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via: NYTimes.com “Harvard Students in Cheating Scandal Say Collaboration Was Accepted”
Harvard students suspected in a major cheating scandal said on Friday that many of the accusations are based on innocent — or at least tolerated — collaboration among students, and with help from graduate-student teachers who sometimes gave them answers to test questions.
An assessment is well designed, in part, to the extent that it is impossible to cheat. A book report on “Moby Dick” is a poorly designed assessment – a set of questions designed to elicit personal responses to “Moby Dick” would be a better design. It’s harder to plagiarize personal responses (although, not impossible). The SAT is well-designed because, for all its standardization, test questions are kept secret in advance and statistical analysis can catch cheaters within a testing site. It’s tough to cheat on the SAT.
Students at Harvard claim that their take-home test was labeled “open book, open Internet, etc.” They are confused why they are suddenly being threatened with punishment for collaboration.
There are two sides to this. First, students know that on a take-home exam, they are expected to produce their own work and not collaborate. This is a reasonable expectation. The questions, students claim, were so confusing that groups of them had to seek help from teaching assistants, who gave them helpful explanations. The students dutifully reproduced that knowledge on their exam papers – all in a similar manner. Some outright cheated. Some “shared notes”, which would produce similar answers, they claim.
The decision-makers at Harvard ought to recognize that while the students were at fault, the professor failed his responsibility to provide them with a well-designed take home exam. It was too easy to cheat. In fact, it was so easy to cheat, some students are claiming that they are implicated in this cheating scandal not having cheated at all. They all deserve a pass on this one.