As for your last comment, I know that all too well. Stories like that are disturbing but not surprising and makes me wonder how many students in online courses cheat on their coursework, especially since such dishonesty is harder to catch with students living all over the country (in the story you gave, all the students lived on or near the same campus and all went to the same place not far from campus) and with all assignments, including exams, being unproctored.
If some of my students are guilty of that, they sure did a good job of hiding it by having someone do all the work for them, including discussions, so that their grades were either consistently high across the board or had that other person work at least the homework and discussions for them so that their quiz grades, even if low, will not give me a good enough reason to investigate the matter. I know I would be somewhat suspicious if a student were doing well on homework, well on quizzes and exams, and writing unintelligent discussion posts similar to the ones that the most struggling students write. If the student were doing well on homework, poorly on quizzes and exams, and writing intelligent discussion posts, then the disreprecancy between homework and quiz or exam scores might be because the student is not a good test taker or has a lot of trouble working questions correctly the first time through and checking that his or her answers are correct before entering the answers into MML or Florida Tech's exam system rather than someone doing the homework for the student. If the student were doing well on homework, poorly on quizzes and exams, and writing unintelligent discussion posts, then the student is probably getting someone else to do at least some of the student's homework.
For clarity, I will mention that these comments applying in cases of unintelligent discussion posts apply even more so when the discussion posts contain many of the kinds of errors that make me wonder how that kind of student could possibly be doing well on the homework without that kind of unauthorized assistance.
This gets tricky when their discussion posts do not contain any actual mathematics, the kinds of posts written by those who try to find some way to talk about mathematics without doing any or at least without showing any details of how we do mathematics (say, for example, results of computations without explaining how to do the computations, where the numbers come from, and why we are doing the computations). Are they trying to cover up their ignorance or simply trying to find shortcuts in their work?
I will close for now by saying that it is probably not surprising that this student got caught offering these "services," especially if he had been doing this for quite some time--which seems to be the case. No doubt that doing something like this near campus in the same place will eventually arouse the attention of honest students who cannot stand for such dishonesty and feel they need to do something to stop it. That might not be the reason this student got caught (your post says nothing about how he got caught) but will probably have caught this student later if whatever opportunity did lead to his capture had not arisen or had been ignored out of foolishness by the one who was supposed to have suspected something.
On 11/29/2010 at 10:07 am, Wayne Mackey wrote:
> Jonathan, > > We had a nice little scandal at UofA. A student set > up shop in a > popular beer joint with only his laptop. Students > taking freshman > math courses would come to his table, pay him, and he > would do their > homework and take their quizzes for them. Since the > questions are > trivial, he made good grades for them. Very neat > little business. He > was eventually caught and fined and when the story > was reported in the > newspaper, the university lowered the percentage of > the grade that > came from homework but it still was part of their > grade. Getting > caught was unusual, perhaps unique, but the notion of > having the > teacher or a tutor or someone else helping you get > the homework done > is pervasive. I gave a talk about the relationship > between grades and > assessment of student learning as specified in Beyond > Crossroads in > Minneapolis in which I told a bunch of anecdotes like > that one. As > done now grades are essentially meaningless as > assessments of student > learning. > > wayne > > Quoting Jonathan Groves <JGroves@Kaplan.edu>: > > > Wayne, > > > > At the Kaplan Math Center, our policy is that we > work a different > > problem for students than the problem they provide > unless we know > > for sure that the problem is not one on a graded > assignment. > > Since the tutors there have had some experience > teaching at Kaplan, > > they have a good idea of which problems are graded > and which ones > > are not. If we have doubts about a problem a > student asks, > > then we take the safe route and assume the problem > is one that > > appears on a graded assignment. > > > > As for myself with my own courses, I have no way of > enforcing > > such policies with tutors the students consult, > especially > > when I don't know those tutors or how to contact > them. > > I seriously doubt that more than a few students--if > any-- > > will admit that a tutor had shown them how to work > Problem X > > as given in exactly the same form given on > Assignment Y. > > > > The courses I teach nowadays use MML and other > computer work > > as the bulk of their course grade, so it is very > difficult to > > tell that a tutor is working problems for a student > unless > > their course grade is low or if they are getting > high grades > > on assignments but making the kinds of errors in > > discussion assignments that would cause me to > question the > > validity of their A's and B's on other assignments > and > > exams. Even the latter case is not hard evidence, > and > > I have not seen it much myself. The students who > write > > poor discussion assignments almost always make poor > grades > > on their other assignments. Furthermore, for these > courses > > I teach, I must use the assignments they provide > for the > > course. Any other so-called "assignments" I > provide must > > be for practice only and not for a grade. > > > > High homework grades and low quiz or exam grades > from > > students do cause a tricky problem for any one > particular > > student (and I have seen this a lot myself): Is > this > > problem caused by the student getting a tutor or > someone > > else to do their homework for them, or it is caused > by > > the student not knowing how to work the problems > correctly > > the first time around? What makes this especially > tricky > > is that the quizzes or exams they take are > completely > > computerized so that they need not show work on > them. > > The MML homework gives them as many chances and as > much > > time as they want to get the questions correct, so > this > > latter possibility is plausible. > > > > Luckily the homework grade in the Florida Tech > courses > > does not count for a large part of their final > grade, > > so any such violations they could be making are not > > helping students much unless they are also getting > the > > same kind of assistance with exams. But the > homework > > grade in Kaplan courses and Argosy courses are > significant > > parts of their final course grade, so this kind of > > violation can greatly inflate their final course > grades. > > At least Argosy gives weekly quizzes to help combat > > that some, but I don't think it is enough. > > > > > > > > > > Jonathan Groves > > > > > > > > > > > > On 11/28/2010 at 11:28 am, Wayne Mackey wrote: > > > >> Jonathan, > >> > >> Probably the only way to avoid having tutors work > the > >> particular > >> problem is to make it a rule that if you help a > >> student on a > >> particular problem, you must provide an equivalent > >> but different > >> problem for the student to work on alone. > Students > >> must be given an > >> opportunity to learn how to solve all equivalent > >> problems, not just > >> the few assigned. > >> > >> wayne > >> > >> Quoting Jonathan Groves <JGroves@Kaplan.edu>: > >> > >> > Alain and others, > >> > > >> > There's the rub: If we insist on just those > online > >> math tutoring sites or > >> > any other math tutoring services that avoid > >> traditional ways of teaching > >> > math, that avoid show and tell, that avoid > simply > >> telling students what > >> > to do to solve a particular problem, then we > will > >> find very few options-- > >> > if we can even find anything. > >> > > >> > SmarThinking seems to be the best option I have > >> seen so far that avoids > >> > this approach to tutoring mathematics. I have > an > >> account that allows me > >> > to enter as a student to check out their > tutoring, > >> and I should do that > >> > soon. The information on their approach to > >> tutoring I had gotten from a > >> > webinar sometime ago that had discussed the > >> services provided by > >> > SmarThinking. > >> > So I should go there sometime to see how well > they > >> stick with their > >> > philosophy of Socratic approach to tutoring. > >> > > >> > I should also check their prices. Florida Tech > >> students get some free hours, > >> > but they can have their free hours increased > under > >> the recommendation of one > >> > of their professors. > >> > > >> > Here is another rub: Even if we can find math > >> tutoring services that avoid > >> > these traditional approaches to math education, > how > >> many students are > >> > willing to give that tutoring a shot? The > classes > >> I have been teaching > >> > lately are the kinds of classes at these schools > >> where few students try > >> > tutoring. In fact, I had worked in several > >> tutoring centers at several > >> > universities, and I work in one now, and my > >> experience tells me that > >> > few remedial math students visit their > university's > >> tutoring centers. > >> > I can't say with much certainty about other > outside > >> tutoring services > >> > since many students may use them without you > being > >> aware of it. > >> > Most students thus far who have told me that > they > >> were using outside > >> > help had referred to a friend or a co-worker or > a > >> relative for tutoring. > >> > > >> > Many tutoring services use the traditional ways > of > >> tutoring math either > >> > because that is the way that most tutors are > >> familiar with or because > >> > the tutoring services serve enough students that > >> tutors lack the time > >> > to tutor using non-traditional approaches that > may > >> be more beneficial > >> > to most students than the traditional ways. And > >> many of the students > >> > are also in a hurry and so do not have the time > to > >> be tutored in > >> > these alternate ways. Others tutor in these > >> traditional ways because > >> > they believe that this what students expect and > >> even want from > >> > their tutoring. No doubt that some (perhaps > many) > >> students resist > >> > any approach to teaching mathematics that is not > >> traditional > >> > because they think they must learn basic skills > >> first before > >> > learning to think or because they believe the > >> traditional ways-- > >> > which is often all that students have seen--are > the > >> ways to do it > >> > because "everyone else does it that way" or > simply > >> because it > >> > is familar to them. In fact, multiple students > of > >> mine have > >> > mentioned their kids learning math more along > the > >> lines of reformists' > >> > views of math education than traditionalists' > views > >> of math > >> > education, and they had mentioned that this > >> teaching seems very > >> > weird to them. Still others believe that their > >> failures to > >> > learn mathematics under traditional ways of > >> teaching are not > >> > because of faulty teaching but because they > believe > >> they are > >> > not intelligent enough to learn > mathematics--that > >> is, they believe > >> > the problem is with themselves, not with their > >> previous math classes. > >> > > >> > Here is a third rub: As Alain says--and I agree > >> with him--offering > >> > tutoring or any other resources that use these > >> non-traditional > >> > approaches to learning mathematics in a badly > >> designed course > >> > with the textbook and assignments and exams > still > >> being very > >> > much in line with commerical textbooks does not > >> offer much help > >> > to students. Such courses will need to > completely > >> restructed > >> > to offer any real benefit to the vast majority > of > >> students who > >> > struggle greatly with math. > >> > > >> > Despite the problems with referring students to > >> online or > >> > other tutoring services that use non-traditional > >> approaches > >> > to math tutoring, I would still be interested in > >> getting > >> > some information about these. > >> > > >> > In short, all I feel I can do at this time is to > do > >> the best > >> > with what the students and I have to work with. > So > >> maybe > >> > I could also ask about tutoring services that > >> others have > >> > seen students speak about positively--as long as > >> the tutors > >> > are not the kinds of people who do the homework > and > >> other > >> > assignments for students. > >> > > >> > > >> > > >> > > >> > Jonathan Groves > >> > > >> > > >> > > >> > > >> > On 11/21/2010 at 11:53 pm, Alain Schremmer > wrote: > >> > > >> >> On Nov 21, 2010, at 8:53 PM, Jonathan Groves > >> wrote: > >> >> > >> >> > And what information I have so far on their > >> >> tutoring tells me that > >> >> > their tutoring is not helpful to most math > >> >> students. > >> >> > >> >> How could it be otherwise? > >> >> > >> >> Puzzled regards > >> >> --schremmer > >> > > >> >