Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Copy/Pasting and Plagiarism

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#1 NickDMax  Icon User is offline

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Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Post icon  Posted 03 December 2009 - 09:40 AM

Every year the questions here on DIC form cycles based upon the Academic Calendar. Most of our questions come from students and many of our experts stick around because they get to help students. However, recently the tone of the questions seems to have taken a turn for the worse. There are fewer and fewer questions where a student has written code and just can't quite make it work or has a few concepts confused, and more and more questions where the student has found code out on the web and needs to fit the code to their assignment. Often the students don't seem to know the first thing about the language they are using or the code they have posted.

So it would seems that increasingly the way students are approaching homework is to google the questions and copy/paste the answers. But unlike a style of coding that I call "copy/paste coding" where programmers take example code from the web and integrate it into their own code -- these students don't know enough about the language or the even the problem to make the necessary changes.

When I was learning to program I did not just read a description of red-black tree and go out and code it. No, I did research, I read books that described the data structure and its associated algorithms and many of the books had example code which I studied and used as scaffolding to build my code. But what I produced was MY code. I knew how it worked (mostly), I knew what the variable names stood for, I knew how to use the functions, I had some idea of what to use a red-black tree for... I learned a great deal (for example I learned that I don't like coding red-black trees).

I will be the first to admit that some assignments are hard and that sometimes we are not equipped to handle the assignments -- but it is by facing down challenges that we grow and strengthen our minds.

So my question to the students who post here (many of whom do the due-diligence and work really hard to understand): do you think that the Internet harms the academic process? It moves students away from books and professional journals (even though it technically CAN make finding information in these easier -- no one ever seems to use it for this). It gives students access to easy solutions. It seems to encourage plagiarism.

I realize it makes life easier -- but at what cost? Is this real advancement or virtual advancement?

(the subject could make a good essay topic)

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#2 Lее  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 10:09 AM

No, the Internet does not ruin academics. it's the opposite, the Internet promotes academics. Now students have the access to study materials that were not available before. Universities like MIT, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, provide everybody with quality study materials online. There are databases of scientific papers, open to public. Because of the Internet, students today have better opportunities and learn more.

Yes, there are people who abuse Internet. Those are bad students who won't achieve anything in the first place. Such students have always existed, with Internet or without. If you hang around people who go to good universities, you won't see such foolishness.
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#3 SwiftStriker00  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 10:09 AM

I believe that the internet has only enhanced academics. Programming is a hard topic to pick up if it doesn't come to you naturally, and reading textbooks or technical journals written by professionals may not be explained in the best approach. Either the very limited way that a textbook can explain something or 1 professor can explain something does not allow all students to take in the information as best as possible, sometimes it needs to be explained in a different way. Also a professor or textbook writer may not be able to expalin things in simple enough ways because their knowledge is too profound which leads to unintentional subtle assumptions that only would be know to experienced user in the subject. This is where the internet in the right places, excels. I can find 400 different tutorials on a given algorithm lets say. it may take the 10th one I read for me to finally understand it.

One could say that its the responsibility of sites like DIC not to give students answers and insist upon they do the work themselves (which DIC is fairly diligent about), but if one site doesnt have the answer another probably will. Its on the shoulders of the student to actually take the time to learn the code and practice it. Of all the students in my class I have never seen someone how relies on "copy paste coding" last much more than 1-2 years at college. Because everything is so heavily reliant on the basics, failure to master them would just be digger yourself deeper and deeper into the hole.

So for the real students, ones who want to learn, succeed, and have the desire to actual program the internet is a great tool. For those who think they will coast by, will only come to the realization sooner that they will fail.

For the reals students posting here they are posting because they legitimately dont understand, struggling for hours and can't get it. or once in a while dont have time/energy or project is due in an hour. Sure the last reason isnt the best to give them the answer, but it will not harm them, only help. A bad grade is demotivating, if we can mitigate that because the student is in a crunch good for the Internet. Besides the student will most likely have to take a test on in soon after anyway, which will be the real decider if they have taken the time to learn the material
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#4 KYA  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 10:16 AM

Great topic, I would love to see this featured.

--
It's oddly prevalent as I was just thinking about this yesterday due to this thread. Writing a data structure can be a challenge. Writing a templated one is a greater challenge(as it requires additional knowledge of the language). If the individual had actually written everything that was there, then the simple matter of traversing the structure wouldn't be a problem. BUT, the infrastructure was not correct and the person in question did not how to solve several simple (simple to me because I've seen them before) compilation errors.

That thread would be an example of copy/paste fail. When I was in college there were several times when I had to seek out guidance, examples, diagrams, implementations, etc... to get a grasp on the problem. I was then able to craft my implementation/solution. Some might say that approach is wrong, but I think it is the best.

Give an person some code and they'll be fine for a day, teach a person to code and they'll be set for life

There are instances where "I'll Google it" is an acceptable answer. But not for every single thing. Especially fundamentals. Being able to work your way through a problem is not just a computer science/student issue, it's a problem with my whole generation. Instant gratification coupled with laziness is the culprit.
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#5 JackOfAllTrades  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:00 AM

I would feature this topic were I able to figure out how to do so. I agree with KYA. People are just cheating themselves, both intellectually (getting other people to do their homework for them) and monetarily (by NOT seeking help from those to whom they're paying BIG BUCKS to be educated).
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#6 mojo666  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:05 AM

No, the internet is not ruining academics. Student cheating exists regardless of internet or not. There are many many resources to copy outside of the internet. It is easy for a student to have someone else do their work for them. Particularly with the popularity of group projects and automated grading in CS courses, one student will write the code, ten people will get credit for it.
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#7 JackOfAllTrades  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:19 AM

OK, but would you agree that the ubiquity of the Internet and forums such as Dream.In.Code likely facilitates cheating and can serve to make it seem morally acceptable (by virtue of its ubiquity) to those who might perhaps seek other avenues -- such as, heaven forbid, hard work -- to achieve success?
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#8 NickDMax  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:22 AM

Wow some really good replies!

@Lее -- I WANT to agree with you because these resources are VERY good (I know because I have now sat in on CS and math courses at MIT and Berkeley online). I love these resources but I doubt too many students enrolled in universities are watching them. They have their own lectures to attend. I agree that the potential is there -- but I don't know if it is being used.

When I was at University I loved having access to academic and professional journals -- but I was a very rare exception. Even teachers were surprised by the resources I found (though I do have to admit that I am a good researcher).

The internet offers WAY too many distracters. Even Wikipedia can be a poor source for information.

@SwiftStriker00 -- I am not saying that there are not those who work things out -- I am asking about the masses, the C students (not really the A students). When the C student is given two choices: the easy way, or the easier way. he/she will generally go with the easier way.

And as for using books -- when I went though the libaray to help me solve problems I generally looked at many books and generally in many different computer languages -- so this "one author - one example" argument really does not hold -- there are LOTS of books and LOTS of journals and LOTS of articles. But the internet really does make it easier to find this stuff (if you look for it).

@KYA -- I too agree that looking at examples can help you figure out what is going on. But examples without context and background are mostly just symbolic garbage. We all know that reading other peoples code is hard... it is even harder if you don't know enough about the basics to follow the code.

I have a degree in mathematics and one of the most frustrating things about mathematics is homework -- there is a lot of it and much of it seems like busy work -- and it is. But it has a very defined purpose -- to get the mind to really understand and gain intuition about the patterns and structures found in mathematical problems and their solutions.

You CAN'T learn mathematics without DOING mathematics. I also argue that you can't learn to program without programming -- without forcing your mind to face problems and workout the solutions. If you are always looking up the solutions your will never gain insight and intuition about how to solve problems.

One beginner question is always: "but how do I know I need to do that?" And the answer is: "because experience tells you so."
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#9 Louisda16th  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:23 AM

In my opinion, people would find out ways to copy stuff anyways. We get assignments in college and people who don't want to work on them, don't even search the net. They just copy some one else's work. Yes the Internet has made is a lot easier. We've had some pathetic teachers in college and I've cleared my subjects thanks to lectures posted by colleges on youtube and MIT's open courseware. People who are lazy and don't want to learn the hard (and the right) way have always existed and do end up having problems eventually. I would've never learned anything beyond C and VB6 if I didn't join DIC and hey, I've learned a lot more by answering questions here than by reading books :P. A lot of times, I didn't know the answers but I knew where to hunt for them and that helped a lot :)
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#10 WushuMonster  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:26 AM

A lot depends on the professor. I've had a couple just flat out tell students to "google it" when they've had problems/questions. Had one professor put some material online and tell everyone after the 3rd class "Well, I've really got nothing else to say. See you for the final and midterm!" So, I know there's quite a few professors out there that haven't really understood how to integrate the advantages of online with traditional teaching, rather than use the internet as a crutch. Actually having a problem right now with a class that was moved online where the teacher has taken on a 2nd job and kind of abandoned us :angry:
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#11 NickDMax  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:37 AM

@WushuMonster -- Doing research is part of programming. I google things every day. I don't know how to configure websphere application server to work on AIX and integrate with DB2 in a virtualized environment - and my company sure isn't going to pay the big bucks to send me to IBM for training, heck they will not even let me expense a book on the subject.

I don't think a teacher saying: "Google it" means, "Just go out and copy someones work and turn it in." -- I think the teacher is trying to encourage students to do research... but I think that without teaching HOW to use the internet as a research tool teachers ARE probably encouraging students to take short cuts.
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#12 JackOfAllTrades  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 11:42 AM

Quote

Doing research is part of programming.


Quoted for truth. It's an important part of pretty much any job outside of retail, in fact, but it is of PARAMOUNT importance in software development. There is so much information involved in this discipline there's just no way to keep it all inside one's brain. Knowing how to use the research tools available to you is an important part of learning.
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#13 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 12:11 PM

I'm a student and I study like crazy most of the time, I only ask questions if I hit an absolute dead end on anything and never once have I asked a question about an actual assignment of mine (The golf thing was a custom project)

I'm a freshman that just started C# and I can tell you by now I'm probably way ahead of anything our College would teach at least until I'm a Junior or Senior.

Every answer I get I google all the terms, new types, and anything else to make sure I get how it works instead of playing copy and paste Frankenstein with my program.

For me the internet is a tool used to further knowledge, because I don't know about the rest of the freshman around but I tend to get curious whenever my teacher says something like "there are more efficient ways" or "this can be done faster with concepts in the next class" and research it most of the night.

Personally this summer when I don't have to worry about random assignments I'm probably going to get back to learning more PHP, Python and Perl.
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#14 NickDMax  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 12:35 PM

SO the feeling that I am getting from the students is:

"Sure there are people who take the easy way out, but in the end these people eventually reach a point where their tricks don't work and they fail."

So I wonder: Is that really true. As a consultant I get to work with many different development teams out there and I do see this mentality represented in the work force. While I admit that part of this is corporate pressure to get things done quickly and cheaply -- but are students actually making it though school with no real grounding in the basics of programming and computer science but with a pretty good idea of how to fake it with Google?

I mean hiring a programmer these days is a shotgun process -- most interviewees apparently can't pass the fizz-buzz and similar tests. That is, they don't even have rudimentary programming skills.
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#15 Jamaican Engineer  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is The Internet Ruining Academics?

Posted 03 December 2009 - 12:40 PM

I personally feel that it is not the Internet that has ruined academics but rather the misuse of it. The Internet does offer helpful information and tutorials that can help to understand coding in different languages and should be used in a way that allows students to grow in knowledge of their respected fields of study.. However, many have chosen to take the easy way out. Rather then struggling to understand necessary concepts, which in the end will prove invaluable in the real world, many choose to coast along by way of plagirism for short term success.
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