I am a student in an online undergraduate class at a regionally accredited state-run college. This college caters specifically to adult working students and in particular military students worldwide. It is not a research college. It has a typical plagiarism policy that calls on students and faculty to monitor for these things. The class is a junior-level computer science course.
For anyone not familiar, one of the “features” of an online class is the use of online discussion forums, supposedly to recreate a “classroom discussion” environment.
This week the following sequence of events occurred, and I’m not sure how to handle this situation, or even if I should say anything at all.
Student A posted a thorough response to the professor’s questions. The professor accepted the response and gave praise.
Student B posted a generic-style comment (see side note below) using keyword extracts from Student A’s comment. Clearly Student B had read Student A’s work even though the comment was “fluff” and had no substance.
Student B then posted their own answer to the professor’s questions. I did not see Student B’s original answers, but the professor called out Student B for submitting content that was “100% copied” (in the professor’s terms) from two web sites. The professor gave Student B a chance to repeat the assignment in their own words.
Student B apologized and submitted a new answer. This second answer is almost entirely a verbatim copy of Student A’s answer! Student B merely changed a few words but the content is largely word-for-word identical. It even includes the exact same citation at the end. To make matters worse, Student B added a section “My Opinion:” before copying an entire section of Student A’s work.
Today when I logged in, the professor responded to Student B that the work was much better and was now acceptable. ??
My hope is that the professor wasn’t paying very close attention and did not notice that this post was essentially identical to Student A’s post from two days ago. I also suspect that both students may have copied their work from a third source, but I have no way of proving that and I know that as a student it isn’t my place to research that. Just adding it as I think it may point to the problem being more than just the one student.
My question: Should I take any action here? If so, should I contact the professor who accepted the work? Or should I contact the administration staff?
I work tangentially in the education field so I understand how important these issues are and it really chafes to see this happen. That said, this public school is a “churn” school, getting tuition dollars from the military and businesses and providing non-research-oriented education (i.e. not vocational training but not pure-academia either) en masse.
The professor is actually one of the most engaged online instructors I’ve had. As useless as I think most online class discussions are he is at least very involved in them, answering any and all questions within a few hours even though he lives in Eastern Europe, and asks sometimes pointed follow-up questions to students. While this is certainly not up to “in-residence” standards it is far better than other online classes I’ve taken where “mentors” often all but ignore the students. So I’d hate to do something that hurt him over something that he could correct. But the fact that he accepted the work stunned me.
What is the correct course of action here?
Site note: In my experience after several years of such classes over two different public universities, online discussions are rarely effective. Schools typically mandate that students respond to X number of posts in a week, and the vast majority of student responses involve picking a few buzzwords from the reading or a previous comment and merely adding statements like “I really enjoyed that you said _____” and “I found your post very helpful.” It’s extremely frustrating to see this happen in direct violation of every class syllabus that explicitly bans it.