March 11, 2008
Are study groups cheating?
Shockwaves are blowing through the blogosphere over Ryerson University's effort to expulse a student who set up a Facebook study group for his first-year chemistry course. Without specific details as to what the students were sharing and the nature and expectations of how they would do their homework, it's hard to know how close to the line these students were to "cheating." On the one hand, a study group with 147 members looks, on the surface, more like a smuggling ring than a discussion group. On the other, today's online social networks enable large groups of people to affiliate loosely and collaborate on micro projects.
Were the students in this matter engaged in old-fashioned cheating, or is the professor a clueless digital refusnik? Study groups are a mainstay of the law school experience, as are outlines passed down through generations of 1Ls. And law students, as I've argued before, generally need more opportunities to work together. Plus, few classes have homework anyway.
Nonetheless, I'm curious: do you, or your school, have a policy about online study groups and sharing of notes? For example, what's your take on SwapNotes, which also happens to have a Facebook incarnation?
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There have always been study groups. Now it manifests differently in the digital age. Personally, would make more sense, and be more fair, to actually establish wrongdoing before doing something drastic.
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