Friday, May 11, 2007

Cheating and collaborating

OpinionJournal has a story today that takes a recent case of collusion on a Duke University Business School exam and turns it into an indictment of "postmodern learning, wiki style." The incident is clearly cheating, and by presenting it and "wiki style" learning as exclusive alternatives, author Charlotte Allen gives us a classic false choice. She concludes:

One way to instill an internalized standard of honesty is to put in place external standards that discourage dishonesty. Many professors and administrators are quietly doing exactly that: abandoning take-home tests and their temptations and devising cheat-proof exams (multiple versions of the same midterm, for example) or requiring students to submit their term papers through, a Web-based plagiarism screener. Stanford (its design school notwithstanding) has an honor code dating to 1921, but many professors nonetheless ask students to stash their electronic devices in their backpacks during tests. The Stanford Law School shuts off wireless Internet access at exam time.

I would suggest that constant connectivity changes the sorts of organizational behaviors and resources on which students can expect to draw once they move into the workforce. Perhaps the professors in question should diversify the ways in which they certify knowledge in order to encourage, monitor, and scaffold the skill sets needed in an always-connected workplace. That doesn't mean eliminating exams, but it does mean lessening their importance in favor of exercises that teach these other increasingly vital and valuable skills.

OpinionJournal - Taste

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