress the number. How many users, when asked to review a paper, will take the time to look for plagiarism?

I suppose the same though could be asked of academia.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (3, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#41011589)

It's a bigger deal at the meatspace universities because 1. The courses usually do carry credit, and being caught cheating can result in failing the class at best and/or being completely expelled from the university at worst, and 2. People pay money, sometimes lots of money, for those meatspace classes. Having a class you paid $$ for count as a failing grade against your GPA is pretty lame.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011635)

Turnitin.com runs a side business where students can (for a fee) test to see if their paper will be detected by turnitin.com

they're part of the problem.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011743)

my school also uses turnitin, with a 12% similarity rating the limit. It's frightening to see even PhDs submit plagiarized articles! 'no credit' should not mean 'no integrity'.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about 2 years ago | (#41012395)

Is there any reason to believe that the problem is any worse at Coursera than at meatspace universities?

If it were 'only' at the same level as at degree-awarding universities, it would still be a puzzle: why do they bother to do so? Finding out why some people do take the time to plagiarize their way through a Coursera course might help in understanding plagiarism elsewhere, and also into the Dunning-Kruger effect and what seems (to a curmudgeon like me) to be an increasing culture of self-deception in general. On the other hand, perhaps it's mainly an occasional response to a deadline that the student can't meet, either for unexpected external reasons or poor planning on their part.

Re:Any worse than elsewhere? (3, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#41012859)

No it is not any worse. The problem is in the presentation. Online courses are presented as a cheap easy way to deliver an education to the masses. It is presented as a new, innovative method to create the group of critical thinking and highly creative professionals the world needs. Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with education knows this is crap.

Online courses like this are just another way to deliver an education to those easiest to educate. Those that are motivated, can learn well from lectures and books, will take the time in recitation and practice, and will seek out peers and mentors. Before online courses these people learned from libraries, auditing courses, or just forming connections with knowledgable people. They would carry their desks to school, and spend thier teenage years figuring out how to fund college, sometimes traveling to foreign countries to do so.

I am not saying the online courses are useless. They may very well bring an educational opportunity to motivated persons who did not otherwise have the resources. What I am saying is that we might consider applying the adage that if we are successful if we manage to educate one additional person. I know this is not PC in the no child left behind, but it is perfectly consistent with race to the top, where we encourage all students and provide all possible resources to maximums potential. So the dicks who want to go through courses and cheat are as inconsequential as the dicks in college who cheated in high school and spend all day bragging about their high GPA. It does not effect the personal learning of those who want to learn.

At some point it is not the responsibility of the school to babysit the kids. It is the responsibility of the school to provide valid learning opportunities, and the students are responsible to make use of those opportunities. The world will punish those who screw up. I was recently at a presentation at a major engineering firm and it was stated that they hire as many graduates as they can, but the new hires have only months to learn the job and prove they can apply this knowledge. Do you think that your friends are going to help you cheat when six figures are involved and competition is fierce? Even at telemarketing jobs I have seen 300 page binders that are expected to be assimilated in two weeks, and then employees given two more weeks to start producing. For $10 an hour.

So no, online courses should not be singled out for cheating. But they are not going to be the means of overall educational savings. As the students who are easy to educate get filtered out to these other learning opportunities, more money per student is going to be needed to educate those who are more resistant. IMHO, this is the key to the whole debate. Online education is going to be a critical part of training kids, but it is no silver bullet.

Too much buisy work... (1)

sinij (911942) | about 2 years ago | (#41011379)

My SO who is an engineer and a research scientist who is currently finishing graduate degree. This is fairly late-in-career move, with SO entering program already with large number of successful projects, dozen published peer-reviewed articles, and established reputation in the field.

Frequent comment I hear is "I wish I didn't have to do all the busy work and could just focus on my research" when I talk about school to my SO.

Perhaps temptation to plagiarize in online courses like Cursera is mainly driven by dislike of busy-work? If you adequately test, why do you also make people jump through the unnecessary steps? It makes very little sense to swamp people with pointless work in such setting.

Re:Too much buisy work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011485)

Perhaps temptation to plagiarize in online courses like Cursera is mainly driven by dislike of busy-work? If you adequately test, why do you also make people jump through the unnecessary steps? It makes very little sense to swamp people with pointless work in such setting.

In this case it is a humanities course. The essay is the test. The entire course (beyond the reading) is "busy work".

Re:Too much busy work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011667)

Apparently, there are some people who think they have time, only to realize that they don't, but they still insist on completing pointless busywork. I guess that would be a category of "dumb completionists"?

Re:Too much buisy work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011603)

It doesn't sound like your SO is going to a very good school then. I can't say that I recall that much busy work in my undergraduate degree, and if your SO's work experience is relevent to the course, then your SO (seriously...why not just attach a pronoun to "SO") should talk to the professor about course credit for what has already been accomplished.

Re:Too much buisy work... (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 2 years ago | (#41012389)

Yeah, I did similar when I returned to studying, and was able to obtain credit by demonstrating sufficient knowledge in areas. They should have their senior officer look in to that.

Re:Too much buisy work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012981)

>>> seriously...why not just attach a pronoun to "SO" What does gender and/or sexual orientation has to do with topic of this discussion?

Re:Too much buisy work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41013559)

Absolutely nothing.

But the lack of a pronoun is surprisingly distracting; my brain keeps re-scanning for the clues it will need to resolve one when encountered. Even though I'm consciously aware that it's being deliberately avoided, so I don't need to care.

Re:Too much buisy work... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41011891)

"If you adequately test, why do you also make people jump through the unnecessary steps?"

Because tests don't test various things that you want students to be able to do. Thinking, for example. Assignments also seem to be quite good at testing integrity....

Re:Too much busy work... (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about 2 years ago | (#41012021)

Frequent comment I hear is "I wish I didn't have to do all the busy work and could just focus on my research" when I talk about school to my SO. .

For the SO in this case, who may well have a comprehensive knowledge of the larger field, the non-research coursework may well be busy-work, but I doubt that this is the case for most students. If graduate students focused solely on their research, this would exacerbate the current problem of researchers not always being aware of relevant established results and current research topics. Journals and conferences exist to spread this knowledge, but to be effective, their participants need to be familiar with of the state of the art in the broader field.

Re:Too much busy work... (1)

sinij (911942) | about 2 years ago | (#41012925)

In order to not only publish anything, but get a study through initial approval stages you have to do comprehensive review of existing work. Pick up any peer-reviewed article and read introduction - normally you have at least 10+ (out of possibly hundreds) relevant articles directly mentioned/credited.

Re:Too much buisy work... (1)

garcia (6573) | about 2 years ago | (#41012509)

Perhaps temptation to plagiarize in online courses like Cursera is mainly driven by dislike of busy-work? If you adequately test, why do you also make people jump through the unnecessary steps? It makes very little sense to swamp people with pointless work in such setting.

That's what grad school is...busy work. Reading unending amounts of bullshit written by professors who have little else to do while on their tenure track. and writing more stuff only because that's what those same professors did themselves during their grad school experience.

However, as a graduate student myself who is three classes from completion of my degree, I really believe there are better things I could be doing than reading 200 pages a week and writing five 25 page papers.

But, at the end of the day, it's a piece of paper which supposedly helps you attain higher rates of pay and better positions--usually at the management level. What's management but a bunch of busy work anyway? PTO forms, reviews, 1:1 notes, meetings with other people who have meetings to create more meetings, etc.

Plagiarism ? Or just non-finite information ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41011545)

I once heard a definition of an idiot: Someone doing the same thing again-and-again, but expecting different results (ref: movie '28 days').

If the same information is tutored again-and-again, year-after-year, how many really unique responses (in the form of assignments) do they expect ?

There is a finite ammount of "acceptable" information available, and people "much more knowledgable than you" have already penned down their thoughts. Even if a student does not agree with any of those thoughts, would it be wise to put that in his assignment ? Would he pass the grade ?

In short: repeating what "the people in the know" say but with a different set of words is the way to go. In a sense its the tutors who are, without so many words, asking their pupils to create plagiarised works.

Re:Plagiarism ? Or just non-finite information ? (4, Informative)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#41011647)

Properly cited information is always allowed. You just have to credit the people who actually wrote it. My graduate level classes always require person experience be drawn in and applied to the topic at hand in the mini essays we write. So even if the first few sentences are drawn from elsewhere, as long as they are cited properly, its allowed and even encouraged. The remaining four paragraphs are supposed to be how that has applied to something you've seen or experienced, or how it could possibly apply to you.

Anonymous (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41011585)

Anonymity makes normal persons jackasses. This looks like another aspect of that syndrome.

Re:Anonymous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012273)

Anonymity makes normal persons jackasses. This looks like another aspect of that syndrome.

Anonymity makes normal person honest. If you think most peoples are jackasses that is your problem. Get past your moralfragotry; honest is better then appearance-saving hypocrisy.

Honesty (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41011685)

Why should any student worry about getting ahead honestly when the most powerful people in the world commit massive amounts of fraud and nobody seems to care? Haven't we sent the message to people that fraud is OK? Why not academic fraud?

Why should I give a shit about adademic dishonesty when fraud is what makes the world go around?

Re:Honesty (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 2 years ago | (#41011935)

Why should I give a shit about adademic dishonesty when fraud is what makes the world go around?

No-one is asking that you give a shit. Go watch a movie or something while we talk this over.

Re:Honesty (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41013065)

I'll rephrase, why should anyone give a shit? Who can look at the world and then tell their students that honesty is the best policy? Arent you doing them a disservice?

If you're an educator, you have to choose between teaching your students that cheating is bad, and teaching them what they need to know to be successful in life. What is an ethical educator supposed to do?

Re:Honesty (1)

cffrost (885375) | about 2 years ago | (#41012979)

Why should any student worry about getting ahead honestly when the most powerful people in the world commit massive amounts of fraud and nobody seems to care? Haven't we sent the message to people that fraud is OK? Why not academic fraud?

This form of fraud involves unauthorized copying. Allowing mere students to engage in this activity unchecked may send the wrong message about what isn't allowed when it comes to those powerful peoples' imaginary property.

Just part of assembly line education (2)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 2 years ago | (#41011709)

So long as you give the same assignment to large groups of students year after year cheating is going to remain since the system is built to encourage it. It is just a natural result of how assignments are given, graded and how much depends on the grades. So long as we stay with this system we will continue to have cheating.

I think we need to move to a more modern system based on our technology and instead of having all students in lock step have each student work one on one with a computer with generated problems. I don't know how that would work for art type stuff but it would work for math,engineering, chemistry and physics type stuff. What I would have is students would learn some material in about a 30 minute chunk and then be given some created questions based on what they have learned. They would go on to the next step of material once they had answered a high enough percentage of questions correctly. If the rate is too low have the computer go back and go over the missed points and try again. Keep doing this basically forever since there is no point in going on until you understand the current material.

Every so often the computer would give you a test. If you do well enough you go on otherwise you go back and work on the material some more. There would be no grades since you can't complete a class without complete understanding so there would be no point. If you can't master the material you are not done with it yet. Everything would proceed at your own speed. In the end this is feasible with our level of technology and would cost a tiny fraction of what our existing education systems cost and should give better results.

There is really no way to avoid cheating so don't worry about it. Since the problems are dynamically created it is hard to do a search for them online. Instead what I would do is employers could have the system give you a test based on the information required for the job and see if you pass. That way the point of enforcement is at the point of usage and the companies would have an interest in proctoring that test to make sure you don't cheat. If you cheated to get there you would never pass. All they would do is check some boxes on the required material and the same system that taught you the material would give questions to answer.

Re:Just part of assembly line education (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41012131)

And you will get mostly people who are very good at passing your computerized tests. People who know lots of facts, but aren't very good at thinking.

One of the best courses I took in grad school was (human) Anatomy and Physiology for Engineers. The first question on the first test was along the lines of "a giraffe has a neck that is 2 m long, but with the same number of cervical vertebrae as a human. Comment on the anatomical and physiological implications." Then you wrote a long form response, actually THINKING. Neck flexibility, blood pressure, artery configuration, how giraffes drink, birth. Computers can't mark something like that, and you can't test those skills with multiple choice.

Re:Just part of assembly line education (1)

Isaac Remuant (1891806) | about 2 years ago | (#41012771)

Someone has to also Think to correct those answers though and if you suddenly have 300000 students you are going to find yourself in need of a lot of staff to do so.

Re:Just part of assembly line education (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41012883)

Yeah, imagine that. Maybe good education isn't as simple as making videos and posting them on the web.

Re:Just part of assembly line education (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 2 years ago | (#41013015)

Very very few people get that. From grade school through undergrad at least most people get a very poor education and multiple choice memorization based exams. We can do better than that with computers and there is no reason not to. If places can survive by doing better than that great for them. I want to improve the education that most people get and we can certainly do that for a tiny fraction of what do spend now on it for better results or at the worse case equally bad results which is still a net win if the cost is lower.

If the results are equally bad at a tiny fraction of the cost at least we can work on making it better with the saved money. Right now I don't see any way to get teachers to actually start teaching so solving it with computers seems far more viable.

Re:Just part of assembly line education (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41013547)

"Very very few people get that"

I've heard in the US that's true. I still find it kind of hard to believe. For what you guys spend you should be able to do a lot better. A lot of the statements like yours seem to come from commentators who haven't set foot in a school in quite a while too, so it's hard to sort out what's true and what's not.

I'm not sure what you expect from "computer generated questions." Most big multiple choice, fill in the blank, numerical answer, etc. exams are generated by computer from question banks already. Is the magic that it's on a computer screen?

Re:Just part of assembly line education (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 2 years ago | (#41012843)

Some of the classes I had in chemistry, chemical engineering and fluid mechanics have used online homework systems that used dynamically created problems that did a very good job at least at the undergraduate level.

However the point is that tests or homework like you describe are incredibly rare. Most tests I have encountered are straight multiple choice exams and that is a lot worse than the dynamically created computer problems. The computer problems I am talking about are NOT multiple choice.

I agree that an in person education can be better than anything a computer can do but the problem is that 99% or so of the time it is worse.

I have liked engineering exams since most of them have been open book, notes, calculators etc. Pretty much everything except an internet connection. What they do is give real problems to solve and you have many of the resources you will have in real life. Usually about 2-4 problems that take about 2 hours to solve. The exams are extremely hard but also teach a lot more. These problems would actually work fine on a computer also but a little more complex to program.

The point is that you can make computer learning systems that do require real thinking and real professors would be paid to keep adding new types of questions to the system. Any computer learning system that is just multiple choice is just as big of a waste of time as the in class ones are and I don't propose doing that.

We can't keep building our society around the idea that people might encounter one or two exceptional teachers in a university. Most will encounter none and even one or two does not help you learn all the other subjects. Many professors seem to actually be hostile to teaching and instead just want to do research. They put in minimal time and run memorization based classes that are easy to test with scantron systems. That is what computer systems need to compete against and do better than.

If there are universities that can still survive by doing better enough than that compared to their costs against a computer system then they should survive. What I want to do is raise the bar a lot from where it is now and that is something we can do and it would help our society by giving people a better education than they get now.

Re:Just part of assembly line education (1)

spidercoz (947220) | about 2 years ago | (#41013031)

Spot on, but you're pretty wordy for a Vorlon. Can't you be more enigmatic?

Why does anyone care (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#41011921)

If there are no credits given for this free course, than why would anyone care if they cheat?

Digital copy not plagarism (or stealing) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41012329)

The mindset these students grew up with is either 1) if they're Asians, in their culture there's nothing wrong with plagiarism (goal was met); or 2) if they're Westerners, they've grown up telling each other it's okay to copy anything because it doesn't take anything from the artist/author/whatever (no harm, no foul).

Did the dolphin plagiarize the shark? (1)

spidercoz (947220) | about 2 years ago | (#41012939)

How many ways are there to answer the same question? Sooner or later a couple of people are going to have the same thought about something, it's not plagiarism, it is nature. There are finite ways of expressing the same concept. That's where I see the big failing of these services like TurnItIn happening; sooner or later their databases will be so huge there's no way to NOT plagiarize something. You can't account for it and you can't prevent it. I think the larger issue is being completely ignored: does the student actually understand what he/she is talking about? Or are they just trying to pass the course with minimal effort?

How about a class on Plagiarism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41013161)

Would there be anything wrong about having a free comprehensive class on Plagiarism and requiring all students to take it?

Save all answers in a single database and word all questions so unique answers are required.

Just throwing it out there.

Hey, the courses are free... (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | about 2 years ago | (#41013181)

That's why people take them. If they could afford to pay, then they could afford keyboards that didn't have the ( " ) key missing and you'd know they weren't plagiarizing, they were just quoting.

At length.
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