WebAssign cheating backfires

By Taylor McElduff

     Whether you’ve taken Physics yet or not, you know its name. You’ve heard horror stories of the grueling work, the endless hours, the late nights meeting deadlines. Its name has been echoed with dread throughout the halls of Hereford. All of these can only mean one thing: WebAssign.

     Putting in those demanding hours only increases the temptation for students to cheat. Since WebAssign is online, the debate often arises if cheating is made harder or easier. Mr. Smith, one of Herefords’ two physics teachers, believes it does both.

     Mr. Smith has found out most of the many ways students have creatively cheated on WebAssign. Often a person can give another student his login so the problems can be completed for him. Students have also found out how simple it is to type a problem into Google to find the solution. Many students will also work together on problems and simply change the answers to fit their own problem. Mr. Smith ensures students that working together is, in fact, encouraged; however, it is imperative that students make note of this when handing in their work.

     Although it may seem easy to cheat on WebAssign, Mr. Smith believes, in the long run, it is harder. The teachers can track the IP address, a unique number assigned to every device connected to a computer network, back to the computer which was used for the homework. Students have used this strategy to complete homework for others. Mr. Smith also periodically checks students’ progress throughout the week. If he sees that a student has not used multiple tries on a hard assignment, that will raise suspicion.

     In picking the cheaters out of a classroom, Mr. Smith has to take on the role of not only a teacher, but also a detective, or as Mr. Duvall, Herefords’ other physics teacher, puts it, a profiler. Mr. Smith compares the way in which students solve a problem is to “a fingerprint” since no two students solve them quite the same way. This fingerprint is what helps Mr. Smith spot a cheater as students have to do a weekly write-up pertaining to the assignment.

     All in all, Mr. Smith believes WebAssign makes it harder for the students to cheat. He also feels that when students cheat on his homework, they are only cheating themselves. Although it may pay off in the short-term, when it comes to tests and quizzes, students will face the consequences.