Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Plagiarism continues

As I mentioned, I'm only writing essays and doing peer review for the remaining four weeks of the class. I just got my robomail (verbatim identical every week), telling me my peer essays are ready to review. I open the first essay. I read this sentence:

The War of the Worlds was written in 1898 by H.G Wells in response to several historical events such as the unification and militarization of Germany.

That's odd, since we were not assigned to read The War of the Worlds. So, I Google the sentence, and here's the top hit:

So, I guess the Honor Code didn't solve everything, did it? Surprise, surprise. The rest of the essay is plagiarized verbatim from this website, ironically named "123helpme.com." Coursera still has nothing in place for such assignments to be flagged for inspection. This student clearly needs help - but who is going to provide that help? Apparently not Coursera or the course instructor.


  1. One of my essays was plagiarized from Bryn Mawr's website. I just ranted to Rob about it. "They copied from an ivy league college. I mean, stupid stupid and more stupid."

    And we are not alone. Someone else has an essay plagiarized from here: http://people.lis.illinois.edu/~wrayward/Wellss_Idea_of_World_Brain.htm

    I copied what the professor couldn't be bothered copying from his own UofM syllabus into my comments for the review. I also quoted what he said about publicly apologizing but I know this person won't bother. But it would restore my faith in the whole process.

  2. I'm feeling completely hopeless about the whole thing, Satia - without a way to flag an essay as plagiarized, I have no confidence that the students who need help will get the help they need. Not to mention that they could be subjected to a lot of verbal abuse from people who want to punish plagiarism and will do so verbally, since they cannot even give a zero score. And yeah, I saw the discussion board thread about the plagiarism, but I'm just not participating anymore there. I hope the threads I started die soon. It would be nice if I could close comments on them like at Google+ - people could then start the discussion over again elsewhere, but I wouldn't feel obliged to listen.

    1. Ends up I had 2 essays that were copied and pasted. The second was copied from a book review on amazon so at least the first plagiarist has good taste.

      I really need to just stop looking at the forums at all but then what? We're supposed to be helping one another on the forums right? So if those of us who sincerely want to help feel unsafe posting in the forums . . . well, I'm going to write about them tomorrow. I was so disenchanted with two plagiarized essays that I don't think I can write without becoming angry.

      That said, I emailed the guy who interviewed me before about all of this and told him what I had received, linked to my two posts about plagiarism, and now I just want to go to bed and wake up with a fresh attitude.

    2. Sleep is good! Meanwhile, I'm having too much fun in my own classes to really worry about Coursera anymore... the Storybooks are starting up in my classes now and it is a total blast to see what topics people want to do. I don't worry about plagiarism when people are really into their chosen projects!

  3. Laura, Saylor Foundation (saylor.org) is offering a spectrum of courses with the same principles as coursera. Open to everyone. No accreditation but you get a certificate.

    They offer a handbook that includes a code of conduct, however:http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Saylor-StudentHandbook.pdf

    It looks like they are avoiding the worst of things in that there is not a lot of interaction between students. I'm not really sure how any of it works but I can't help but think any organization that has prerequisites for some of the courses, has a clear handbook explanation with a code of conduct, complete with the repercussions, may very well be a better place for genuine learning. I may be signing up for one of their courses just to see how it feels.

    Still feeling a little gun shy about Modern Poetry but curious enough to want to see how it differs from the F&SF course.



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