Honor at Harvard

Honor at Harvard

The Boston Globe reported on Thursday August 30, 2012, that Harvard University is investigating 125 students out of a class of 250, accused of cheating on a take-home final exam. The students are accused of collaborating and or copying classmates’ answers in violation of the exam rules printed on the exam itself.

All of the current students now suspected to have cheated in this particular class are expected to appear before the College’s Administrative Board which oversees student behavior. In describing how the University would prevent this kind of academic dishonesty in the future, The Boston Globe offered quotes from Harvard Administrators about the possible use of an Honor Code, and providing more education to its students about academic norms.

The disheartening aspect of this story is that there is no new “Story”.

Students cheat, even at Harvard. Students of the digital age do need more education about what represents academic dishonesty. The vast library of digital information, instantly and readily available for use by all students does mean that students require a clearer practical understanding of what is cheating. Honor codes can be a way that Administrators can reiterate the importance of what they teach their students about academic integrity and the students’ responsibilities. If left to their own devices, learning about academic integrity and swearing to an honor code will NOT stop cheating, period.

Anytime Anywhere Education

Technology is truly democratizing education. As technology continues to become more affordable and available, so too does knowledge. Students can acquire knowledge quicker and easier. Students can learn more quickly and demonstrate their knowledge quicker. They can also more easily cheat.

Technology to detect and prevent cheating has also become affordable and available. There is no reason why technology needs to be promoted for learning yet not be used to prevent cheating.We don’t simply trust that drivers obey the speed limit. We don’t expect that minors won’t try to buy a beer. When a traditional school administers an in-class exam, they don’t leave the students un-proctored.

Examinations and teaching pedagogy has evolved. Not every test requires a student to recall and demonstrate prior learning without the help of any external resources. But if that’s what a particular teacher, program, school or discipline wants, that’s what they should get. And our/their confidence in the outcome, the fact that students are not cheating, should come from more than a student’s “promise”.

Trust but Verify

Today, we can verify academic integrity. We can use tools that are not costly and do not interfere with learning or privacy. Hundreds of schools are using Software Secure tools to prevent cheating and protect the academic integrity of their programs. Enforcing rules does not degrade the rule followers, it protects them.

-Douglas Winneg, CEO & Founder, Software Secure


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