Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fresh Misery from the West Coast

Introduction-  I've been a lurker for a couple years, and decided I have enough stories built up to propagate at least a few memes.  Me:  Proffie at 2 year CC, previous research scientist, previous allied health career.  On taxpayer's dime for going on 20 years. Still like my job, but reality of the daily grind setting in  - please become accustomed to my snarkisms as you get to know me better.

Today's misery brief:
In order to control potential cheating in my many large lecture sections, I use different versions of exams, printed on either white or canary yellow paper.  Students are given alternating colors of exams. This frustrates the snowflakes who had spent the hour before the exam planning their "sit in the back with our hats pulled down" cheating strategy.  I'm satisfied that any risk for cheating is well controlled as I prowl the room.

So where's the Misery?

Students are to submit their Exams and Scantrons into 2 chairs at the front of the room when finished.
White Exams in the chair labeled "White Exams"
Yellow Exams in the chair labeled "Yellow Exams"

They will walk to the front of the room and freeze like frightened rabbits

They will put their Yellow Exam Scantrons in the White Exam pile.
They will put their White Exam Scantrons in the Yellow Exam pile.

These students are seeking careers that involve saving woven baskets by making the right decisions quickly.

Most suprisingly, some of the wabbits who do this actually score well on the exams - WTF?


  1. You need to explicitly state on your syllabus that any students that take more than 2 seconds to place their exams on the correct chair automatically lose half of their exam score. Then say "It ain't fucking rocket science."

  2. My students cannot put their papers in the right alphabetical stack. The alphabet stymies them. Sigh.

  3. Not sure what to do about the chairs, but it occurs to me that it would be fun to try printing the *same* exam on two different color of paper now and then, to add to their confusion.

  4. Cass, I know a guy who does just that. Over the term there will be different tests on different colors, the same test on different colors, and different tests on the same color. By the time finals come around the students have no idea what to expect.

  5. @Pat from Peoria: I can't do that, because I frequently do cover rocket science.

    @Dr. Jaguar et al.: I've used this trick for some years, too, only I make up 4-5 versions of the exam, with orange, yellow, green, blue, and white covers. Doing all this took lots of time, but it did noticeably prevent cheating.

    Then one day, time was short, so I made all the exams with white covers. I find that this saves more time than having to be more careful in sorting the exams afterward takes. Any student who arrives at the exam late in an attempt to defeat this will be seated in the front row, where they won't be sitting next to anyone, and get docked 20% of the grade for being more than two minutes late (and yes, that's explicitly stated in my syllabus).

    Don't worry, my students still know I'm watching them in order to prevent cheating, because I take a DSLR camera with a 17-85mm zoom lens to exams, and I am not shy about using it. (It says I will do this in my syllabus: yes, it’s now 16 pages long, and counting.) At f = 17mm, the field of view is wide enough to get the whole large lecture hall in one shot. At f = 85mm, it's fine for zooming in on one or two students, even in the very back of the hall. It’s a freaking arms race.

  6. welcome favorite moniker on CM in weeks!

    yes, your story is one I've seen too often.

    it's as if they never fully switch their brains on while in class. I know they have energy and fire for other things, but not my class, that's for sure.

    they are sort of in a daze, and I find myself repeating the most ordinary instructions over and over again.

    And Frod, you are a master...the zoom lens must frighten them, or do they even notice it?

  7. @Frod: Eek! And I thought checking for plagiarism with Turnitin/SafeAssign/Google was a pain. I'm glad I can stay out of the arms race by assigning papers (when at all possible, ones that are harder to find prefabricated than to just, you know, write. I guess that's my equivalent of making up three different exams, and then sorting the #$*! things.)

  8. Maybe the kids are just trying to drive us insane.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.