Issue of copying

As an instructor of a course at my university I often face the dilemma of passing/failing certain border line students. Like many other universities, at my place too instructors decide and declare the passing criteria for their courses at the start. In the very beginning of my career as an instructor I would give benefit of doubt to students who indulged in some wrong-doings and lapses. Very soon I painfully learnt the flaws in how I was handling such situations. Biggest issue was that indirectly a message was going across to students: that they could take things for granted.

Top in the list of wrong-doings was copying. For take-home assignments, certain section of students give in to the temptation of copying material from others or the Internet. Following has saved me some headache:
  • Reduced the weight of graded take-home assignments.
  • Make the students solve problems during lab hours itself. Internet access is blocked during labs, unless needed for lab problems.
Main trade-off is that now I need to design the lab problems such that they can be completed within 2-3 hours.

I have seen that very very few students feel any remorse for adopting unfair means in exams. Most keep repeating the act even after having caught and warned. They are encouraged to repeat such conduct mainly because they feel confident that most instructors are prone to manipulation through various tactics and weaknesses in the system. Usually playing the "my degree will get extended and I won't get a job" card works in most cases. Further, if the administration is weak then they may bog you down with repeated explanations from you about the technicalities of why such and such student was failed.

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