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Monday, April 8, 2002

  • Here's what happens if you cheat
  • Snow machine flames out, literally
  • A few other notes and events
Chris Redmond

HM the Queen Mother

Here's what happens if you cheat

As exams for the winter term get going today, it's worth considering what happens to a student who's caught cheating -- on an exam, an assignment, or even a work report. Here are some anecdotes, picked arbitrarily from this year's report from the University Committee on Student Appeals.

Should professors routinely screen students' work to detect Internet plagiarism?

  Yes, it's clearly necessary
  No, the technical problems and cost are too great
  No, that degree of mistrust interferes with real education

Proctor's report of discovery of unauthorized aids that student had secreted in exam book prior to exam. Student claimed "aids were not relevant to the material being examined", admitted action to associate dean. Exam grade of zero. (Distance education, year 2.)

Student found diskette lost by another group in the course and used the material on it as a framework for the experimentation results (the portion of the group project he/she had been assigned by the group members) without the knowledge of the group members. Zero on assignment; disciplinary probation. (Year 2.)

Paper largely based on a book review and used without acknowledgment: no bibliography, no internal citations, no quotation marks for verbatim passages. In an interview with the course professor, the student at first denied that the work was anything other than her/his own; but, when asked to define a particular colloquialism used in the review article and employed in her/his own paper, the student was unable to do so and then admitted the plagiarism. Zero on assignment; reprimand and warning; disciplinary probation for the balance of undergraduate career. (Year 2.)

Verbatim identity of student's paper with an article found at more than one site on the Internet; address supplied by the instructor. In an interview with the Associate Dean, the student reported having been seriously ill during the term and behind in her/his course work. The student expressed remorse for the action. Zero on assignment; reprimand and warning; disciplinary probation for duration of undergraduate career. (Year 1.)

Student handed in two lab reports that were nearly exact copies of reports that had been handed in by another student the year before. Two reports each given a grade of zero; the course grade was calculated on this basis, and an additional penalty (5%) applied to final grade. (Year 3.)

Work term report submission and a website contained almost identical words. The overlap was more than 95%. Suspension for 8 months. Probation. NCR on work term report. A 15-page report on plagiarism to be submitted before the replacement work term report can be graded. (Year 3.)

Plagiarism on two elements of term paper and test. Both showed very substantial unacknowledged used of material from Coles Notes. In an interview with the Associate Dean, the student admitted use of this material, expressing remorse for her/his actions, describing an absence of intentionality, and indicating confusion regarding the avoidance of plagiarism. Student has been strongly advised to abjure the use of Coles Notes for the future and to consult with instructors on the appropriateness of her/his practices relating to quotation and citation. Reprimand and warning; zero on essay; zero on test. (Year 3.)

The latest about cheating, from the Center for Academic Integrity at Rutgers University, includes a report that on most American campuses, "over 75% of students admit to some cheating."

Snow machine flames out, literally

To quote Robert Frost . . .
Fire and ice pack a one-two punch, which explains why UW's Team-Eco Snow came home from this year's Clean Snowmobile Challenge in late March with lively memories but no trophies.

Among the lessons learnt: work with care when you're welding an exhaust manifold.

The week-long competition was part of the Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series. It was based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with individual events at Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Teton Village, and culminated with the hill climb event at Snow King Resort in Jackson.

All went well for UW at first, but at the 100-mile mark, a weld cracked and the exhaust system failed in dramatic fashion as the engine compartment caught fire.

"To Team Eco Snow's credit," says a report forwarded by UW's mechanical engineering department, "they spent three all-nighters repairing the snowmobile using very limited resources and managed to get it operational for the rest of the competition." UW's fire-damaged machine was still one of just six entries that passed the emissions testing portion of the competition, and only missed the noise requirement by one decibel. (Only two teams passed in that category.) Before the fire the Waterloo snowmobile would have had no problem making the noise requirement, but the fire destroyed most of the sound insulation of the machine.

In the multi-event competition, a point system rewards engineering teams for producing a snowmobile that is quieter, more fuel efficient, and cleaner than current trail models. The winning snowmobiles from Idaho and Kettering established at least temporary superiority for the four-stroke engine as the cleaner, quieter design -- a turnaround from last year, when UW's two-stroke machine won the competition.

A rematch can be expected next year -- closer to home for the UW team, as the SAE is moving the Challenge to Houghton in the upper peninsula of Michigan, home of Michigan Technological University.

A few other notes and events

The Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry today presents the Pfizer Synthetic Organic Lecture for this year (and believe me, I am working hard to find a smart remark about a synthetic organic lecture). Today's speaker is Jeffrey D. Winkler of the University of Pennsylvania. Topic: "Synthesis of Natural and Unnatural Products". Time: 3:30 p.m. Location: Davis Centre room 1302.

And tomorrow, there's a special lecture in the school of optometry -- "likely to be of general interest", says a note from Melanie Campbell there. The speaker is Kathryn Murphy of the department of psychology at McMaster University, talking about "Seeing the Light: Optical Imaging of Function in the Visual Cortex". She'll speak at 12:30 tomorrow in Optometry room 347.

On Wednesday, and again next Tuesday (April 16), the teaching resources and continuing education office presents a morning-long workshop on Course Design, led by Donna Ellis of the TRACE staff:

In this half-day workshop, you will use one course design model to start working on your own course. Beginning with a pre-workshop worksheet, you will answer a variety of questions to help organize your planning process and reveal the information needed to design a course focused on student learning. During the workshop, you will learn about setting course learning goals, planning feedback and assessment, and choosing teaching strategies, all in relation to factors such as the context of the course, your students, and yourself as an instructor. Then you will test out your larger design by designing one class. We will also briefly cover course outlines and course evaluation. While a few large group activities will occur, you will be working primarily on your own or in pairs, with a lot of feedback from the workshop facilitator.
More information and registration: phone ext. 3132.

The drama department has a special show later this week; I don't have much information about it, but the title is "Home Free", the playwright is Lanford Wilson, the director is drama professor Joel Greenberg, and performances are Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m. in Studio 180 in the Humanities building. Seating there is pretty limited, so it would be smart to get tickets in advance at 888-4908; the price is $5.

Some major events that are just over the horizon:



April 8, 1968: The observatory atop the Physics building is dedicated, as a national gathering of astronomers is held at UW.

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