Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A MOOC on cheating

Online Test  = Open CHEAT! by Mr_Stein, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by Mr_Stein

Cheating in online courses always attracts a good deal of media attention and is often accompanied by cries for tougher measures to counter cheating as well as criticism of online learning in general. So if we are going to deal with this issue how about organising a course on the subject? This is exactly what is now offered by Bernard Bull of Concordia University Wisconsin - a new MOOC called Understanding Cheating in Online Courses. It's a course for educators to investigate different types of academic cheating, how to spot them and especially how to design courses that make cheating either very difficult or irrelevant. Not surprisingly the course is already full (1000 students) but is most likely to be repeated given the current interest.

"Participants in this eight-week open course will examine philosophical and psychological perspectives on cheating; consider instructor, institutional, and student perspectives on cheating; learn about specific strategies and practices used by students to cheat in online courses; and develop a plan for cultivating a culture of honesty, integrity, and accountability in online courses. The end goal of the course is for participants to gain a deeper understanding of cheating in online courses."

As with most MOOCs there are no credits available for the course (not worth cheating basically) but there are a number of badges available for successful completion of the modules. However it may inspire other universities to include for-credit courses in this field since we need to investigate and understand more fully what we really mean by cheating and whether we even invite cheating by choosing certain types of instruction methods. 

In a networked world where we borrow, remix and reuse other's work in increasingly sophisticated and creative manners we really need to revise our ideas on "cheating". Copying and imitating others is a vital part of learning, as long as we clearly show that we are doing just that. When you don't know how to approach a problem at work you consult your network to see if someone has the answers or at least some assistance. At work this shows initiative whilst if you did that with an examination task it would be cheating.

Read a good overview of the course in an article in The Chronicle of Higher EducationMOOC Teaches How to Cheat in Online Courses, With Eye to Prevention.

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