computer science

Are computer science students more prone to cheating?

As enrollments in computer science courses swell, academic dishonesty might follow.

As interest in computer science grows, thanks to a thriving tech and start-up industry and due to encouragement from successful entrepreneurs and celebrities, so, too, does the potential for academic dishonesty, according to an in-depth New York Times article.

The article observes that while computer science courses have swelled with students hoping to snag high-tech jobs or positions at start-ups, this enrollment increase has led to more cheating, as students “borrow” code from friends or copy it from the internet.

Contributing to the problem:

  • Coding takes time, and many students fall victim to the temptation to copy code from various online resources–often posted by someone who has taken the computer science course in the past
  • Programmers are collaborative in the professional world and often share code; some course professors’ policies allow students to talk about coding problems but prohibit them from sharing code itself–a practice that can confuse students

Consider the frequency outlined in the article:

  • More than half of last year’s alleged academic code violations at Brown university involved computer science
  • In 2015, up to 20 percent of students in a single Stanford computer science course were flagged for potential cheating
  • The Harvard Crimson reports that at Harvard, more than 60 students in the university’s Computer Science 50 course were referred to the school’s honor council for allegations of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism
  • A UC Berkeley professor discovered that in just a single year, roughly 100 or 700 students in one class had collaborated on or copied code

To read more about whether educators believe computer programming courses truly have above-average cheating rates, and to learn about penalties for cheating and the solutions computer science professors have put into place, read the entire NYT article.

Laura Ascione