When does collaboration become cheating?

Harvard’s CS50 class, Introduction to Computer Science I, has become very popular, swelling in size to 636 students this past term. Unfortunately, the increase in popularity hasn’t been without its problems.

More than 60 students enrolled in Computer Science 50: “Introduction to Computer Science I” last semester appeared before the College’s Honor Council in a wave of academic dishonesty cases that has stretched the Council to its limits over the past few months, according to two people with direct knowledge of the investigations.

The confusion comes from what is allowed for collaboration and what constitutes cheating.

The collaboration policy in Harvard’s flagship introductory computer science course was sufficiently vague that students accused of academic dishonesty may have unintentionally violated it, according to former students and course staff.

When the policy boils down to “be reasonable“, there is ample opportunity for misunderstandings.

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