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I'm an undergraduate studying computer science at a local community college. Currently, I'm enrolled in an intro computer programming class that I unfortunately am unable to test out of (I asked my advisor). It is the prerequisite to the OOP class at my college (the class that AP Computer science would transfer to), which I took four years ago as a freshman in high school. I have already taken data structures and algorithms and am presently taking discrete math. The point being, I have very little to learn from this class. Last night, I received an email from my professor saying that my code on a recent assignment was identical to the solution in the textbook.

I will admit that I did search to find the answer code because:

  1. The autograde is extremely bad and requires spaces and other punctuation to be identical, all while not telling you what is wrong unless you look closely. It runs a series of units tests and compares the text output.
  2. Again, I won't learn from this class, so I'm not hurting myself by not properly learning
  3. The tests are worth 80% of the score, and I have been doing those fairly, so anything I do on the assignments will have little affect on my grade.
  4. The problems are incredibly fake and are nothing like the real world problems I engage in at work.

Generally, I've been searching to find a solution to a similar problem and then editing it until the autograde accepts it (so what I'm copying serves as a template to save time). In this case, I stumbled upon what turned out to be the actual answers.

So technically I did copy the answers, but it was not me attempting to get out of work that I would actually learn from or need to do to pass the tests. I am very frustrated with how awful this class is and please note I would not do this for any other class.

What I am not sure of is what to do now. I already have received a zero for that week's work (a tiny percentage of my grade) so I could go forward as if nothing had happened and ignore the remaining assignments (each week is about 55% easy work that I have been doing, 45% horrible labs that I often skip) and end up with about 85% on the course assuming my future test scores represent those in the past.

Looking at the academic policy on the syllabus, as my first offense I will likely not see any other actions against me, but I don't want my professor to think I am a cheater. I have never cheated in any class and I don't consider what I did in this case to be a problem (I would argue it breaks the letter, but not the spirit, of the rules). How should I respond to this and go forward?

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    In any case the approach to start wth an existing solution and modifying does not appear what is expected. If you want to avoid being accused of plagiarism, always start from scratch and then add what you want to do in your program step by step. Point (2) is not a reason for anything - the professor will need to grade ignoring your motivation. Point (4) is typical for introductory CS courses. Real-world problems just have too many details that distract from the learning objective so the problems are "fake" because that is what enables you to focus on applying the recently learned concepts. – DCTLib Apr 10 at 20:05
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    If I read you correctly you copied an answer you found somewhere and used it in homework, got caught, wish you hadn’t, and now rationalize it shouldn’t really matter. Certainly food for thought. – A rural reader Apr 10 at 20:50
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    You cheated and got caught. Until you recognize that you're going to continue making trouble for yourself. You're not "accused" of something, you're guilty of it. You didn't technically copy, you copied. What you did here is a problem whether you want it to be or not, it's cheating. – Bryan Krause Apr 10 at 21:21
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    I would argue it breaks the letter, but not the spirit, of the rules. Okay, go ahead and try to argue that and see what happens. I think it will be an educational, eye-opening experience. – Dan Romik Apr 10 at 21:38
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    May I suggest that you should try to challenge your self-perception? If your programming skills are really so good that you have nothing to learn from this class, most of the assignments should be extremelly easy to you and require only very little time to solve them. So why would you copy the solutions then, rather than coding them yourself? – Jochen Glueck Apr 10 at 23:58
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Honestly, your best course of action is to apologize to the professor, admitting your fault and vowing to do better in the future. You can beg weakness and panic, but don't try to justify it to them or others. Such an apology is best made in person, possibly impossible now, and embarrassing, but it adds an extra element that you understand the error.

If you learn from your mistakes you are becoming a better person. But if you refuse to learn, others will cease to respect you, with long term consequences.

But by stepping forward with an apology you might assure the professor that you understand the issues, in which case they won't feel quite the need to watch your every future step with a jaundiced eye.

You screwed up. Own it. People aren't perfect. We can learn, however.

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    I suppose I can't make anything worse. I guess I'm not sure how to approach the apology. – Mr.Technician Apr 10 at 23:08
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I would suggest to just bite the bullet for that small assignment and be careful in future ones. If your CC has a page where students can leave reviews of courses, considering leaving a review of this course describing your professor's actions to make future students aware.

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    Make aware of what? What did the professor do wrong? – GoodDeeds Apr 10 at 21:42
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    Not that the prof did anything wrong, but future students should know how the autograde system compares to other classes. – Mr.Technician Apr 10 at 23:09
  • Yes as Mr.Technician says, in case other students are in the same situation as the OP. – Run27.35 Apr 10 at 23:13

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