Chronicle of Higher Education, A Professor Wants to Fail Students for Sharing Information in an Online Chat. But Has Tech Changed What Qualifies as Cheating?:
John Kappelman alerted about half of the students in his online anthropology course to their “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” last Thursday. The reason: More than 70 had participated in a class GroupMe, in which information regarding lab and exam answers had been shared.
“My disappointment arises from the fact that the rules for the class are clear,” wrote Kappelman, a professor in the departments of anthropology and geological sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. “Students are not permitted to ask about, discuss, or share information related to exams and labs.”
Because every student had “signed and submitted a course honesty agreement,” according to Kappelman’s email, he recommended that every student in the GroupMe chat receive an F, and he referred the case to the dean of students.
“Faculty have the ability to set expectations for their classes, including what, if any, collaboration or information-sharing is acceptable,” Sara Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the dean wrote in a statement. Kappelman declined to comment as the investigation continues.
The decision to extend punishment to every student in the chat raises questions of fairness for those who had it muted or never checked it.
More broadly, the scandal highlights the difficult issue of expanding technology in the classroom, students in the Google generation who view the free exchange of information without citation as not problematic, and faculty members who are wary of the use — and perceived abuse — of new digital tools.
GroupMe, a messaging app that allows users to create group messages of as many as 500 members, has become a popular way for students to connect with new classmates or with collaborators on group projects. The app allows users to add people to a group without sharing the added people’s contact details with the group as a whole — a welcome perk for students who don’t want their phone numbers to become public.