Monday, February 15, 2010

Cheating coders

Cases in which students borrow code in computer-science classes make up a disproportionate share of the honor-code violation situations heard by [Stanford] university’s judicial panel. Last year, according to a new report, cheating incidents in computer science classes accounted for 22 percent of the total honor-code violations, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Historically, the computer science department accounts for between 20 to 60 percent of all honor-code cases, even though the courses represent about 7 percent of student enrollment. ...

“Programs are idiosyncratic as sentences and no two are alike,” [Professor Eric Roberts] said. “They are not even comparable if they are independently generated. It’s particularly easy to detect if they’ve been copied.” ...

The computer science department currently employs a computerized watchdog, a software program that scans a student’s code on homework assignments. It compares the assignment not only with other students’ work but also with assignments turned in from previous years. ...

Perhaps the temptation to cheat is even stronger in computer science than other disciplines, said R. J. Walsh, a computer science major and a teaching assistant in the department. “CS is not like an English paper where you can just turn it in and there’s not a way to say if it’s a good paper or not,” he said. “At 3 a.m, you can be looking a program and definitively say that it’s not going to work.”
--Ryan Mac, NYT, on the strong temptations and low rewards from cheating in computer science class. HT: Crimson FlyByBlog

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