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A number of groups sprung up on Facebook in support of Chris Avenir, unsurprisingly.  (Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech)
School decides not to take away student's freedom to obtain a college education

Early this month news broke of a wild expulsion hearing at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.  While students normally are expelled for indiscreetly copying their friends solutions during an exam, plagiarizing others work, or other such gaffs the Ryerson student, Chris Avenir a first year chemical engineering student, was just trying to engage in what he thought was a beneficial and harmless student practice -- creating a study group.

Avenir created a group on Facebook known as "Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions," named after the study room nicknamed "The Dungeon."  The group allowed students to share advice on homework questions, exchange questions from past tests, and speculate on what might be asked on upcoming tests.  At its maximum, the group helped 147 students.

Soon, however, Avenir's chemistry professor caught onto Avenir's efforts to help his fellow students and they weren't happy.  They not only changed Avenir's grade from a B to an F, but also recommended him for expulsion, putting him up on 147 counts of academic misconduct.

Fortunately, justice prevailed and Ryerson's academic conduct committee ruled last Tuesday not to expel Avenir.  They informed the 18-year-old that while he would not be expelled, he would receive a zero failing grade on the assignment portion of the class, as per the professor's discretion.  The assignment portion was worth ten percent of the total grade, but Avenir still passed the class easily.

Avenir could not be reached for comment, but may decide to appeal the decision as per the school's rules if he feels the failing assignment grade was unfair.  Overnight, Avenir became a celebrity and a poster child for the debate over the legitimacy of online study groups.  Advocates say there is no difference between online groups and school-sponsored tutoring programs, which often have old copies of tests, and will assist students in solving homework problems.  Critics state that helping students access materials not given by the professor or solve problems is cheating, plain and simple.

Avenir's advocates still aren't satisfied with the ruling, but appreciate that it marks a victory for their views.  Says Nora Loreto, president of the Ryerson Students' Union, "Chris in our view is still innocent, so it is still too bad that he got zero for that 10 percent.  But considering we were facing expulsion I think this is a victory, certainly a broader victory for the students at Ryerson."

As per the ruling part of Avenir's punishment includes mandatory attendance in a academic misconduct workshop.

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RE: Cheating?
By mindless1 on 3/23/2008 12:20:57 PM , Rating: -1
It's about self-sufficiency. If one can't even handle the college course without group help how would they handle actually doing the job they'd get from this degree?

Knowledge by itself is overrated, even a parrot can memorize random things. A degree should signify ability, in that one doesn't stop progressing after college either - IF they can do it without needing group help.

If grades can't distinguish between those who can and those who can't, are they still a fair rating system? I think not.

RE: Cheating?
By drinkmorejava on 3/23/2008 1:09:01 PM , Rating: 5
That's absolutely rediculous. It's nearly impossible to do well in my engineering courses without working in study groups. So far I have yet to meet a prof who didn't advocate forming one. Your logic would make sense for exams when students' real abilities are tested, but when you're learning something you've never seen before through homework, it's unacceptable to think you can do it all on your own hunched over in a corner. In fact, I would say that by shunning group you're going to do just as poorly in the real world because you won't seek support when you're unsure of something. Not to mention, 99% of the time, an engineer will be on a team working together to solve a problem specifically because it is a better design process.

RE: Cheating?
By ImSpartacus on 3/23/2008 3:25:22 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. If a teacher wanted to test someone on their individual abilities, they would test them in a closed environment, not give work to be done outside of class to possibly be helped by nearly anyone.

RE: Cheating?
By eye smite on 3/23/2008 6:39:38 PM , Rating: 5
I don't imagine this was the first time this has been done at any University. In fact I know it isn't. So in reality what we're dealing with is the petty, narrow minded ego of the professor because they didn't get his if they needed it. Teachers and professors in my experience are small minded people with little knowledge of how the real world works. Can anyone here tell me in any job you've worked where team work was not important? Yet it would seem teamwork in college is cheating. Yep, I stick by the narrow minded professors statement.

RE: Cheating?
By bety on 3/24/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cheating?
By Murst on 3/24/2008 10:25:56 AM , Rating: 1
Teachers and professors in my experience are small minded people with little knowledge of how the real world works

I'd say you're probably in a really bad high school. I can't imagine a university that would hire teachers with "little knowledge" of the jobs they're preparing you for.

The university I went to isn't really cosidered among the top in the program I graduated in (CS), but the teachers most certainly did have a very good understanding of how the jobs work. This was even more apparent in classes outside of my major.

RE: Cheating?
By blaster5k on 3/24/2008 10:40:16 AM , Rating: 2
I saw a mix in my college days. Some have actually worked for companies before and understand how things work in the real world. Others have been relegated to academia most of their lives and focus more on abstract concepts and researching things they think are "cool". I found the former were a heck of a lot more useful in preparing me for my career.

RE: Cheating?
By eye smite on 3/24/2008 10:50:59 AM , Rating: 4
Here's a quote from a post further down the thread.....

At my university in Australia (UOW), Team Work is drummed into us! and almost all my subjects require teams to form in some way.

Recently I created a study group for a statistics class and when my professor found out she actually welcomed it and asked if someone she knew was struggling could join in.

and with that post, I rest my case....

RE: Cheating?
By teldar on 3/24/2008 11:00:45 AM , Rating: 1
I'd say you're probably in a really bad high school. I can't imagine a university that would hire teachers with "little knowledge" of the jobs they're preparing you for.


I think you should come out of your hole and see the way things are. I've gone from an engineering program in a top engineering University in the U.S. to nursing at a community college, nursing at a private school, and now am in a Nurse Anesthetist program at one of the top schools in the country.

I have had HORRIBLE teachers everywhere I have been. I don't know that the engineering professors were bad at Michigan, but many of the science professors didn't have any idea how the world worked outside of academia.

Then, if you want to talk about teachers who have not seen the workplace in a few years, find an OLD nursing instructor. Someone who's been in teaching for 20-30 years in the classroom portion of the course. They don't have a clue.

And the regular college of nursing courses in an anesthesia program? All I can say is that some of them probably think we should stand around thinking about nursing theory instead of taking care of the patients.

Maybe YOUR courses were different, but I can tell you there are too many people who have been in academia for too long and don't seem to understand who the world really is.

RE: Cheating?
By rudy on 3/23/2008 6:46:49 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, homework is for practice there is no way to forbid work groups and I doubt it was against the policy. I am sure not all the details were released or perhaps there is just to much bias on the part of DT. Most likely the group included old tests, it may have also had people just doing problems for other students. If the prof was mad it was because something was wrong I can't imagine it was just a harmless study group. Another thing that can happen for which the prof is more at fault is that the test questions may be heavily recycled from year to year so much so that having old tests can allow you to achieve a 4.0 without knowing the material very well. It is also very likely the problems were the same on everyones homework meaning once it was solved and posted once everyone else in the class was just coping.

Much like the RIAA some teachers can't seem to come to grips with technology. But the mistake is thinking that the same exact things were not being done before, you just could not prove it.

RE: Cheating?
By mindless1 on 3/23/2008 8:11:18 PM , Rating: 2
In fact, you are tested in a "closed environment" and the teacher does expect you to do your own work. There are reasonable limits to enforcing this of course, they're not going to put a camera or ankle bracelet on you but expect you to adhere to the honor system.

RE: Cheating?
By copiedright on 3/23/2008 11:36:04 PM , Rating: 4
At my university in Australia (UOW), Team Work is drummed into us! and almost all my subjects require teams to form in some way.

Recently I created a study group for a statistics class and when my professor found out she actually welcomed it and asked if someone she knew was struggling could join in.

At university, students need to be able to learn independently, it is each students responsibility to learn. However if a student finds that they learn better when involved with other students instead of say simply reading a text book, then other students are a valuable learning tool.

With this story I think something is a miss here. I don't think we are getting the full story, but based on what we are told here, the student has done nothing wrong. And in fact should be thanked by his lecturer.

RE: Cheating?
By RussianSensation on 3/24/2008 2:19:36 AM , Rating: 2
It's very difficult in the real world to prevent someone from doing their homework as a group and getting help from external sources. However, you realize that almost every test and every exam you write in high school/university is written by 1 person, not as a group. Therefore, teachers DO want to test someone's individual ability. They also incorporate "group work" by assigning group assignments (which mostly get done by people assigning someone do part 1 of the assignment, someone else do part 2, etc. in the end those parts are put together). Of course that's not real group work. That's simply individuals "stitching" together each other's parts to make it a 1-piece item.

Now, my particular university allowed us to look/buy old exam papers and tests to practive those types of questions. But if Ryerson's policy is that you are not allowed to use old exams (regardless of how one obtained them), then it is cheating. Of course when you start sharing those tests publicly, some people might find out, while if you do in a private group setting, its harder to get caught. So I suppose, if their policy is such then the kid was pretty brave and also stupid for openly (publicly) using such information.

RE: Cheating?
By mindless1 on 3/23/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cheating?
By kyp275 on 3/23/2008 11:06:31 PM , Rating: 1
I'm sorry, but that just sounds retarded. Or maybe you just have no clue how some of these classes are taught, or rather, not-taught. Some classes these days involves almost zero lecture or guidance, where the professor just tosses you the textbook and hand out homeworks and leave you to it to figure it all out.

The point of education is to LEARN, not LEARN BY YOURSELF ONLY. It's not a race to see who can get it right by themselves first. The goal is that at the end of the day you will have acquired the knowledge that you're supposed to from the course. By your logic we should just disband all educational institutions and stuff everyone with books and lock them up in isolation 'til they "get it right".

Learning how to work with others is just as important, if not more so, than the knowledge you're trying to learn. You're implying that everyone who's not a bookworm nerd is cheating through life :rolleyes: BTW, grades means jack**** out in the real life, it's how you actually perform on your job.

Being self-sufficient doesn't mean you have to know everything and be capable of doing everything on your own, it means that you know your own strength and weakness and know how to seek aid when necessary in order to complete your objective. Your employer doesn't care how you studied in school, they care about how you will perform in your job.

oh btw,
it's you versus the next guy, if you can't get it right when the next guy can, guess what? You should FAIL. That's the whole point, you aren't as good and shouldn't receive a degree that implies you are.

that's called a "Test", genius

RE: Cheating?
By Durrr on 3/24/2008 7:51:59 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, you must have no friends. Do you talk to yourself because talking with others in a group is a bad thing?

I was more than competent enough to make it through my nuclear engineering courses, however, there are always concepts, theories or applications that people don't get. I found myself explaining course material in other terms to other students quite regularly. That does not mean that they're inept, it means they needed a little help.

RE: Cheating?
By aeroxander on 3/24/2008 9:17:44 AM , Rating: 2
That is the most inept thing that I've ever heard. I did my B.Eng in Aero at Ryerson and have to say that help provided to me in the first years at Ryerson from my fellow students went a great deal to helping me to achieve my degree. Once I got to 3rd and 4th year I was doing just fine and contributing to the learning process with my fellow students. I went on to complete my Masters at Ryerson.

Not everyone gets it the first time, that does not mean that they're not capable.

RE: Cheating?
By RussianSensation on 3/24/2008 1:12:00 AM , Rating: 2
Although group work does help in some instances, generally speaking there is always a stronger player in a group who needs other people on his level or above from whom he can learn even more advanced topics/methods and material. More likely than not, strong individual players on any team first and foremost excel on their own account without anyone's help. Sure in the real world at most firms people work in teams, but that doesn't necessarily mean those teams are effective.

This isn't sports where you don't necessarily need the best players to have a great team. If you can't be successeful on your own and think you need a team to achieve your goals, then I would wager the team is doing most of the "hard" work for you anyway. And also your views are completely naive as in the real world (i.e. business) there are no teams so to speak. If you want to be successful you prove it on your own account (i.e. to stand out on a team you go above and beyond your responsibility which is still representative of acting individually).

RE: Cheating?
By Anh Huynh on 3/23/2008 1:11:49 PM , Rating: 5
To survive in the real work world, you have to be able to work on a team or in groups. I fail to see how not being able to accomplish something without the use of study groups will result in failure in the real world, because you never work alone.

RE: Cheating?
By mindless1 on 3/23/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cheating?
By charliee on 3/23/2008 1:30:09 PM , Rating: 2
1 John 3:17
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

RE: Cheating?
By jackedupandgoodtogo on 3/23/2008 2:14:38 PM , Rating: 2
Grades or degrees should never be an indication of intellect. If you judge a person's intellect based only on that, you'll be sorely disappointed.

The ability to adapt, the ability to communicate, the ability to learn from others, these are all part of educating oneself. Textbook knowledge is exactly what you're talking about which is based on self-sufficiency.

Group-learning skills isn't about helping each other gain a common grade. It's about learning each other's points of views and deriving a better solution, which in turn creates knowledge.

Don't put so much weight on grades. It's just a letter to put on someone's records. It doesn't mean squat when dealing with other people.

Besides, isn't the fact that you've got a teacher and classroom already considered a "group" learning experience? Just because learning goes on outside of the teacher's view doesn't make it wrong or "cheating". Cheating isn't getting the answers from studying in a group. Cheating is getting the answers without understanding how one got to the answers.

RE: Cheating?
By odessit740 on 3/23/2008 3:24:14 PM , Rating: 2
Grades or degrees may not be the indicator of intellect, but they sure as hell are an indicator of achievement. A letter grade is as important as natural talent. It shows how far one goes to succeed. If someone has straight A's, it may not mean that they are Einstein, but they have a record to prove that they worked to get the grade, unlike the smart kid who got a 2.79 GPA on his high school transcript and a 1400 on his math/verbal SAT scores.

I don't care how naturally smart or intelligent one is, if they are lazy, they are worthless. I'd rather have someone who is hard working but less smart, than one who is a total genius but does apply his talents, working for me.

Don't kid yourself, grades are important.

Cheating is using an unfair advantage to get a grade, it has nothing to do with not knowing how one got the answers.

RE: Cheating?
By andrep74 on 3/23/2008 6:09:37 PM , Rating: 2
Don't kid yourself by thinking there's necessarily a correlation between good grades and hard work. There are many ways to be in a situation that requires less work to achieve a good grade, including study groups that allow lazy or "dumber" people to have concepts discovered and/or explained to them by others.

It's all about motivations, really. One could argue that "dumb" people with good grades aren't motivated to discover new, novel concepts as Einstein was, or that lazy geniuses aren't motivated to learn irrelevant concepts. Some college students are motivated by their parents, even as young adults. Each of these motivations could be a negative. Yet, all of these same people could be self-motivated if given the right stimulus.

And any of these people could be tempted by an easy out like an online study group that discusses problems the professor meant for individual discovery. I think that instructors at colleges should embrace learning via the Internet, and expect it, and should provide guidance rather than criticism. Had there been a sanctioned online study group, or clear-cut rules against non-sanctioned groups, then this dilemma would never have ocurred.

RE: Cheating?
By mindless1 on 3/23/2008 8:07:02 PM , Rating: 2
Not intellect or achievement, rather a rating of competency. People who can't handle the material as well as others should receive a lower grade that reflects this. Otherwise we'd have only a Pass/Fail system.

RE: Cheating?
By drebo on 3/24/2008 12:25:18 AM , Rating: 2
That is completely not true.

One who has no concept of the course material can get an A through being a work horse, just the same as a genius in the field can fail because he doesn't do his homework.

Grades are a false indicator. They mean nothing about the person, just the same as a college degree or certification: they mean that you can read a book and memorize answers, not that you understand the material.

RE: Cheating?
By bety on 3/24/2008 1:06:45 AM , Rating: 2
No. If one is able to do the test problems then "competancy' has been achieved. If the test problems do not reflect understanding then that is a failure of the test.

You are correct in that a person may memorize answers....that is part of the issue/problem with this study group. Some students can use it to simply memorize answers that have been solved by others.

RE: Cheating?
By blaster5k on 3/24/2008 10:56:31 AM , Rating: 3
... and if the test problems are different, those memorized answers are no good, so they're better off learning how to actually solve the problems.

If they're not different, there's the problem right there. That's the teacher's fault.

Whenever a homework assignment is given, a teacher should expect that there will be collaboration. Homework is usually only there as a learning tool that forces you to do some problems. It usually counts for a small percentage of the course grade -- just enough so you won't blow it off completely.

The tests are the real gauge of whether you know your stuff. If you don't test well, you probably don't know the material as well as you think you do -- or are the recipient of some poorly designed tests.

RE: Cheating?
By bety on 3/25/2008 7:03:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I agree with what you've said except that when an assignment is given, IF the prof does not condone collaboration, then you are cheating if you work together. And it does disadvantage the student who tackles it on his own. Now, I realize that the prof should expect some students will do this anyways regardless of whether it is permitted or not, HOWEVER, if you do it and then FLAUNT it, you must accept the penalty should you get caught....

Personally I hate the trend of assignments being more heavily weighted...simply to take pressure off those who "can't" do tests. I think assignments should be optional and tests worth everything....and those questions should test understanding. You should be able to get a marginal pass by just memorizing, but you shouldn't be able to get a B without understanding. A's should be rare. Instead we have a system where the grades are de-valued.

RE: Cheating?
By jackedupandgoodtogo on 3/24/2008 2:15:28 AM , Rating: 2
Grades have their purpose: to indicate your position between Pass and Fail for you alone. But you're suggesting we should use that to compare one person against others, which is wrong.

Don't judge a person's competency (which is also an indicator of intellect or achievement) based on a grade because it's too easy to fool people with a grade. How smart are you if you got an A and the teacher is a fool, and gave elementary tests? There's no context attached to a grade, therefore it reflects only one measurement. It doesn't demonstrate any real intellectual capability because if a genius and a hard worker can both get an A, you couldn't tell who the genius was and who the hard worker (or a cheater) was.

I've met and know many people who excelled in their coursework, only to fail in their jobs because they only know how to memorize and recall, but not innovate or extrapolate what they're learned outside of the box. Those who think out-of-the-box typically don't care about a grade. It's the over-achievers who are hung-up on their grades, trying to impress others with a visual record of their intellect, rather than present some demonstrable act of intelligence. It sickens me when people flash their credentials and yet have no real understanding of what they profess as their competency, simply because they can't think beyond their textbook intellect.

RE: Cheating?
By jackedupandgoodtogo on 3/24/2008 1:41:18 AM , Rating: 2
What you're asking for is achievement, not the grade. You state you'd rather have the one who works hard but less smart. Well, working hard doesn't always translate into a good grade, but it can reflect achievement (ie. gets a B instead of a C). A total genius only need apply his genius to get that A, but if they do, doesn't it reflect a lack of achievement because it required little effort on their part even though they got an A?

Grades only reflect a momentary achievement (anyone can cram the night before). True achievement is what you do with your intellect, and that applies to genius and idiots like me.

Cheating by definition is to gain an unfair advantage. Obtaining the answers without knowledge of how to derive it is an unfair advantage. Therefore by transitive equality, it is cheating. Stated in context of my previous statement, studying in a group is by itself NOT cheating. But studying in a group, getting the answers, but don't know how to derive the answers on your own, that's cheating.

RE: Cheating?
By ImSpartacus on 3/23/2008 3:31:53 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. There's not too many jobs that someone can be totally prepared for coming out of college. College builds the foundation knowledge and increases work ethic, but actual on the job learning is what will prepare you.

RE: Cheating?
By Nik00117 on 3/23/2008 3:49:51 PM , Rating: 2
At my job if you thought you could do the work by yourself we'd all laugh our assess off at you.

We have to count, balance, over 20 registers in a night, this includes everyform of payment ranging from credit/debit, in store credit, gift cards, mercadise cards, cash, and checks. We also have to balance western union transcations along with money orders.

After doing this for 20 registers we then have to count the safe, and double check it, then prepare the depoist for the bank.

This is just closing, during the day shift we account for the different sub companies which work for us, as well as cashing checks, exchanging euros, sending western unions, and selling coupons.

For a entire day, we need anywhere from 6-9 individuals. Its a fact of life.

Two united is stronger then 3 divided.

RE: Cheating?
By mindless1 on 3/23/2008 8:04:43 PM , Rating: 2
BUT, what any one person is doing they have to be able to do without constantly dragging someone else over to babysit, after the initial training period.

I never suggested people should isolate themselves at a job or even life in general. The point is that everyone is not supposed to receive the same good grade when all are not as competent.

RE: Cheating?
By FITCamaro on 3/24/2008 9:53:31 AM , Rating: 2
Nor do they unless they actually cheat on the test. This was to provide homework help. While yes probably some just copied answers, that would be reflected on the test.

In several of my classes, I used my girlfriends notes to study from since she'd already taken the class and had very good notes. Should I have just ignored that fact and not used them as a resource?

RE: Cheating?
By CollegeTechGuy on 3/23/2008 8:16:32 PM , Rating: 1
I don't know what world you live in, but in every industry I can't think of any job where someone works completely alone. Just about every job offer out there says the person has to be good at working in teams or groups. Group studying is exactly what the real world is like, you can ask coworkers for helps. These study sessions are just helping students learn to work well with others.

RE: Cheating?
By winterspan on 3/23/2008 8:46:58 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it has nothing to do with self-sufficiency. That is an idiotic argument. Many people choose to learn and study in groups, and I would absolutely recommend it for many reasons, not least because it saves precious time for profs and their grad student aides when knowledgeable students can assist their peers.

I myself have learned most of what I know through self-teaching and lone study, but I can appreciate that different individuals require different methods of study and interaction for learning. I applaud ANYTHING that focuses first and foremost on students actually learning material in a pragmatic manner and not on rote memorization and "getting the grade" as long as it is legal and ethical.

Thank god common sense prevailed here!

RE: Cheating?
By iFX on 3/24/2008 8:15:14 AM , Rating: 1
A lot of classes require you join a study group. It's part of the grade...

RE: Cheating?
By FITCamaro on 3/24/2008 9:50:42 AM , Rating: 1
You sir are an idiot. To say that if a person can't pass the class on their own, they should fail? What tree did you fall out of?

We had study groups all the time in college. Most of my professors sanctioned them and even attended them. Are we all idiots because we wanted to put our heads together and all benefit from each others knowledge?

Besides its not like in the work place you sit alone at a desk and never get anyone else's help. You work together with a team to accomplish goals.

Your handle on this forum is correct. You are mindless.

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