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Higher Ed in the News

High-tech homework cheating reveals flaws in way science is taught

April 1, 2010

David E. Pritchard, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, devised an unusual method to detect student cheating. He says students view receiving unfair help on homework as no big deal.

Pritchard, who teaches introductory courses at the MIT (when he's not in his laboratory devising new ways to use lasers to reveal the curious behavior of supercooled atoms), realized he could add a detection system to his online homework system to look for unusual behavior patterns.

If a student took less than a minute to answer each of several complex questions and got them all right, for instance, the system flagged that as likely cheating.

Pritchard has no interest in becoming a homework cop. What he really wants to do is understand the minds of the offenders.


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