student connectivism, or plagiarism?

Yesterday, I found a post from a student on a code-sharing forum. My gut reaction was that it was an attempt at plagiarism. I made a comment on Twitter along those lines, and got some pushback. Isn’t that just student-centric networking? Isn’t the student just using their network as part of their learning?

Here’s the post:


At first blush, that doesn’t seem so bad. The student is posting a question, asking for feedback. If this was on their own blog, I may not have thought twice about it. Sure, they’re asking for a full solution, rather than a more generalized “what angle should I take in solving this?” but as long as they cite where the solution came from, that may not be academic misconduct (but likely is, given the “solve this assignment for me” phrasing).

What made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up was the section immediately below the student’s post:


In my opinion, and I could be wrong about this, this feels like it’s crossed the line. It’s not a generic forum for sharing solutions, it’s a recruitment website for hiring people to solve problems.

Is this just a natural extension of connectivism and student-centric networked learning, or is this plagiarism? Is this any different than hiring students to write term papers, theses and dissertations?

12 thoughts on “student connectivism, or plagiarism?”

  1. This isn’t code-sharing, this is clearly homework-buying.

    Is the student training to me a manager or a general project manager/contractor who outsources? No? If he’s in a programming course, he should be suspended.

  2. This is commerce not connectivism. What is the network here? There are no additional nodes of student’s work to date, links to sources, dialogue. This is point to point customer supplier relationship. Let’s hope the assessor is reading your post.

  3. I did send the link to the original forum/marketplace post to the prof for the course (I could figure out which course and prof from the link to additional info, which I blurred out in the screenshot). He was surprised that the activity was taking place, but didn’t think there was anything he could do about it, given there are no real-world identities presented. All he could do was contact the administrator of the forum to notify them of the activity and to request it be taken down for copyright reasons (which is questionable on its own – fair use would fall into play for the post). As of today, the forum post is still there. I don’t know what the professor is going to be able to do – I’d hope he discusses it with his students in class.

    1. When looking at the user’s profie who posted the request their name was quite apparent.

      Having been in CPSC – cheating on such a project is only going to set them up for more harm as later assignments nearly always assume you completed/know the previous assignment.

      That said this is cheating full stop. If it was a blog or a forum phrased about asking for help? No – but please do this for me on a site made for people to pay other people to write them something? It’s not their own work.

  4. Funny, if money wasn’t involved I would defend the student. But I find myself somehow troubled that I make the distinction on those grounds…

    Interesting post.

  5. Seems to add a whole new dimension to process rather than content curriculum focus. The student has the capacity to locate information…

  6. Doesn’t Connectivism involve attribution of all the contributors to piece of work? I suppose if this student gives appropriate credit and that fits within the assessment criteria of the professor…

  7. More details on the assignment would be helpful. What did the teacher have in mind? If the assignment is meant to stimulate and assess the student’s problem-solving abilities in this domain, then buying a solution is like giving a doctor someone else’s x-ray to read.

    Or if the problem is “I have work to do that I don’t want to do,” then the student appears to be doing what people with money have always done to excuse themselves from personal responsibility: buy a proxy.

  8. I’m still grappling with what this is. On the one hand, the student is just using the tools that are available to them. The assignment reminds students that plagiarism rules apply to source code, but that citations within the source code are allowed. So, if a student buys a solution and properly cites it, is it valid?

    It’s for a CompSci course, where students are learning to program algorithms. I don’t believe the goal is to produce code, but to understand the process of designing an algorithm and then implementing and testing it – things that aren’t really possible if you just copy/paste a prefab solution.

    For evaluation in this case, students have to demonstrate the working code and answer questions about it – so they’re evaluated on understanding and comprehension.

  9. Well, that’s it exactly. If you’re evaluated on understanding, and part of demonstrating understanding is actually being able to build the thing (a perfectly reasonable educational strategy in my view), then the student has actually decided not to learn, but to simply buy a grade. Assuming, of course, that when it comes time to talk about the code he’ll actually have something intelligent to say.

    Frankly, I get ill thinking about this stuff. If it’s what it seems to be, it’s like paying someone to exercise for you, or to watch a movie for you, or to be married for you. The only thing that makes such absurdities attractive in school is that students, in cooperation with the whole sorry system, see the work they’re assigned as completely detachable from assessment, credit, learning, etc. etc. How this can be is just beyond me, but I see it every day. As a colleague said to me yesterday, “I think students come to school to finish.” Edupunk isn’t going to make a dent in that, I’m sorry to say. But faculty might.

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