images.jpegViruses. Malware. Network interruptions. Program bugs. Version incompatibilities. Now, add to this list of things that can go wrong add a vendor who sells “corrupt files” that can be submitted in lieu of homework, hopefully buying a day or two more to work an an almost done homework. That’s the latest twist we get from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus Blog’s posting of ‘The Computer Ate My Homework’: How to Detect Fake Techno-Excuses .

The scheme is pretty simple:

Corrupted-Files.com, a Web site developed in December as a joke, its owner says, offers unreadable Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files that appear, at first glance, to be legitimate. Students can submit them via e-mail to professors in place of real papers to get a deadline extension without late penalties. For $3.95, the site promises a “completed” assignment file will be sent to the buyer within 12 hours, to be renamed and submitted by the new owner. By the time a professor gives up on the bogus file, in theory, a student will have been able to complete the actual assignment.

The article then goes on to explore ways to detect and possibly handle such events.

The comments section chimes in with two dozen or so additional suggestions – everything from “use paper” to “develop work process” with the selection of a topic, the submission of a brief reading list, then an outline, and finally the paper itself. The latter one appeals to me because it has the advantage of testing the assignment system, keeping students on track, and generally emulating best practices. The comments themselves could be edited to be a part of the “how to submit a paper” instructions.

Definitely a good read for courses with a writing requirement.

Marc Beja, ‘The Computer Ate My Homework’: How to Detect Fake Techno-Excuses, The The Wired Campus in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Online), June 10, 2009. http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3818/the-computer-ate-my-homework-how-to-detect-fake-techno-excuses

Image. A Google thumbnail found with a image search for [gremlin]. Alas, the source of that image is no longer on the page that google points to, illustrating another way the computer can eat your homework.