Harvard Courses Turn to Monitored Exams, Open-Book Assessments, and Faith in Students As Classes Move Online
With the first week of online classes underway, faculty say they have faith in the College’s Honor Code to guard against the temptation of mid-exam Googling.
Harvard College’s Honor Council saw a drop in the number of cases it heard during the 2018-2019 academic year, posting only 64 for the year in the annual report it released last week.
Current Pforzheimer House resident dean Brigitte A. B. Libby will assume the position, which helps oversee the Honor Council, starting June 4.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris will step down at the end of the academic year after almost a decade in one of the College’s top administrative position.
The College’s Honor Council is increasing its outreach to students this semester as part of a broader push to grow the body’s influence on campus.
In its report, the Honor Council obliquely referenced CS50, writing that “one large introductory course” had skewed the data for last year.
One lawyer said Harvard is unlikely to face lawsuits from students accused of cheating in CS50 because the cases are “awfully hard” to prosecute.
FAS Dean Michael D. Smith said he was reluctant “to get involved too deeply” in the Computer Science department, where he still teaches.
Some CS50 staffers said the course’s recent expansion and online availability of answer keys likely contributed to high levels of academic dishonesty.
Former students and course staff said course policy was unclear about what constituted cheating, creating the potential for unintentional violations.
The vast majority of 115 academic dishonesty cases the College’s Honor Council heard last academic year occurred in courses offered in the Sciences Division or the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, according to the adjudicating body’s first-ever annual report.
Eleven new students have been selected to serve on the College’s Honor Council next year, at a time when the adjudicating body has deliberately decreased its public presence.
During final exams, and on final papers and assignments, undergraduates have starting affirming their awareness of Harvard College’s first honor code, which went into effect this semester.
Undergraduate members of the student-faculty body tasked with implementing the College’s first honor code are reaching out to their classmates in dining halls and lecture halls about the goals and philosophy of the young committee.
Administrators acknowledge that a question that logically follows the honor code’s introduction is whether Harvard will move to expand students’ role in disciplinary procedures later on.
“The vast majority of faculty really do care, and the vast majority of students care. Yet I think a good portion of the time, we miss each other in unintentional ways,” said Brett Flehinger, the Honor Council’s secretary.
A study co-authored by Steven D. Levitt suggests that assigning students randomly to seats during exams significantly reduces instances of cheating.
Undergraduate members of the Honor Council—the student-faculty body tasked with enforcing the honor code—are adjusting their schedules as the Council hears its first slate of academic integrity cases.
It's days into the College's rollout of its first honor code, but many professors did not mention the policy in their course syllabi or during opening lectures on Wednesday.