Monday, 8 July 2013

The negative effects of cheating in education.(updated)

 From my personal experience having studied at 8 academic institutions I find that one of the most detrimental factors that effects student well being is cheating. I find it effects all members of the learning environment, students and lecturers alike.
I myself believe in high standards. If there is one standard you set yourself at university my advice would be "don't cheat" because of the extreme ongoing effect it has. If you do it you need to take some responsibility for these effects because you will definitely be experiencing the consequences.

These opinions are not merley those of a disgruntled art student. I have spoken to many students, students that have passed with flying colours, students that have failed and gone on to do something else and students that have decided the particular subject or institution was not right for them. There was a consensus among these students that cheating can and does effect there experienece at university. What cheating does is that it creates negative pressure. Destroying the good atmosphere of a learning environment and deeply effcting the students within that environment.

Studying an art course at university I find that there is a consensus among the student body. If your not awesome (or you don't appear to be) your nobody. One of the ways we learn on our course that has been enforced by our lecturers is that "students teach each other" some may call it buddy sharing. The question is how many "Buddy's" will you have if your considered a nobody? This affects the social aspect of university. The social aspect of university is more than going out every night partying in the first year, it is of utmost importance in an environment where students teach other students.

The solution seems to be this, If you want your work to look awesome? You work damn hard or you cheat. I am sorry to say that statistics show that 75% of students choose the latter. From my experience and the things I have witnessed during my study I would say this figure is accurate. During my research I found that most of the blame was given to use of modern technology. I really do not believe that it is the age of modern technology that makes cheating ever more easier. Taking things away that encourage cheating is advised on many teaching advice websites. The worrying thing is that some of the solutions to these problems such as banning the use of of certain software will not work. If anything it will have a negative effect as students may not develop software skills needed for industry.

The simple fact is this: If a student wants to cheat they will. It is not just digital where cheating is easy, if a student wants to cheat they could do so using any method, digital or traditional.


The responsibility of teachers.

If you are a lecturer I am assuming it is more than just bread and butter for you. I would like to believe that you became a teacher because you wanted to teach. Teach people how to become something great and learn the skills your already awesome at.
I feel that lecturers owe it to there students to make the environment fair as far as grading goes. I don't think it is fair however when cheats are allowed to submit work that's not there own. It has very negative effects on everyone.
You cannot teach a person to be something great if you let cheats slip through the net, it is detrimental to the cheat as it does not encourage them to learn. It is detremental to the other students who feel it is absolutely necessary to reach standards that are actually fake standards. It is also detrimental to the lecturers who let this happen as the chances are they will loose the rewspect of there students.

I am going to recall one time from my own experience at university when a lecturer actually congratulated someone for completing an artwork that wasn't all there own work. A particular student who did not particularly demonstrate great skill at the subject one day went from producing a mediocre art piece to a super photo real one that outshone everyone elses. This is not completley impossible I myself have found that there have been times in my learning that i have made huge leaps in a short space of time. This wasnt the case as he admitted blatantly that he had painted over a photograph to make it look photo real and he was congratulated by the lecturer for doing a good job. The other pieces of work that were done by honest methods didn't get a mention. The behaviouyr of this young man infuriated some of my classmates, but only the ones that did there work honestly, especially after he had told everyone he cheated.

The fact that the lecturer congratulated him for it made him loose the respect of the students that completed there work by honest means. From a students perspective what good can a teacher do for his students when they do not respect him.

Why dont more students complain.

I have only ever heard a few students including myself mention the issue of other students cheating to there lecturer's. Most students dont like to draw attention to the fact the cheating goes on as it may put there own work under scrutiny. If the statistics are true and 75% of students really do cheat then this is understandable.

This is an example of a line of thought of a student witnessing such behaviour. "If hes going to get credit for cheating and the lecturer cannot tell maybe I should cheat as well, after all I cant live up to those standards right now."

When work is produced that makes a student appear to be better than they actually are, it creates a false high standard.
This causes unnecessary stress on students trying to live up to this standard that has no grounds in reality. It is negative because the problem gets worse, students simply follow suit causing more cheating and creating this falsehood.

Spotting the cheats.
The thing that makes spotting cheats so hard to spot is that some students do possess great talent and skill. The way in which cheats and non cheats work can be very similar.

Take these examples of students based on people i knew from academic experience.

Student A paints over a photograph to give there artwork that "realist" look that they could not have achieved with there own mediocre skills. This student usually has sub par or very little development work that does not really show a clear link to the final piece.

Student B does not cheat but tries really hard but doesn't necessarily possess that much skill yet. so there work doesn't look that great in comparison to the "fake standards" of the cheats photo real masterpiece.

Student C doesn't cheat and produces work to a very high standard rivalling the work of student a. This student works there back off and is absolutely knackered. It is so much hard work to achieve these standards. This is the kind of student always has sketchbooks full of preliminary drawings, concepts and planning in a variety of media. as they get better the preliminary work may decrease as there skill does.

student D has a huge amount of skill and they can produce good work with only a small amount of planning by doing what is necessary only to achieve there final outcome. These students are few and far between.

The similarities between student A and D are so similar that it would be nearly impossible to distinguish them.

It is the institutions fault. Or It is always believed to be the lecturers fault. If I were to put myself in the shoes of a lecturer who had many students that cheated what could I do? not a lot, I cant fail 75 percent of my students because of bad academic practise, this would look bad on me and possibly cause me to not have a job. If I let it slide the work on my course will look great and make more students want to enrol. It is a very awkward situation to be in.

Detremental effects of cheating on the wellbeing of students.
You can appreciate that university is stressful enough. This stress can be dealt with and the university expects students to develop "coping strategies" to deal with this. Fair enough.
I have witnessed that students who do things by honest becoming ill and have to leave there course or worse slog it out and fail or dont do as well as they should because they just cannot cope with this added stress. Statistics show that 25 - 30 % of students will suffer from this. which co-incides with the amount of students that cheat 75%.  From my own view and the people I know the Students that didnt cheat suffered from more anxiety and depression problems than the students who did cheat, the statistics back this up. I also found that the cheating problem caused me more stress than any other aspect of university and that is coming from a mature student with a family that has to travel 20 miles a day to get there. When the the way the institution is run causes uneccesary stress on students then surely it is the institutions responsibility to make sure something is done about it, especially when rules are being broken.

A solution to this problem

I have a solution that will work in the long term, but benefit students in the short term.
My solution is this. If a particular year group have a problem either with cheating or major concerns over other people cheating. I suggest to the lecturer that he/she acknowledges that there is a problem and addresses the problem by talking to the year group and encourages there students to set new standards for the years to come.
This new not cheating attitude will help eliminate the negative pressure of having to live up to fake standards so the students can work to perfect there skill and let others see the positive results of that over the course of there study.
It will also help students realise that there is no quick fix to becoming a great artist in reality and it is hard graft that will make you a success. increasing positive pressure.
With positive pressure there is a huge sense of self satisfaction at the accomplishments that the student has made increasing mental well being.

Monday, 1 July 2013

How to write a quick and effective design document part 1


Hi guys, its been a while.
I thought it was about time that I wrote something that may help interactive media students with there study as that was the purpose of this blog.

I myself like writing but I have come to understand that not all art students like writing at all, so I have decided to write a guide on how to write a quick and effective design document, so you can get it out of the way and crack on with the fun part (making) which is what all artists love, am I right?

Last time I wrote about concept and planning I wrote a list of 5 things, with reference to real life experience. This time I am going to make it more relevant to the design student.

Also this will be quite educational for myself as I plan to break it down to aid my own design work as I find myself waffling on in my own design documents. I am going to break it down into simple terms.

Here goes..
How to write a quick and effective design document
A design document is one of the most important parts of a project as it helps you define exactly what it is you are going to do. It will save you time in the long run as it will help you for see any future problems that could set you back days in a project.
One thing to remember is what audience the design document is for, who is going to read it?
In industry the design document is a way for you to communicate to your team/boss
  •  exactly what your design decisions are  
  • why they are good decisions.
At college/university it will serve the purpose of helping yourself or your peers in a team project plan out a project so you can organize your time effectively. It will also show your lecturer the decisions you have made and what has influenced you to make those decisions.
Step One - The Brief
 I have seen fellow students write a time schedule before reading the brief. Even I myself have done this. WHAT! read the brief before you do anything else. I cannot emphasize this enough.
You cannot plan anything until you know exactly what it is that you are going to do. There may be instances where the brief is vague or you have to write your own brief, or that there isn't a brief at all.
If there isn't a brief write one . If its vague, write it out properly. It will save you hours or days in the long run.
One aspect of a good design is that it fulfils the requirements of the brief. All of the decisions that you make in the project will be directly linked to the requirements of the brief.
 To write a good design document you need to clearly explain your intentions.
Do this now, write a few paragraphs explaining what you are going to do and why. Your plans for research, reference,  potential ways of modelling.  etc. everything you need to do to fulfil the brief. 
Step Two - The time schedule
Now you know exactly what you are going to do, it is absolutely essential to plan your time effectively. To do this you need to consider:
  • Duration of the project - from start to finish. how long have you got whens the deadline?
  • Tasks. what things do you need to do in order to complete the project? research concept. modelling. texturing.
  • Time. how long is each task going to take you to complete? even if you do not know exactly, it is a good idea to roughly plan exactly how much time you can spend on each task and stick to it. remember to make allowances for things going wrong, software crashes, illness that kind of thing.
  • Other projects  One thing to consider that may be overlooked especially for students is do you have anything else going on at the time of the project? If you are a student chances are that this project wont be the only project you are working on. If you have another project or projects put those in the schedule too.
Step Three - Research
You know what you have to do, but do you know what you want to do? As a student there is so much room in a project for creative freedom.
For example, the brief said you had to make a building and the style had to be photo real.  You need to conduct research in order to make specific decisions for the style and design of the project.
So you have to make a building? what kind of building? what colours will you use, how will you make it,
Every aspect of the design needs to be justified, There must be at least one very good reason why any decision is made.  If you find you cannot justify your decisions then they need to be re assessed and written about.
Decision - Reason - documentation

I will return with part two at a later date, this part will include concept art (yay!)