There’s an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (or maybe it’s just on the web site, I’m not sure) called “Dozens of Plagiarism Incidents Are Reported in Coursera’s Free Online Courses.” I’m quoted in it as is one of the frequent commentators here on this MOOC stuff, Laura Gibbs. You can go read it if you want and other than the one issue I raise in the comments, I think that Jeff Young’s take on this in the article is pretty accurate.
I’m guessing I’ll be writing more about the whole peer review thing this week(end?) as part of my ongoing MOOC-iness, but three other things I’ll mention for now:
- “Dozens” of plagiarism incidents out of 39,000 students (this is how many are in the class the article is about) is actually not that bad, when you think about it.
- The short writings that I have peer reviewed as part of my participation in the World Music class so far seem to be both not plagiarized and surprisingly earnest in addressing the assignment. Mind you, that’s a small sample– like 8 examples– but still.
- Plagiarism in these writing assignments is only as important as the class itself. In other words, if the value of the Coursera credit/certificate/badge/gold star/fuzzy feeling is ultimately high (for example, it actually counts as honest-to-goodness college credit toward a degree at the University of Pennsylvania or wherever), then this is an enormous problem. If the value of the experience is not (for example, it’s all about sharing in a personal learning experience with a community of other interested people and that’s it), then it’s not. Not be too clichéd about it all, but in the “personal growth” scenario, cheaters only hurt themselves.