Diane Christian Boehm
with Laura Taggett
Saginaw Valley State University, MI
The Active version is available at http://www.svsu.edu/~dboehm/pixels.htm
Comments to dboehm@svsu.edu

The Most Difficult Thing

The course in question was taught via Internet, and the instructor's assignment, posted in the syllabus, was clear and straightforward.  The student's response was equally straightforward:  he went directly to A1 term paper, with its store of 20,000 papers and purchased a paper comparing Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story. The instructor subsequently learned that all the student's papers had been purchased and downloaded from an Internet site at a total cost of about $200.

Doyle's situation is no isolated case.  Electronic media have changed both our processes for writing and our concepts about what writing is.   Certainly computers and the World Wide Web have made the issue of intellectual integrity a far more challenging puzzle than it has ever been.

If we are to deal effectively with such dilemmas, we must be informed and prepared to respond in ways that honor our goals as professional educators.  This article explores some of the issues, including their links to larger issues confronting higher education, and proffers some practical classrooms strategies.  I invite readers to share their thinking and responses via the CoverWeb.

What are the issues?

What strategies address these issues?

Taking the Next Step

Professional guidelines, clearly communicated ethical standards, and effective classroom practices can provide the platform to re-examine those values and structures of higher education which have created the climate in which term paper mills flourish.  Joan Connell, writing for NBC Online (1997), challenges the current climate:  "for far too many teachers, students and institutions of higher learning, education has become a crass and impersonal transaction:  papers written for grades, money exchanged for degrees."  Unless our own personal and institutional ethics are intact, we have little foundation on which to criticize the ethics of our students.

It is time to re-examine the transaction called higher education, to engage in serious conversation with our colleagues, administrators, and teachers in elementary and secondary schools, where most students first use the Internet.  Electronic media have created exciting new possibilities.  How well they contribute to student preparation for the next century is up to us.

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Copyright 1998  Diane Christian Boehm

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