After the closure of the professor rating Web site Polyratings last quarter, two Cal Poly students and a friend came up with the idea to offer a new Web site, one that advertises more than teacher ratings. The Web site, slostudents.com, was created and designed by Cal Poly students Slava Markeye, Brian Spence and their friend Alex Kennedy.
The site is intended to be a “one-stop shop” for students looking to sell and buy books, post teacher ratings, calendar events and homework and test solutions. But for teachers who use the same tests and homework assignments year after year, slostudents.com could be a bigger tool for students looking for a way around the work and studying.
Under section 684 of Cal Poly’s academic policies concerning cheating and plagiarism, cheating includes a student “taking or receiving copies of an exam without the permission of the instructor.” A violation of this policy generally results in an automatic failing grade and being kicked out of the class or, in extreme cases, the university. Cornel Morton, vice president of student affairs was hesitant to comment on the Web site without more information but could see the potential for concern.
“I’m sure the academic deans and faculty will have more to say about this but on the face of it, I’m certainly concerned that the potential for compromising, what I will call, academic integrity exists,” Morton said.
The idea of backlash from Cal Poly administrators was something that Markeye and his friends discussed. While some teachers make past midterms available to students as a study tool, many only keep them in their office where the student can view them under the watchful eye of the teacher. Markeye doesn’t anticipate a problem with having a test online unless it is copyrighted by the teacher. He said if a teacher asked that a test be taken down — it would be — but he doesn’t think using the Web site would be considered cheating because teachers should have a different test from quarter to quarter.
“I could definitely see where it would be considered cheating because the tests are available,” Markeye said. “Though what I perceive, what I think might start happening, is the test might be in different formats or they might be harder. I really don’t think there’s gong to be a backlash in tests by having the material there, but in other areas to compensate for the test being out there.”
A big concern for some teachers is whether or not students will use the site as a way to avoid learning the material. Robert Flores, agricultural education professor said he’s not worried so much about tests being available because most teachers make them available already. His main worry is that students will cheat and not attempt to learn the material.
“I’m a proponent of students learning anyway they can and some professors have a lot of material that relies on remote memory,” Flores said. “The only thing I get concerned about is cheating. Is there some behavior that’s inappropriate that’s gong on? If students are learning and progressing in the way we want them to progress in our programs, I don’t really see that as a problem. But I think permission from instructors is important if you’re duplicating them and passing them out.”
As it stands right now, some teachers don’t think the site will cause harm to students if it’s being used as a study tool. But Allen Estes, head of the architectural engineering department for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, said he doesn’t consider the posting of quizzes and homework online to be cheating because he thinks professors should already assume students have access to previous midterms and should change up their tests regardless. If anything, Estes said the Web site might create more work for already over-worked professors but it could also even the playing field for the students who don’t have access to previous exams.
“The teaching load here at Cal Poly is horrendous. For a teacher that is teaching three or four different courses, that’s a terrible load,” Estes said. “Maybe (the Web site) is a good thing and we’ll have to clean up our act. Why allow some students the advantage because they have the correct friends?”
Having tests on the Web site though is only beneficial if the content is updated on a quarterly basis, business senior Caitlyn Arigo said. One problem she frequently encountered with Polyratings was outdated ratings on teachers that were years old and said that was one reason she stopped using the site.
Likewise, she doesn’t see using the site as a form of cheating but can understand how some teachers might feel that way because of the wider availability of tests and homework being online versus being passed from friend to friend.
“I think it’s about the same as if students passed on midterms quarter to quarter. I guess it’s a little more widespread because you’re not just giving it to your friends,” Arigo said. “I’m sure it will just result in teachers taking back midterms as opposed to letting students keep them and look at them.”
In the end, the copying and cheating of tests will only hurt the student, math lecturer Alberto Jimenez said. While he’s encouraging of students being creative with their learning, he said he wouldn’t endorse the copying and posting of work.
“Anything related to learning and sharing what you have learned is bound to be good,” Jimenez said, “If what is being done is taking the homework and blindly copying it on a piece of paper and handing it in, it’s cheating their education and eventually it will catch up with them anyway.”