This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

November 15, 2014

Designing classes that discourage cheating

In spite of cynical comments often overhead, yes, the vast majority of students in college are there to learn. It's especially true in the types of classes that I taught, like Graphic Design. These people were interested in getting jobs in the field, and in order to get them, they had to be able to do the work, use the software, etc. A piece of paper that said that they had graduated from somewhere would open a door for them, but without the ability to do the job, there would be no employment.

As a teacher at The Art Institute of Phoenix, my goal was to create classes that encouraged creativity. And it really was a pleasure to see how these talented people, given a few tools, like Adobe software, could create such great stuff. Mostly my goal was to show them how to do something, then get out of the way!

I rarely talked about cheating, but I did mention it. Cheating in a computer software class is a pretty silly thing to do, but I know people worried about it. And what I found is that people are only tempted to do that sort of thing if they feel that they have been backed into a corner, and have no other choice. But the classes at AIPX were, and still are, designed to give students not only the tools they need to learn, but the time, and the encouragement.

But everything changed when I started teaching at a Community College. It was wide open, and was an environment that practically asked students to cheat. So I built my classes to give the students the time and encouragement they needed, just as I had done at AIPX. And it went like this:

I never, ever, accused anyone of cheating. I just required to see them working on their projects during the lab. The labs were three hours long, and I designed the projects to be doable within the lab, with maybe an hour of *homework*. Doing a class this way discouraged the idea that someone might go play tennis, or something, when they should be in the computer lab. And since time organization can be a challenge for anyone, I took care of it. I didn't do *tardy* or *absent* in the labs, I just wandered around while the students were working on their projects, gave encouragement, and made a note if someone failed to come to lab, or didn't work on their project in the lab. I announced, very clearly, and put it on the syllabus, that if I, the teacher, didn't see you, the student, working on your project - with my own eyes, I had the option of not accepting the project.

Of course, it was all for show. Of course I would accept your project. Of course you could get more time, of course I would let you turn in a project long after the classes ended, and of course I would change your grade. It was a Community College, after all. But I very rarely had to do anything like that. The environment encouraged creativity, not cheating.

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