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Jon "maddog" Hall
Free and Open Source Consultant
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Jon "maddog" Hall commented on a post on Blogger.
Welcome home, my son!

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Jon "maddog" Hall commented on a post on Blogger.
Hello Keith,

I used to teach at several universities many years ago.  I deal with a lot of university students now, and recently I talked with one who had seen his classmates cheating on a test using their cell phones.  The proctor of the test had been watching them closely, but after a while started working on his laptop and did not see them sending text messages to each other.

I encouraged the student to tell the professor what had happened, but he was shy about doing it.

I will add a couple more issues to your questions.

A cheaters "perfect score" affects all the other student's grades in various ways.  It helped to mask what may have been a difficult or poorly written question by allowing them to find the "right answer" where other students who studied did not.  If the test is graded on a curve, the cheater raises the class average, and therefore affects the curve.

The cheater, when going out into the real world, will be less prepared than the student who studied hard and did not cheat, or (assuming they keep "cheating" in life) will give a bad reputation to the professor and school who gave them the grade and the diploma.

In the end, it is not really your call to make.  Most institutions have a policy on cheating, and to protect yourself you need to follow it.

Cheaters are often hard to identify.  Even in your case you can not be sure of their cheating, you can only guess.  When you do identify them, they may stop cheating, particularly if you have a conversation with them talking about the issues, or they may just become more careful, in all of their classes, or just in yours.

I suggest this path:

o Go to your dean (either Dean of Instruction or Dean of Students) and tell him what happened.  Find out the school policy on cheating.

o You may not be able to do anything about this incident, but to protect both you and your students you  should have this talk with them, and with every class you ever teach, telling them there is ZERO tollerance for cheating of any type.  The next time you see someone cheating, they are out of your class and out of the school.

Sound harsh?  I had a kid years ago that had been caught cheating before I joined the department.  He was difficult to catch, but the previous department head and the senior staff had caught him and he was dismissed from the school.

A couple of years later he came back and asked if he could be readmitted.  Against the wishes of the senior staff (the department head had moved on) the Dean of Students re-admitted the student.

I had him in one of my classes.  He had been absent for a test, so I sent him with a make-up test (which I generated just for him so I knew he could not have just copied the answers) to the library to take.  He was to leave all his books and notes with me.

Halfway through the test period I went to check on him.  I found on the shelf of the desk he was sitting at a copy of the textbook for the course.  He had been reading it to get the answers to the test.

I was furious, and took him down to the Dean of Students.  All the way the kid never talked about how it was wrong to cheat, but only what his life would be like if he got kicked out of school a second time.

Not my problem.  And from that day I have had a "zero tollerance" for it.

And I hope you never again leave an answer key on the desk.

Warmest regards,

Jon "maddog" Hall

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