teaching in a socially networked world

A Ryerson University student may be expelled for, if you read many of the news articles, merely hosting an online study group.

The following exemplifies some of the crappy reporting on the subject, that this is about new (and scary) technology, that the old people just don’t understand:

Supporters of Chris Avenir, 18, broke out into applause following a faculty appeal committee hearing Tuesday where the computer engineering student defended himself against allegations he facilitated a study group on Facebook that amounted to cheating.

In what has sparked a debate over what constitutes collaboration versus cheating in cyberspace, Avenir was sent a notice of expulsion after a professor came across a group called Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions.

The group, which has subsequently been shut down, had 147 members from Ryerson’s first-year chemistry and computer engineering programs.

Avenir, who was listed as an administrator of the group, is facing one charge of academic misconduct and 146 charges of enabling, which means “helping others do the same,” according to Ryerson University spokesperson Janet Mowat.

“Facebook is a new realm and it is one the university is seeking to seize without any regard for the specific circumstances,” said John Adair.

“The online group was simply a forum for students to go to for help understanding the class lectures,” said Nora Loreto. “For him to be facing expulsion when there is no evidence linking him to anything on that site that even comes close to academic misconduct is outrageous.”

Not until almost the last paragraph does the reporter get to the meat of the university’s argument.

Avenir had received a B in the course but it was changed to an F after the professor discovered the site. The professor had stipulated students work independently on the assigned test problems. [emphasis added]

The reporter wants a sensational story involving emergent technology instead of reporting about what could just as easily happen without technology.

The Globe and Mail article, and this, from another report, is better:

What appears to have snared Avenir was the group’s main page, which read: “If you request to join, please use the forms to discuss/post solutions to the chemistry assignments. Please input your solutions if they are not already posted.”

A professor, who had stipulated assignments be done independently, discovered the group, gave the B student an F, then charged him with academic misconduct.

This begs the question, is a facebook host responsible for moderating the content of his/her list? More importantly for us academics, with these new technologies, can a professor assign take-home test problems anymore?

One Response to “teaching in a socially networked world”

  1. Max says:

    Heutzutage ist es wichtig, dass eine Vernetzung der Schulen erfolgt. So kann man sich innerhalb kürzester Zeit Informationen besorgen und sich austauschen. Allerdings sollte das ganze in einem gewissen Rahmen bleiben. Man sollte auch mal über die Suchtgefahr des Comupters nachdenken.