Cheating

In yesterday’s Underground Back Channel post, I wrote:

Because students are engaging in forbidden activity these conversations are underground. Well, the smart ones. Some are having these conversations on Twitter where one party of the conversation is not private and anyone (like a nosy DBA like myself) can see it. If they are used to quasi-cheating, does real cheating become easier? That might explain much of what I see.

I decided to write more about this.

Back in July, I ran across posts on Twitter where a student claimed another named (Twitter account) classmate provided the answers to a test. The moral was: “Students who cheat together will not repeat together.” A few days later the student bragged this activity happened the previous term as well. Then the student asked the classmate whether the next test was taken, presumably so they could cheat again. We handed the information over to the institution. I have not heard whether disciplinary action was taken against the students.

At the time, I attributed the students writing about the cheating similar to hubris in the Congressman Weiner scandal. It may also point to a lack of understanding about privacy online. Hard to know what was running through their heads at the time other than what they are willing to say or write which will be biased.

The NYU Prof Vows Never to Probe Cheating Again story hit the week after the initial detection. Pursuing the cheaters hurt his evaluations. The advice of plagiarism detection tools is to use them for teaching students what is correct behavior not as punitive evidence.

But then I ran across Classroom Ethics 101. The student experiment points to students being very willing to take an early look at test questions and answers (69%) even when given a notice it might be cheating (41%). Ariely does not think the actual cheating was very much as on the final exam few made 90% scores. The experiment is similar to the UCF cheating scandal where 1/3 of the 600 students were thought to have cheated.

Occasionally we, those running the LMS, get a request to look at the Mail tool messages or Chat conversations between students in a class to see who are trying to share answers. So far none have. The professors fear the students are using private communication tools to cheat. Maybe they are smart enough to use Facebook where we do not have the data.

Cheating is happening. The activity is underground except where students make a mistake. Professors have plenty of tools to help them detect it. Maybe as analytics become more widespread, they will be used to identify more cheating, though perhaps it should come from deans or academic affairs or student judiciary not the professor.

Underground Back Channels

During first couple years at my first real job post-college, a friend of a friend would IM me questions about how to solve computer problems for which he could not figure out the answers. These requests started as me doing the work for him with dubious promises of doing the same for me. (I knew he’d gotten a job over his head and making 2.3x more than me. I also knew he did not know anything about my work and could not help me.) When I did not bite to do this, he shifted to giving him the answers and settled for all that I was willing to do: point him in the right direction. Having worked in a library, pointing patrons and friends in the right direction was something I was used to doing.

This conversation was not officially sanctioned by either of our employers. Neither of us told our bosses about these conversations. Was I leaking the intellectual capital of my employer? Was this friend of a friend leaking his employer’s intellectual capital to me? In any case, it would probably be considered an underground interaction. My boss at the time encouraged my professional participation on web technology email lists as helping others with my knowledge and experience gave me access to others who could do the same. The difference was the lists were sanctioned while the friend of a friend was not no matter how similar.

The Learning Black Market suggests students today use Facebook as a private back channel to classmates for pointers in the right direction on how to work on class assignments. They also secretly use Wikipedia despite it being forbidden as a source. When I was a student, the same sort of back channel activity for pointers would happen but face-to-face in the hallway was the preferred place not Facebook. Instead of Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica was the preferred first source. (Gosh, I am old.) Just like students today are told Wikipedia is not an allowable reference and not to ever use it yet they do anyway, EB was not an allowable reference and yet I saw my classmates using it to figure out terms that would help them find allowable references. Students today sometimes use Wikipedia for the same reason.

Educators want the students to take their time and deliberately work through the assignments the hard way so they learn the most through the process. Students want to get the assignment done in the least amount of time while still making a good grade. Educators lack the oversight to force students to behave except to detect plagiarism or cheating in the produced artifacts.

Because students are engaging in forbidden activity these conversations are underground. Well, the smart ones. Some are having these conversations on Twitter where one party of the conversation is not private and anyone (like a nosy DBA like myself) can see it. If they are used to quasi-cheating, does real cheating become easier? That might explain much of what I see.

Communication

A while ago, there was some kind of difficulty understanding why we (the DBAs) and another group were unable to read the same words yet not draw the same conclusion. The words in bold are what I wrote on my white board explaining why there was a difficulty.

Communication

  • Vocabulary
    • Standards: Words have agreed upon meanings which we refer to as the definition. However, the same word can have different meanings depending on context. Therefore we need…
    • Experience: Past usage by self and others determine which definition is appropriate during any specific event.
      • Mental Filters: We cannot handle everything which happens to us at once, so our brains cheat. Filters drop everything except the expected. Which filters are in use to expect certain things can be as easy as beginning a conversation with certain keywords.
      • Recall: Getting past the filters gets to memory retrieval.

A lack of common experience means we get primed for different mental filters. Therefore to have a good conversation, everyone needs to draw on common experiences, a process called framing.

This is pretty much as far as we got, I think.

Common experiences could be physically shared. An example could be: “Do you remember the meeting 7 months ago when discussed changing the sourcedid.source for those four schools?” The mental filters for concepts discussed in that meeting are primed.

Common experiences could be metaphorical. Anything someone else should have lots of experience using makes a useful way to convey information without having to go very far. Unfortunately, it is hard to know in advance how much someone actually knows.

BBworld From Afar

Staying true to tradition, Blackboard found a great speaker, Seth Godin, with a positive message. Notes people took…

Scott found the best point, I think.

Compliance doesn’t work to create value. Compliant work will always go to the lowest bidder. We can always find someone cheaper to follow the manual. Value is created by doing something different.

See! This is a mind numbingly positive message.

I liked some people on Twitter pointed to Jeff Longland’s role with VistaSWAT as a leader in the vacuum Blackboard has left open in the community.

Created a Yahoo Pipe for Bbworld09.

UPDATED 2009-07-15:

This TED video has much of the same substance as Godin’s Bbworld keynote.

2nd Blackboard Blog

A blog without comments to me isn’t a blog. Blog posts are about stimulating discussion, so the comments are most important feature. Content without feedback is a publicity or news story not a blog. So Blackboard Blogs at educateinnovate.com isn’t really a blog.

Steve Feldman, Bb performance engineer, had the first Blackboard Inc blog with Seven Seconds. He mysteriously stopped last fall. 🙁

Ray Henderson, new Bb President for Learn, has a blog. Read this introduction post. He specifically wants discussion and dialog. Someone at Blackboard who understands The Cluetrain Manifesto? I am hopeful this is a sign of positive change.

Feedback Loops

Remakes don’t scare me. Some are good. Some are bad. 

The thing to remember is, “Its just a movie.” The world won’t end over a poor movie. There’s always another one in a few weeks to either like or hate. If it stands up to the test of time, then you’ll buy the Blue-ray and next three formats over the next 30 years. If not, then just ignore it ever existed… Much like I’ve done with Superman III, Superman IV, Star Trek The Final Frontier, and hundreds of other movies.

Getting worked up over change? Not worth it.

Quibblers would have kept “Star Trek” more like its old self. Quibblers inhibit revolution. Quibblers would deny the basic law of forward motion in pop culture:

If you love something, they will remake it.

But if you really love it, you will set it free, and let them.

The Trouble With Quibbles

Film makers should keep in mind, the types of people involved in  fads: connectors, mavens, salesperson. Fans are mavens. People are going to trust the opinion of these fans. So if the fans’ concerns are just a few quibbles but still an endorsement, then the general public will flock to the movie. If these quibbles amount to wide rejection of the movie by the existing fans, then the general public will mostly stay away from it.

Quibbles are not really the issue. Endorsements are. 

I think you missed that there is a life-cycle to most such endeavors, and feedback is very useful at specific times, and disruptive (in a bad way) at others.

So, the problem with “fan feedback” non-stop is that they tend to fall into a mob mentality, off being “trolls” about any innovation. But, that said, remember that early forms of the Batman movie with the Heath L Joker was shown to fans (at a Comic Con) to get feedback on the style and whether too over the top. The feedback was used to find the balance and deal with the nature of the ending. Fans were given leaks and teasers (semi-trailers) along the way as well, but the mob rule was not allowed not hound the people making it.

That said, what makes a movie work or not is very different from what made its source material work. The reason the Spiderman movies worked for a large audience who knew nothing about the comics had a lot to do with the simpler nature of the comics. Batman has always been more complex in the psychology of its heroes and villains, as much by what does not happen as what does. Watchman is trickier given its narrative model and how much it connected with its time (Cold War, etc).

— PaulK
The Downside of Feedback

Design by committee sucks. So fans should not take over the process. However, total rejection of fan criticisms probably will result in rejection by the fans and slow sales.

Higher Ed Twitter List

Karlyn Morissette posted her Master Higher Ed Twitter List. Other than @eironae and @barbaranixon, I didn’t know anyone on the list. So I thought to post a list of higher education professionals I follow categorized by primary expertise.

Blackboard twitterers might be another post.

Those in bold are coworkers.

College / University / Departments

@atsu_its – A.T. Still University – IT Help Desk & Support
@BC_Bb – Butte College Blackboard System
@CTLT – Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology @ Goucher College
@GeorgiaSouthern – Georgia Southern University
@ucblackboard – University of Cincinnati Blackboard Support

CE/Vista

@amylyne – Amy Edwards – CE/Vista DBA
@corinnalo – Corrina Lo – CE/Vista Admin
@elrond25 – Carlos Araya – CE/Vista Admin, Dr. C
@jdmoore90 – Janel Moore – CE/Vista Admin
@jlongland – Jeff Longland – CE/Vista Programmer
@lgekeler – Laura Gekeler – CE/Vista Admin
@ronvs – Ron Santos – CE/Vista Analyst
@sazma – Sam Rowe – YaketyStats
@skodai – Scott Kodai – former Vista Admin now manager
@tehmot – George Hernandez – CE/Vista DBA
@ucblackboard – UC Blackboard Admins

Faculty

@academicdave – David Parry – Emerging Media and Communications
@amberhutchins – Amber Hutchins – PR and Persuasion
@barbaranixon – Barbara Nixon – Public Relations
@captain_primate – Ethan Watrall – Cultural Heritage Informatics
@doctorandree – Andree Rose – English
@KarenRussell – KarenRussell – Public Relations
@mwesch – Mike Wesch – Anthropology
@prof_chuck – Chuck Robertson – Psychology

Information Technologist / Support

@aaronleonard – Aaron Leonard
@Autumm – Autumm Caines
@bwatwood – Britt Watwood
@cscribner – Craig Scribner
@dontodd – Todd Slater
@ECU_Bb_Info – Matt Long
@ekunnen – Eric Kunnen
@heza – Heather Dowd
@hgeorge – Heather George
@masim – ???
@mattlingard – Matt Lingard
@meeganlillis – Meegan Lillis
@soul4real – Coop

Assessment / Library / Research

@alwright1 – Andrea Wright – Librarian
@amylibrarian – Amy Springer – Librarian
@amywatts – Amy Watts – Librarian
@elwhite – Elizabeth White – Librarian
@kimberlyarnold – Kimberly Arnold – Educational Assessment Specialist
@mbogle – Mike Bogle – Research

Web Design / UI

@eironae – Shelley Keith

Director

@aduckworth – Andy Duckworth
@garay – Ed Garay
@grantpotter Grant Potter
@IDLAgravette – Ryan Gravette
@Intellagirl – Sarah B. Robbins
@tomgrissom – Tom Grissom

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More IMS Import Headaches

I got this error while trying to run an XML IMS import using the WebCT / Blackboard CE/Vista siapi.sh script…

A unit of type Institution cannot have a unit of type Campus as a child.

Guess being on vacation last week spaced my neurons. Normally, I ignore Blackboard errors as meaningless. This time I listened to the error and sent myself off in the wrong direction trying to figure out what was wrong with the typevalue element of the XML was wrong. Typevalue defines the level of the context. So while my level was set to 30 in the XML, for some reason it must be ignoring it, right?

Wrong! The problem was really that the relationship.sourcedid.source was set to “DBA IMS IMPORT USG_COL” instead of “DBA SIAPI Import USG_COL”. So it was unable to find the parent object. So the error makes no sense to me now.

Can I have my two hours back?