Why computer science students cheat?

Interesting read

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#1 PsychoCoder  Icon User is offline

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Why computer science students cheat?

Post icon  Posted 19 April 2010 - 09:27 AM

(Thanks @_KYA for the tweet/link)
This is an interesting article on why computer science student cheat. I found it an interesting read and think it could lead to a good discussion here on Dream.In.Code
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#2 Recoil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:06 AM

The first and only programming class I took involved copying code straight out of the book, then trying to understand how it worked. But of course 90% of the other students had a bad time trying to understand just the basics of the first few chapters, let alone the remainder of the class.

I explained that the only way to actually pick up on the concepts that were attempted to be taught were to do the programming challenges at the end of each chapter, simply giving you a description of the program you needed to make, based off of the concepts the chapter was teaching.

Needless to say I was the only one in the class able to finish the entire final exam/program without needing to refer to the book at all. However, even 3 years later I'm still trying to learn the concepts everyday.

I think the majority of these people caught "cheating" just aren't understanding the concepts of what is being taught, trying to get to the end with as little work as possible...just my 2 cents about it.
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#3 NeoTifa  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:46 AM

Twas a good read. I was about to say that comp sci students cheat just as much as any other program, it's just that they get caught more often. Plus with all those foreign kids getting scholarships to stay here, they cheat so they don't get shipped back. It's really bad in engineering fields too. That's sad, because a lot of time people's lives depend on the competance of the engineers, and if they're cutting corners on their school work, then they're probably more likely to cut corners in the real world.
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#4 KuroTsuto  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 10:49 AM

I agree with Recoil. I'm a Comp Sci major at CalPoly, and it seems to me as if a great number of people enter into the major with no background in programming, let alone experience with a computer. Cheating and performance considered, the failure rate of the introductory class alone stands around 60%. Many people think of the major as a series of "weeder" courses, as for at least the first year you face a series of classes with troubling failure rates; if I hadn't the background that I do, that daunting thought alone may have been enough to turn to other code when mine wouldn't function.

While automated grading tools certainly have some pull regarding the rise in "cheating," I believe it's simply a transition... As such tools become more common piece, students will adapt to them - whether that means becoming more proficient with the material or finding work-arounds for the particular tools in use.

But as things stand, in my courses this year, I've only seen two students fail a course for academic dishonesty; one because he had some tutorial site open in his browser during a lab quiz. It seems to me that we already find ourselves on the other side of that transition. Cases of dismissal on the grounds of academic dishonesty appear to be exceedingly rare - but perhaps its simply that I'm out of the loop on such things.

All that said - I rather admire Georgia Tech's approach...
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#5 NeoTifa  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:13 AM

They are weeder courses, but like most courses, it really depends on your professor. My professor was a horrible teacher, but the book he suggested was FANTASTIC! Almost everything I learned about Java I pretty much taught myself. It does seem very intimidating being someone without a comp sci background in one of the classes, because most people who sign up have been doing it on their own for years, so the professor assumes they're just quick learners, and they get overwhelmed and quit. Plus people in this field are usually bad explainers anyways, so asking questions can be more awkward than anything lol. What these students need to realise is that there is so much help out there for them. There are tutoring services available, confident students who love to help (my case <3), and office hours with the professor.

My ex fell into this trap hisself because he went in with no experience. He just blamed his incompetance on the professor and raged when we asked what happened to his grades. One day he took me to school with him and let me walk around in his classes with him, and we wound up in his cs class. He sat there and was bitching because he couldn't get his compiler to do what the prof told him, and he pouted and was like "he doesn't explain anything! He assumes we know everything!" I was in there for 10 minutes and I understood what the prof was saying, and I've never seen Netbeans before in my life. I kept trying to explain it to him, and in his frustration and ego-mania he said "no shut up, you don't know what this is! This is hard, Erica!" After rolling my eyes, I reached over, snatched his mouse, and did what the prof said in 3 clicks. He pouted and stayed silent all day. So why do you think this happens? True, he doesn't listen, but still I think it's just that students get into this funk that they can't do it, and give up. That's what I think happens.
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#6 Dogstopper  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 01:47 PM

That was certainly an interesting read, especially for someone like me who isn't even in college yet (2 years to go). What worries me is the "automated" filters because, not that I copy code, I use things like API and I help on DIC. If while helping on DIC, they think I posted a question and was getting help, I would be utterly screwed (And I plan on helping on DIC for several more years at least). It would be difficult to explain to professors that I'm not cheating and actually know the stuff.

However, not only that, but I think that if you know what you are doing, then accepting help over the internet can be beneficial to those students who like Computer Science. Many of these cheaters I'm sure are required to take it as part of their other majors. This is one of the sole reasons that I'm considering GA Tech over schools like MIT and Stanford, because I can effectively collaborate and teach myself as I have for years.
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#7 Martyn.Rae  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 01:58 PM

Hmmmm ... I never went to university, never cheated in my life before (unless you count that time with the young lady ... sorry a different story). It's not going to get any better either! Over the next ten years the number of IT professionals required is going to far exceed the number of people being churned out of universities across the globe. More and more people are going to get sucked into the industry with fewer and fewer people making the grade (unless they cheat that is).

We cannot all become good or even mediocre IT professionals. The level of competency for being accepted into any computer science degree needs to be raised rather than lowered. Has this candidate shown any interest in computing prior to applying for this degree course? If the answer is no, then they do not get accepted. Companies are just going to have to fight for those professionals that are out there and have made the grade (without cheating). That in turn will slow down the development of computing ... perhaps that's not a bad thing.
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#8 PsychoCoder  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 02:02 PM

Dogstopper remember in the article they say the use the tool first, then if something is discovered then it's investigated manually, so I'm sure they'd be able to see you were giving help and not cheating.

It's funny how many people don't realize that these tools are actually being used, I mean we use them here on DIC to check authenticity of contributions (snippets & tutorials). I think tools like that are a good thing, saves teachers & TA's a lot of time looking for people who are blatantly cheating and I have no problem with them being used at all. After all maybe it will help weed out the copy & paste coders who will eventually take a way a job from someone who actually studied and did their own work in school.

I do believe they need to be used with care, as the Internet continues to grow it's going to be harder & harder to write code that isn't similar to something found in some site somewhere on the Internet, and those using those tools need to be able to differentiate from someone trying to blatantly cheat and running into something that is similar to something a student turned in.
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#9 Topher84  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 02:51 PM

In my classes, I see students who collaborate more than copy and paste cheating. The usual signs are obvious variable renaming and the same logic error/weird code. I am not sure that I agree with these students graduating and taking jobs from people though. I doubt they will even get a job if they cannot pass interviews dealing with concept questions or problem solving skills. It has gotten to the point where most professors in the department do not even allow laptops to be open during class time to avoid this cheating. The students can use the book and the instructor/TA to finish assignments, but that is it.

I really think that a major issue is that students who enter the field of CS have a completely misinformed view on what the field actually is. You get the typical MMO/Gamers who think they can come into an intro class and program the next World of Warcraft or Halo. These types usually get weeded out quickly as it isn't what they expected. They also result to cheating to pass the class to move on to other areas since they do not understand the material.
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#10 Programmist  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 05:02 PM

Frankly I'm glad they catch them. I hope the punishment is severe. Foreign students caught cheating should be expelled and sent packing.

It's a well-known problem at a certain grad school I know that a large population of the Indian transfer students cheat. They are known collectively as the "Indian Mafia" because they have access to many years of previous tests, quizzes, labs, and e-books of almost every graduate CS class and, if you are in their group you get an easy ride. I reported them years ago, but I don't know if anything was ever done.
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#11 damund01  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 19 April 2010 - 08:40 PM

View PostKuroTsuto, on 19 April 2010 - 10:49 AM, said:

I agree with Recoil. I'm a Comp Sci major at CalPoly, and it seems to me as if a great number of people enter into the major with no background in programming, let alone experience with a computer. Cheating and performance considered, the failure rate of the introductory class alone stands around 60%. Many people think of the major as a series of "weeder" courses, as for at least the first year you face a series of classes with troubling failure rates; if I hadn't the background that I do, that daunting thought alone may have been enough to turn to other code when mine wouldn't function.

While automated grading tools certainly have some pull regarding the rise in "cheating," I believe it's simply a transition... As such tools become more common piece, students will adapt to them - whether that means becoming more proficient with the material or finding work-arounds for the particular tools in use.

But as things stand, in my courses this year, I've only seen two students fail a course for academic dishonesty; one because he had some tutorial site open in his browser during a lab quiz. It seems to me that we already find ourselves on the other side of that transition. Cases of dismissal on the grounds of academic dishonesty appear to be exceedingly rare - but perhaps its simply that I'm out of the loop on such things.

All that said - I rather admire Georgia Tech's approach...


I would have to say that my early classes in programming were more difficult then subsequent classes this may be because I didn't cheat and those first classes were C++ procedures followed by C++ OOP when my only background with programming was some HTML. But I think that most people that were in my class that cheated ( and it was clear who did and didn't) did so because they were over there heads with other schoolwork or the fact that they were to proud or lazy to ask for help!
And for them it was an easy out. Many didnt have the forethought that they just might need to know this stuff in the future they just wanted to pass and get to the next class. But I will guarantee they will suffer for their foolishness when the time comes.(It has long since come I am sure : ) )
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#12 NeoTifa  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 20 April 2010 - 06:22 AM

View PostProgrammist, on 19 April 2010 - 06:02 PM, said:

Frankly I'm glad they catch them. I hope the punishment is severe. Foreign students caught cheating should be expelled and sent packing.

It's a well-known problem at a certain grad school I know that a large population of the Indian transfer students cheat. They are known collectively as the "Indian Mafia" because they have access to many years of previous tests, quizzes, labs, and e-books of almost every graduate CS class and, if you are in their group you get an easy ride. I reported them years ago, but I don't know if anything was ever done.



Wow, thank you. I didn't want to be the first one to sayit, since everybody already thinks I'm racist against Indians, which isn't the case. This was what I was referring to in my post. They also use grunts and hand signals to assist each other on exams.
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#13 W3bDev  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 20 April 2010 - 08:11 AM

I've met some cheaters in my time being a student. I think its ridiculous when professors look the other way, or are just plain ignorant of the fact. Although sometimes they do slide through, they eventually become the product of such acts, and useless in a work environment. If you go to school for something, but don't learn from it... don't expect to produce anything in the real world. Cheating is only cheating yourself. Study, get tutoring, move on from a subject if you don't have the desire to learn it fully.

Thankfully, most of the cheating I have witnessed was in lower-division classes, the students just starting in a subject, and realizing it wasn't for them.
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#14 JackOfAllTrades  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 20 April 2010 - 09:32 AM

View PostProgrammist, on 19 April 2010 - 06:02 PM, said:

Frankly I'm glad they catch them. I hope the punishment is severe. Foreign students caught cheating should be expelled and sent packing.

It's a well-known problem at a certain grad school I know that a large population of the Indian transfer students cheat. They are known collectively as the "Indian Mafia" because they have access to many years of previous tests, quizzes, labs, and e-books of almost every graduate CS class and, if you are in their group you get an easy ride. I reported them years ago, but I don't know if anything was ever done.


This is treading into some dangerous ground -- I was surprised it was brought out in the article at all -- but it is something that bears discussion.

I did not attend university for CS, but I do notice looking at school web sites that an inordinately large number of the teachers are of foreign extraction. Do you believe there may be an element of racism, in the sense that the teachers know this is occurring among their students of similar background but are looking the other way due to their shared culture?

I also happen to believe that there is "halo effect" of sorts around South Asians and computers, not unlike the stereotype which surrounds East Asians and math (and computers); I think this might also contribute to the blind eye possibly being turned by instructors in general.
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#15 sparkart  Icon User is offline

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Re: Why computer science students cheat?

Posted 20 April 2010 - 12:39 PM

This actually seems like good news to me. The more cheaters that slide, the less able in the industry, the more job openings, the easier for other people to get a job. :)

Now if only we could do something about outsourcing.
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