Plagiarizing Even When It Doesn't Count?

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education says that there have been
"Dozens of Plagiarism Incidents Reported in Coursera's Free Online Courses by students even though the MOOC's carry no credit.

Students cheating even when the stakes are low? What are we to conclude?

Eric S. Rabkin, a U. of Michigan professor who teaches a free Massive Open Online Course, posted to his 39,000 students that he wanted them to stop plagiarizing. The people at Coursera (who offer the course) are reviewing the issue and will consider adding plagiarism-detection software in the future.

What is interesting is that in the Coursera humanities courses that have complaints, the complaining has come from other students. The courses use peer grading and each student is asked to grade and offer comments on fellow students.

I am happy that a student says "I just graded my second batch of peer essays and was saddened to find one of them was lifted from Wikipedia" because it means that he is being educated about plagiarism from the other side of the desk, and that he does not approve of it. But I am also surprised that he is surprised that it occurs. The article goes on to say that many students (in the online discussion) "expressed surprise that their peers would resort to fraudulent behavior in a noncredit course."

Is that what they find surprising - not the plagiarism but it occurring in a non-credit course? (Students who complete a course can get a certificate showing that but the courses do not count for credit at any university.)

Of course, as soon as MOOCs came into being, faculty were immediately skeptical (most still are) and one question asked was "Who will monitor and grade the work of thousands of students?"  Quality control is certainly an issue, as it has been for decades in online courses of any size.

We will see what changes occur. Perhaps, students will be able to take MOOCs from a source outside their college, but will be tested and evaluated on what they have learned by their own college and awarded credit based on that evaluation.

Plagiarism is a very old academic issue. Academic integrity in online courses has been an issue for about 40 years. MOOCs have inherited those issues, but are so new that they have not had to really address them as of yet.

Cross-posted in a slightly different version from my blog at
(just so I am not accused of self plagiarism)

Report is unflattering portrait of for-profit higher-education industry

From "Senate Report Paints a Damning Portrait of For-Profit Higher Education" By Michael Stratford

For-profit colleges can play an important role in educating nontraditional students, but the colleges often operate as aggressive recruiting machines focused on generating shareholder profits at the expense of a quality education for their students.

That's the unflattering portrait of the for-profit higher-education industry detailed in a voluminous report officially released on Monday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The report, which also criticizes the accrediting agencies that evaluate the colleges, concludes a two-year investigation into the operations of 30 for-profit higher-education companies from 2006 to 2010...

Adults Only

Nontraditional students - adults who attend college part-time - are a large and growing segment of American higher education. They figure into the “completion agenda” (or lack of completion) that has gotten more national attention the past year.

According to some news reports, it seems that many colleges do not really track the graduation or retention rates of these adult students. Why? Currently no one requires it.

According to a survey conducted jointly by InsideTrack, a student coaching service, and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association Center for Research and Consulting, 77 percent of institutions do not know the graduation rate for their adult students.

But that may change. Why? Because someone may require it. It might end up being the federal government that wants that information. But, for now, it might start with accreditors.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is in the process of requiring institutions to report detailed information about those two key measures of student success, for all student populations, including the nontraditional ones.

Another finding from the survey looks pretty bad for the colleges. Adult students “tend to be viewed as cash cows” by colleges and 43 percent of colleges said their central administration values the money that adult programs bring in, but that the administration provides little support to those programs. So, colleges keep enrolling adult students, even if those adult students aren’t earning degrees.

This group is also rather difficult to track. They often “stop out” multiple times, and move from community college to 4-year institutions several times. It may take this adult student eight years or more to earn a bachelor’s degree, and that's a number the degree-presenting institution doesn't really want to tout.

Read more:

What that e-book you are reading is telling the publisher about you

Kindle readersBack in that other century when we read books made of paper, publishers had no way of knowing what you were doing while you were reading their book. Reading was a private act. Maybe you only read the first 20 pages. Maybe you skimmed until you got to chapter 4. Did you underline some favorite parts?

But e-books are changing that part of reading too.

Yes, I know that you think that when you were reading the Fifty Shades Trilogy books on your Kindle that no one else at the pool knew what you were doing. Well, the pool people may not know, but the people who sold you that device know.

An article in the Wall Street Journal describes how e-books are providing feedback to publishers (and authors) about how you are reading.

bookHere are a few factoids:

It takes the average reader just seven hours to read the final book in Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games trilogy on the Kobo e-reader—about 57 pages an hour.

Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: "Because sometimes things happen to people and they're not equipped to deal with them."

And on Barnes & Noble's NOOK, the first thing that most readers do upon finishing the first "Hunger Games" book is to download the next one.

What will publishers, booksellers and authors do with this data? 

NOOKBarnes & Noble knows from NOOK data that we are more distracted reading nonfiction books but that we usually read novels straight through. We also give up on nonfiction books, particularly long ones, a more frequently than fiction.

Who reads more books more quickly? It is the science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans - not those readers of literary fiction. They also finish most of the books they start. Those "better-educated" readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend to skip around between books.

Okay, marketing team - What do we want to do with this information? Should we stock less literary fiction and more sci-fi?

For example, Barnes & Noble decided that to get readers more engaged in that nonfiction that they bail out on, they would launch "Nook Snaps" with short works of non-fiction.

And if you can know the point where readers get bored, then you could insert some additional content like video, a Web link or other multimedia features there to hold their interest. Maybe you tell an author to make chapters shorter - 40 chapters instead of 20.

Maybe they can figure out the best-seller "formula" and then we can all write one.

The Mac Virus

Some people - probably Windows users - seem to be happy that there is finally an actual Mac virus out there.

It has been 28 years of essentially virus-free surfing for Apple Mac users. Windows users have surfed in fear for those years. Things have been better in Windows land lately. For years, the claim was that the reason the Mac was safer was because there were so few out there that virus builders didn't bother making them to attack Macs. Maybe this is yet another sign that Apple sales are healthy.

The recent Mac attack was from the  Flashback Trojan horse. It looks like an Adobe Flash installer, but it changes your Web search results and sends you to the sites that it wants you to go to. I have read that about 600,000 Macs were infected. A Java update and a free removal program makes all well in Mac land. No one is safe.