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  1. #1
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    end cheating amongst students

    Please forgive -- I am a brand new user and don't even have navigation skills for this Website. Only registered a few minutes ago, and with so many threads I don't see any way to "search" if something like my question has been posed and answered in the past. Forgive my ignorance.

    I have a question re. use of Office 2010 products in a school environment. I am a "refugee" from the mainframe database world, finally forced out and now teach at a community college. I have no MS certifications, but am merely a "computer guy" who was hired in a business dept. to teach two versions of beginning computer skills (meaning essentially introductions to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, and possibly Access). One is for 4 year college students who will transfer out after 2 years, the other to those getting some sort of 2 year degree from the community college.

    The textbook used is decided at the department level. The tests are "standardized," using a company that provides online testing, and the tests are put together by the "lead" instructor of those in the business dept. that teach these computer classes.

    We have a network drive, which has lots of "starter files" for the students to use as they learn various beginner skills (and new functionality skills as we've moved from 2003 to 2007 to 2010 Office). The students copy these read-only versions from this networked drive on the school's server to their own computers, or flash drives, and then they follow their textbook instructions (lots of pictures) to produce a finished product. I review (i.e. grade) the finished products which they turn into me. These assignments are obviously for the purpose of getting them ready for the tests (which include interactive questions as well as T/F and multiple-choice).

    Cheating has always been a small problem with these assignments, as a student (usually a girl) will complete an assignment and then give the file to someone else (usually a boy) who may or may not have the sense to check it and replace her name with his own before turning it in as his work. I can often spot this -- how could this assignment have EXACTLY the same 5 errors that I've never seen anybody do before as I saw on a previous assignment.

    But the cheating has gotten out of hand. I now understand that groups of students will make a day of it in the learning lab at school, picking different assignments to do and sharing the results. It has become a tidal wave in the last year.

    I would like some way to determine that a file turned in with Xs name in the header or footer actually was their initial copy from the network drive. Do MS office products -- particularly Word, Excel and Power Point provide some functionality where I could monitor this? These products all have file headers (as I learned to call them) -- in fact I usually, the first week of class, rename one or several of these files with the .txt file extension and show them all the "stuff" (most illegible but some in ASCII) that causes a file with one sentence in it to be so large compared to a Notepad file with only 1 sentence in it.

    If there was something easy I could do to about 30 files and then send them off myself to each of my ~130 students each semester I would do that. But I would obviously prefer a way for them to simply copy the read only versions from the networked drive as in the past, and then mark the file in some field with THEIR name in a read only field that I could then read later.

    I am sorry for the length of this post -- I'm sure this is considered way too long, but I'm not a pc guy and not a chat room participant, and wanted to be explicit about my circumstances.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator RetiredGeek's Avatar
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    WJ,

    Welcome to the lounge as a new poster.

    Frankly, I can't think of a single "simple" thing you can do that a sufficiently knowlegable excel user couldn't defeat. If this was Excel 2003 you would have a better chance but with 2010 and it having files with macros being easily distinguished by the file extension they'll have to enable use of the macro on their "private machine".

    Personally my take is that they are only cheating themselves as they will not have the skills to pass the tests if they don't do the work. I'd make this clear to them at the beginning that they are only harming themselves and it will all come out in the tests which are what count in passing the course. Then make sure the grading structure is heavily weighted to the tests and not the exercises.
    May the Forces of good computing be with you!

    RG

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  3. #3
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    Suggestions

    • White (or otherwise invisible) watermark or text on white background that only you know about (you hope), that you can change the colour of when you receive the assignments.
    • Compare 'Properties', such as 'Last modified', under File (i.e. 'Background view').
    • Undo a fair number of operations to see how many changes were made, and of what sort. This may be more interesting than 'Editing time'.
    Last edited by dogberry; 2012-05-24 at 02:10.

  4. #4
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    Thanks to the posters who replied. I do not typically ask an online version of the file the students are to produce, but merely have them print out a copy and turn it in to me. Thus my point about "I've never seen this combination of mistakes before, except in this paper . . . over here." Most of the other intro-to-computers teachers in my business dept. have gone over to using files in this online company that administers (and provides libraries of existing questions) the tests. They also provide files that are similar to the ones in the book itself, but simply provide instructions of what to do, no explanations or pictures or charts or "tips" or warnings, or . . . . The students spend class time doing the book assignment, and then the "homework" assignment is the online stuff.

    Obviously a lot of teachers prefer using these so-called online "encrypted" files because there is little or no time to lecture, so little need to prepare much of a lecture. These files, however, are then graded by the online product, and it's way of "grading" is proprietary and. . . odd. I can get two finished products that look the same, with two different scores. Apparently it at least partially grades by the ORDER in which you do the steps, not merely that it look okay when you are finished.

    Also, I'm not impressed with the so-called encryption. All the product does is generate a random number and put that -- visibly -- into the individual student's file, with the warning to not change it. Well, it is easy to merely copy and paste from one finished student file into another unfinished, empty student file belonging to someone else and w-la, you've copied from someone else's work into your file, to submit to the online product, and it gets "graded."

    Besides, I'm old school. I want to do a lot of lecturing going beyond what the book does. I don't want to merely "administer" a class. My dept. head has told me that my class evaluations are generally wonderful, "your students love you," but I don't want to be loved by a bunch of C students.

    **********

    I have 130 students with approximately 20 online assignments per semester, so looking at details of each individual file by having them send it to me is not a pleasant thought. When really suspicious I will ask to see the file off their flash drive and check properties, but what does that really tell me? Do I have the last modification times written down/memorized for all of these particular assignments? Wouldn't the "cheater" have to update the file to put his/her name in the header/footer and so change the file anyway?

    (I once caught cheating going on between two of my students in different classes. It can happen. But not easily when a large amount of cheating is going on. I've had some of my adult learners in these classes tell me that 4, 5, 6 students will band together in a group. I suspect that there is some online chat room where potential students get steered to my class with the categorization that "it is easy to cheat on the assignment score in Mr. Linn's class.")

    What is needed is a file marked read-only on a disk that when copied once to a . . . user becomes read/write, but only for the first person to open it up. That information gets stored in the file header. And when I open up "properties" to look for modification information, THAT is the name that shows up. An update-once field in a file's header information. (Still, how would it know if I was merely copying and pasting from someone else's file into my own? Unless the source of the copy was also somehow tracked?)

    To the first poster: I tell them all the time that doing the assignments will give you a better grade on the tests. But: 1.) many just hope to pass, nothing more, and many already over-estimate their computer skills. I'm REQUIRED to give a grade for doing the assignments (obviously, or almost no one would do them), and . . . well, most of these kids are 18 and brighter than your typical 18 year old now away from school and finding out the bars in Wilmington that will sell liquor to a minor. This kid is out of a high school where they were coddled because they were bright and any excuse they came up with was okay to get a B. (Seriously, after 6 years of this the psychology of it all is just so obvious!)

    To the second poster: Watermarking? H-mm. If I went to HELP for a particular product, Word or Excel or PowerPoint, would I find something about that? Doesn't sound like something I can do for general use, but perhaps when suspicious about an individual assignment or two from a few individuals. . . .

    Thanks again for the posts and for listening. It's a digital world: cheating/plagiarizing is in, and privacy is gone.

  5. #5
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    Humbug. Cheating/plagiarizing is illegal, dependng on circumstances/jurisdiction. That is trafficking in stolen (intellectual) property. What you have described is collaboration, which is a step toward conspiracy, which is also illegal if and when your students grow up and find themselves in the real world. They need a lesson or two in ethics, at minimum.

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