Friday, March 14, 2008

Ryerson Facebook Story Highlights a Solution, Not a Problem

Digital Front Online
by: Jeremy Johnson

So incase you haven't heard, a student at Ryerson University is currently facing expulsion because he managed a FaceBook group with 146 student members to the group. The group, to my knowledge, was suppose to be a study group for science and computer science which helps network fellow students on those subjects incase they need help.

The problem was the entry message specifically mentions the sharing of solutions and work done to get those solutions. When the professor found out about all of this, he flunked the B student and demanded that he be expelled for cheating.

Now I'll admit, the idea of sharing solutions might be a little bit racey in the academic world, but tihnk about it this way - they managed to tie a popular trend amongst people roughly in the 15-35 age group (shooting in the dark on that one) and tie it to academic related studying. Student run, not tied to any particular class, just a Facebook group devoted to learning. Am I the only one who thinks that lightbulbs should be going off in the faculties across Canada when they aren't?

Now, the professor in question said that he had achieved an unfair advantage. Naturally, the debate turns to why there is a difference between a tutorial class or sharing notes in the library and studying it all on Facebook. After talking to a few fellow students, one particular conclusion seems to stick out that everything is recorded. Hot dog, just what a professor would want when a student is having problems - the ability to monitor their progress and guide them along whenever they have a chance to look at what is preventing a student from understanding a particular concept!

The CBC reported on the latest developments where his appeal was heard.

The part that annoys me though is how the debate seems to be squarely on whether or not FaceBook is cheating. I'm thinking that academics should be kicking themselves right now over seeing the debate go this way. When you have a story along side saying that student enrollment is down while the tuition keeps going up, you got to wonder if driving more students away by saying how Facebook is for cheaters is necessarily a bright idea.

Think about it, when grade 12 students get told about how great university life is. It's not always appealing to them when you dish out statistics like student to professor ratios. Some of them feel like school is a waste of time that they are forced into doing because their parents told them to. Now, imagine a selling point being 'Got a Facebook account?'

Who knows? Maybe academics can gradually get them at younger and younger ages. Get them to join study groups of their interests before they are even attending. Then when grade 12 hits, one of the last things they'll think of is 'getting the heck out of this prison called school' and be more along the thinking lines of, 'where can I get more education.' Heaven forbid it, they may even become addicted to learning. Education would be their drug of choice!

In fact, I would go as far to say that any faculty member who has any sense of self-preservation about their job who thinks Facebook is just a threat to academic integrity should have their head examined. Imagine society grows in such a way that whenever some grade school student says 'school sucks', the next response from a student is, 'hey, check out the wierdo who says school sucks!' (insert laughter at complaining student here)

So enrollment would go up, campuses like CNC wouldn't have to go through any more cuts, and suddenly education is the cool thing to do. How in the world could you go wrong with that? Now, I'll admit the flaw in this plan is attracting the right students, but I argue that can be worked out after enrollment to post-secondary educationgrowth goes through the roof and more money starts entering the system. Who knows? Maybe it'll lead to more locals being able to shake the hands of the Prime Minister for their brilliance in some invention they made - OK, if you're in the sciences and the Conservatives are in power, that might be a little dodgy - but the point is, this so-called cheater from Toronto may have found an even bigger solution than you might think.

After all, when you look at the world today, there's always room for more smart people.

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