Software developed by Georgia Tech detects possible cheating in students' homework

Wednesday, January 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ A software program designed by Georgia Tech professors to detect cheating in students' computer programming homework turned up 186 possible violators, school officials said.

The students _ who were enrolled last fall in either ``Introduction to Computing'' or ``Object Oriented Programming'' _ will be investigated by the student dean's office, Tech spokesman Bob Harty said Tuesday.

The program is designed to detect exact duplications of computer code.

Students found guilty of cheating could face expulsion but most likely will be given failing grades for the classes, Harty said.

Students were told before taking the class that the software would be used, said Kurt Eislet, director of undergraduate education for the College of Computing.

``My guess is that there are students who either don't believe that the program exists or don't believe that they're going to get caught and are willing to take that risk,'' he said.

The software, developed around 1993, detected similarities in the students' work in three computer coding assignments, Eislet said. It's unlikely that innocent students' work was detected by the program, he said.

``Out of 30 people on a given assignment that were detected, it's possible that a small number of them have legitimate explanations for why those things are so similar,'' he said.

``But for the most part, the degree of similarity that this program is looking for _ the commas are in the same place, the semicolons are in the same place, the spacing is the same, they've made the same mistakes _ the only explanation, and what most students will eventually concede, is they actually did it,'' Eislet said.

``Introduction to Computing'' is mandatory for all students at the college; ``Object Oriented Programming'' is required for computer science students, Harty said. Nearly 1,700 students were enrolled in the two courses in the fall.

A computer program designed to catch duplicated phrases in term papers at University of Virginia led to the investigation last year of 122 students at that school. Prof. Lou Bloomfield in April created the program to detect shared phrases of at least six words.

A Rutgers University study of 2,200 students at 21 colleges in 2000 found that 10 percent admitted they had borrowed fragments of material they had found on the Internet, while 5 percent said they had taken large passages or entire papers.