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A friend of mine recently sent me a game he made as part of his coursework and asked me to make a Youtube video of it. He was supposed to get 3 people to do the same in order to get a better grade.

I'm happy to help my friend out this once but this is concerning for me because the professor asks non-enrolled people to do gradable work. Even if the 'external dependencies' are willing to do the work, they might not be able to due to other commitments, which could conceivably put unnecessary strain on the relationship.

I was told the video can be a short, 1 minute video, with you talking mentioning the title but the amount of work required isn't the point; the point is that any amount is required at all.

Assuming I was the student in question and asked to find reviewers for my game demo, what is the best way to refuse? I'd think the 2nd paragraph of this post is enough if reworded into an email but I'm not an academic, and there might be some nuances I'm not considering.


edit I have to clarify my objection. It's not that any work is required at all from a third party, it's that a student's grade depends on work being done by a third party that has no contract with the University and no obligation to deliver. This is different form many forms of outsourcing, be it a vendor (the student pays for something so the vendor must deliver) or an interview (the student still has to prepare for and edit the interview and still does most of the 'work')

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    Doesn't he need ethics approval for this? Imagine a game with flickers which triggers a fit in the player? Or that can exacerbate RSI? – Captain Emacs May 22 '18 at 13:54
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    Wait, so it was specified that the reviewers cannot be the student's classmates? – Malady May 23 '18 at 10:32
  • @Malandy I'm not aware of the exact wording but I believe the only requirement was to have a YT account, so classmates were not excluded. – rath May 23 '18 at 10:34
  • 'Cause if it was just "Get 3 people", is there an inherent implication that getting classmates are easier, and externals could be chosen, just to expand the pool of reviewers, to make things easier? – Malady May 23 '18 at 10:36
  • @Malandy That is certainly possible and doesn't sound unreasonable – rath May 23 '18 at 10:37
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I agree that this concrete instance is somewhat problematic, but as usual it's a sliding scale. In practice, there are certain learning objectives where you as a student can't help but interact with the outer world, which usually requires them to spend some amount of time or work on your course work.

To give another real-world example, for a teacher's education course on diversity I am currently doing I was recently asked to interview an international student w.r.t. their experiences at our university. This required me to find an international student who was willing to commit 30 - 60 minutes of their time to talk to me about diversity. I found this assignment quite reasonable, as it's clear to me that the general learning objective underlying this exercise can't really be achieved differently.

For me, the difference between your example (which I agree is problematic) and mine (which I think is not) is that in my example, the student did not actually have to do any "work" alone and by themselves. They did not write or submit anything, I actually had to do all the work related to writing up the analysis and report. The student "only" had to commit the time, which is not nothing, but the barrier is certainly lower than if the student had to, say, write a report themself.

Assuming I was the student in question and asked to find reviewers for my game demo, what is the best way to refuse?

I would ask the teacher whether you can also do the assignment in the way that you as the student make a few review videos with your friends. Basically you would still do the assignment, but you would take over all the "work" of making, editing, and uploading the videos. Your friends would only need to commit the time to look at your game and speak their thoughts into your camera. This would sound like a sensible compromise to me, while accomplishing the same learning objectives for you as a student.

  • "I would ask the teacher whether you can also do the assignment in the way that you as the student make a few review videos with your friends." - do I understand correctly that you base the distinction on who presses the "record" button, all else equal? – O. R. Mapper May 23 '18 at 14:11
  • @O.R.Mapper Not only that. It "feels" different to me if the student taking the course is responsible for setting up the recording, doing any editing, getting an account and uploading to Youtube etc. My gut feeling is that it's ok to ask people to commit a little bit of time, but asking them to actually "do" something on top of that (such as making and uploading a video) feels wrong. – xLeitix May 23 '18 at 20:42
  • @O.R.Mapper That said, if I were teaching this course I would probably just have the students evaluate each other's games. Not sure what the point is in involving outsiders in the first place, but that's neither here nor there. – xLeitix May 23 '18 at 20:44
  • Ok, I see your point. Personally, I'd consider the most questionable part the fact that the video is supposed to be uploaded to YouTube, no matter by who (which, I could imagine, reduces the set of people generally ready to help the student from "almost everyone they know and possibly even strangers" to "almost no-one"). I do, however, see the point of involving outsiders, because I think exactly that - "involving outsiders" (who are not primed for specific results or answers by being in the same class before) - is a very valid point in itself. – O. R. Mapper May 23 '18 at 20:55
  • @O.R.Mapper I think we are all in agreement that the assignment seems a little "off" in various directions, but that doesn't answer OP's question. – xLeitix May 24 '18 at 6:51

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