Cheating flap hits Georgia Tech

In the latest of a series of cheating scandals to hit higher education in recent years, nearly 200 students in two introductory computer courses at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been accused of unfairly collaborating on a class project.

Allegations were raised after a computer program designed to detect plagiarism discovered similarities between the students’ computer code.

Students found guilty will most likely be given failing grades and could also face expulsion, Georgia Tech spokesperson Bob Harty said.

Using homemade software that inspects submissions for plagiarism, professors at Georgia Tech found that there were uncanny similarities in student work on a computer science class project.

The 187 students facing allegations are mostly freshmen or sophomores who took either “Introduction to Computing” or “Object-Oriented Computing.” Nearly 1,700 students enrolled in the two classes last class fall.

“Introduction to Computing” is a mandatory course for all students while “Object Oriented Programming” is a requirement for all students enrolled in the computer science program.

In both of these courses and other computer courses at Georgia Tech, one of the stipulations is that there is to be no collaboration on programming assignments, Associate Dean of Students Karen Boyd told the Associated Press.

Boyd will oversee the investigation into the alleged cheating incidents.

In a written statement, Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough asked for patience as the investigation proceeds and pointed out the national prevalence of cheating, noting a Duke University study that found 75 percent of college students admitted to cheating.

The computer program that detected the likeness between different students’ work operates by searching for details such as commas or semicolons in the same place, spacing done in the same way or the same mistakes.

In the spring term of 2000, Dartmouth faced a similar cheating scandal when a visiting professor alleged 63 cases of cheating in a Computer Science 4 class.

Students apparently gained access to homework solutions on a class web site that had previously been restricted, but was left unprotected after a class demonstration.

At the time, visiting computer science professor Rex Dwyer told The Dartmouth that he was shocked by the incident.

The number of cheating incidents in computer science during that term was greater than the number he encountered in 10 years at North Carolina State University, Dwyer claimed.

After more than 30 hours of hearings and deliberation, however, the Committee on Standards decided to withdraw all charges against the students.

The decision to withdraw charges was based on issues of academic integrity and fairness, Dean of the College James Larimore said at the time.

Such large-scale cheating scandals and the expanding well of papers and resources available on the Internet have led to the increased popularity of computer programs designed to detect cheating.

One such program is MOSS (Measure of Software Similarity), which automatically searches for similarities in C, C++, Java, Pascal, ML, Ada, or Scheme programs.

Since its development in 1994, Duke University and other educational institutions have adopted MOSS as a device to detect cheating.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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