According to Breitbart, students have figured out how to scam on-line learning. The article specifically mentions tests, but I suspect it applies to homework assignments and exercises graded by computer. We’re not talking about collage age computer nerds. Nope, twelve-year-old kids in elementary school.
Back at the turn of the century the Texas Legislature mandated that Texas cops had to take courses in four areas, every two years. The topics were an effort indoctrinate cops in a politically correct mindset. The state agency, TCLEOSE in charge of police training, came up with online courses. The software tracked test participation and scores.
During my first online session I figured out how to game the system. The course consisted on a lesson, followed by a workbook, followed by a multiple choice test. It didn’t matter thirty seconds or thirty minutes devoted to the lesson and I was cleared for the workbook. The workbook was the gateway to the test. In order to take the test one had to complete the workbook. The workbook required narrative answers.
Have you figured out the flaw? There was no way to evaluate the correctness of answers in the workbook. For purposes of tracking each workbook exercise had to have an answer. It didn’t have to be a correct answer. The success of a given student was dictated by the score on the test.
The first time through I filled in the workbook questions with nonsensical answers and obscene limericks. Not a problem, the software said, take the test. I still recall one question and answer.
The question: “Differentiate between a rapist and a gang rapist.”
My answer: “The gang rapist has to stand in line.” Nailed it! Passed the course, got the certificate.
Nobody cared if any instruction or learning took place. What mattered was the appearance that learning was taking place.
Two years later it’s time to take the same courses, with the same content. I realized that I had put to much effort into the workbook the previous go round. This time I simplified things. I drummed my fingers on the keyboard. My answer looked like this: p;loiyugf. According to the TCLEOSE software a monkey could pass the workbook exercise. All the blanks got filled, take the test.
The hardest part of the test was obtaining the minimum passing score of 70. It wasn’t a stretch to pass. It was hard work to barely pass.
I wasn’t done yet. At the conclusion of the testing cycle I would send the executive director of TCLEOSE an email. In it I would tell him I thought he was a worthless piece of shit who should be ashamed of himself. He never disagreed.
The last time I took the tests I got ready to send my traditional e-mail. Damned if the e-mail address for executive director was nowhere to be found. TCLEOSE has since changed its name to TCOLE. I am modest. I attribute the name change to two possibilities. One TCLEOSE is dodging bill collectors. Or two, they are trying to avoid me fourteen years after I retired.
There is no such thing as a good bureaucracy. The best you can hope for is one that is relatively benign.