Ah yes, the new honor code will fix everything

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Coursera Adds Honor-Code Prompt in Response to Reports of Plagiarism.”  To quote:

The step is a small one, but it was carried out with the start-up company’s signature swiftness. Students in Coursera’s courses must now renew their commitment to its academic honor code every time they submit an essay assignment for grading by peers.

Specifically, they must check a box next to this sentence: “In accordance with the Honor Code, I certify that my answers here are my own work, and that I have appropriately acknowledged all external sources (if any) that were used in this work.”

I noticed this in the World Music class this last week when I posted my writing about Aboriginal music, but I didn’t exactly give it a whole lot of thought.  Frankly, it reminded me a lot of all those “terms of service” agreements that we all check without reading.  Hopefully I haven’t agreed to some kind of sick HUMANCENTiPAD project.

Anyway, as I wrote before on this, I don’t think plagiarism is actually that big of a problem in these classes so far, and it is frankly low on my list for the problems of the writing assignments and the peer review process.  But hey, if it makes Coursera et al feel better that I check a box, sure.


6 thoughts on “Ah yes, the new honor code will fix everything”

  1. FWIW a friend of mine got a plagiarized essay to review after the honor code box showed up – this time, though, the plagiarist cited Sparknotes.com, and then proceeded to copy verbatim without even putting the copied content in quotation marks. Without some actual information about original writing v. plagiarism, the sort of thing regularly included in any college class, I think we will keep running into problems. It’s not that people are intending to cheat (so I don’t think the honor code box really matters) – instead, they just don’t know how to do effective research, what it means to paraphrase, how to build on another person’s ideas in order to reach your own conclusions, etc. Admittedly, in the Fantasy-SciFi course, the opportunities for bad research abound. Many of the books we are reading are standard high school and/or college fare, meaning there are lots of bad essays for the taking online at Sparknotes, et al.

    1. This is a good point Laura, and it is a classic example of why there needs to be a teaching moment here. That’s kind of hard to do without there being, you know, a teacher.

      1. Indeed! Although it’s not just a MOOC problem – when it comes to writing, there is often not a teacher even in regular college classes – that’s how I can end up working with college seniors with serious writing skills deficits and ongoing confusion about plagiarism and paraphrase… I wish the MOOC I am in were doing a better job of actual writing instruction, but that is something I would wish about a lot of the classroom-based classes at my school too! :-)
        More on that: http://courserafantasy.blogspot.com/2012/08/more-on-subject-of-college-writing.html

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