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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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Expel 'em
By mindless1 on 3/8/2008 9:30:23 PM , Rating: 2
If you can't get the grade without special help - on your own, you should not have it. This only causes those who weren't apt at the material to gain credit or grade status they don't deserve for things they can't do by themselves.

It's not a group grade, it's an individual assessment of how one person does when given equal access and information compared to another. It is cheating to try and find an advantage over others as they did. Not so much cheating in the more traditional sense but in the spirit of what grades signify it is still cheating.




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