Print 52 comment(s) - last by HrilL.. on Mar 12 at 8:45 AM

Ryerson University cracks down on students studying online

Chris Avenir, a first-year chemical engineering student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, is facing academic expulsion after being called out as the administrator for a Facebook-based Chemistry study group. Titled “Dunegons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions,” after a campus engineering study room dubbed “The Dungeon,” Avernir’s group had 146 other students who used it to swap tips on homework and test questions in the school’s chemistry program.

The study group was discovered by school administrators over the winter break, resulting in a professor changing his class grade from a B to an F. He was also charged with 147 counts of academic misconduct and recommended for expulsion: one count for running the group, and a 146 more for each student involved.

“What we did wasn’t any different than tutoring, than tri-mentoring, than having a library study group,” said Avenir in an interview with the Ryerson campus newspaper, The Eyeopener. “I’m being charged with something I didn’t commit.”

Students expressed outrage at the university’s decisions, accusing administrators of overstepping their bounds. “The university is interfering in students’ personal lives,” said third-year student and student government member Salman Omer. “This is an infringement of our rights.”

University administrators defended their decision to recommend Avenir for expulsion, emphasizing the need for a “tough approach to online cheating.” James Norrie, Director of the school’s Information Technology program, feels students are trying to paint the issue as a generational one when it’s not.

“We are not a bunch of old farts who are afraid of technology,” said Norrie. “The issue is that it doesn’t matter where [cheating] happens, we will pursue it … the code is clear that someone who enables others to cheat will receive a severe penalty.”

Ryerson’s policy on academic integrity – currently in the process of being updated – defines cheating as “any deliberate activity to gain academic advantage, including actions that have a negative effect on the integrity of the learning environment.”

Avenir denies accusations of cheating, noting that the group did not contain complete or satisfactory solutions to homework and test questions, only the same things “we would say to each other if we were sitting in the Dungeon.”

“If this kind of help is cheating, then so is tutoring and all the mentoring programs the university runs and the discussions we do in tutorials.”

Chatter on Avenir’s group included things like, “Remember what to do when you have positive cations (a type of positively charged ion)?” says student advocate Kim Neale, who will represent Avenir at his upcoming expulsion hearings.

“All these students are scared s***less now about using Facebook to talk about schoolwork, when actually it's no different than any study group working together on homework in a library,” said Neale. “It's creating this culture of fear, where if I post a question about physics homework on my friend's [profile] and ask if anyone has any ideas how to approach this – and my [professor] sees this, am I cheating?”

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RE: Cheating
By borowki on 3/7/2008 8:13:12 PM , Rating: 2
Whether it's similar to a study group is irrelevant. If you ask someone, in effect, to do your homework for you, that's cheating. Just because it's impossible to police private meetings doesn't mean the impunity should be extended to a medium that resembles them.

RE: Cheating
By Canizorro on 3/7/2008 9:35:06 PM , Rating: 2
The relevancy is there. In study groups, you are not asking someone else to do your homework for you. Your asking for help in solving the problem. If a study group was "policed" and the same information given is fine in those settings, then it should be fine on this medium.

RE: Cheating
By borowki on 3/8/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cheating
By Synastar on 3/8/2008 10:11:03 AM , Rating: 3
That really depends on your definition of "help". Homework is a tool to help you learn. If you don't understand the material and one of your peers can help you understand the material, there is nothing wrong with that. If by "help", you mean being given the answer outright, yes, that's cheating.

The bottom line is that none of us actually know what was being shared on Facebook beyond the vague description we were given. Thus, everything we're discussing is mere speculation.

RE: Cheating
By borowki on 3/9/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cheating
By HrilL on 3/9/2008 7:15:50 PM , Rating: 4
You are so wrong. Take math for example. At my college they have the place called the math lab where the school is paying for free tutors to help you learn how to do you homework. Yes sometimes you do more then just your homework but mostly everyone just gets help to do just there homework. You don't know what your talking about so just stop already.

RE: Cheating
By borowki on 3/10/2008 8:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
I worked as a tutor in physics when I was in college--at UC Berkeley, no less--so let me assure you, I know what I'm talking about. A tutor's job is to help students understand concepts. Direct assistance on homework assignments crosses the line. That's why you need training to be a tutor. The temptation is to just do the work for the person you're trying to help. When it comes to problem sets in the hard sciences, the approach to the problem, the insights required to solve it, is precisely what the instructors look for--anyone can do the math. If you ask others for the approach to the problem, you're asking for the answer, and therefore, cheating.

Of course, I can't say I have any experiene with 3rd or 4th tier schools. There, they probably just want to pump out as many graduates as they can. At a top tier school, academic standard matters. Gateway courses like first-year chemistry typically have fail quota. It's absolutely vital that those seeking an unfair advantage are punished, since it comes at the expense of someone else.

RE: Cheating
By HrilL on 3/12/2008 8:45:28 AM , Rating: 2
Well just to let you know my city college is ranked in the top 10 in the US so I wouldn't be calling it a 3rd or 4th tier school...

RE: Cheating
By teohhanhui on 3/10/2008 1:23:50 PM , Rating: 1
Getting help on homework is nothing wrong.

Homework is used to assess a student's academic potential. Any form of assistance enabling one to obtain a grade higher than that which he'd otherwise receive given his capability is cheating. It's that simple.

Leave that to tests and examinations. Homework is for practice.

Student achievement rises significantly when teachers regularly assign homework and students conscientiously do it, and the academic benefits increase as children move into the upper grades. Homework can help children develop good habits and attitudes. It can teach children self-discipline and responsibility. More importantly, it can encourage a love of learning.

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