Is there something I’m missing here in this outrage over widespread cheating in a business class at the University of Central Florida? Here’s the issue, according to a story at Inside Higher Ed:
The revelation that hundreds of University of Central Florida students in a senior-level business class received an advance version of a mid-term exam has exposed the widening chasm in what different generations expect of each other — and what they perceive cheating to be.
“To say I’m disappointed is beyond comprehension,” Richard Quinn, instructor in the management department at UCF, told his students last week as he announced that all 600 of them would have to retake their midterm exam in his strategic management course. The discovery that at least 200 of his students received a version of the test prior to the exam shook Quinn deeply, leaving him “physically ill, absolutely disgusted, completely disillusioned, trying to figure out what was the last 20 years for,” he said in a widely distributed Web broadcast of his lecture, which a student posted on YouTube, after appending his or her own captioned commentary (a more complete version of Quinn’s remarks is here).
The “perception” problem alluded to in the intro graph above is this:
What is clear is that some students gained access to a bank of tests that was maintained by the publisher of the textbook that Quinn used. They distributed the test to hundreds of their fellow students, some of whom say they thought they were receiving a study guide like any other — not a copy of the actual test.
Several students have protested that they had no intention to cheat. These students say that they only became aware that they had more information than they should have when they took the actual test, realized they had seen the questions before, and knew the answers. . . .
Some students have blamed Quinn, accusing him of misleading them and being lazy. They posted clips from the first class’s lecture, in which Quinn can be seen telling his students that he is responsible for creating the test. The students have tried to use this statement to justify their acts; since Quinn told them he would be writing the exam, they did not think the prefab version they were using to study would be used.
I’m usually one to put the hammer down on cheaters, but I think I side more with the students here. It seems to me that any instructor–particularly of a class with six hundred students enrolled–is really a complete idiot to use questions from a sample test, and lazy lazy lazy to boot. (I don’t use textbooks, but seriously: how hard can it be to make up even multiple copies of a test based on textbook material?) Study materials included in textbooks frequently use sample questions students might see on a test–so I think it’s an unfair standard to suggest that students shouldn’t use textbook publisher-supplied information when studying.
But, worrying about this war between the proffie and his 600 students misses the real cheat here, which is the cheating of students and faculty alike by the University of Central Florida. Why the hell are there 600 students in a class in the first place? The students are being cheated out of classes in which more meaningful learning and interactions with the faculty and with each other can take place, and the professor is being cheated out of a sense that his instruction means anything to his students. (Maybe putting 600 students in a class is an implicit invitation for taking the easy way out in preparing tests?) Why are we surprised or outraged when cheating happens on a large scale in these massive classes? That’s like faulting the rats for looking for the cheese in the maze, man.
Inhuman scales of education produce predictably inhuman results.