Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Buying the Right Answers

One of the work-related things that I had to do on Monday was to go to the bookstore to make sure that the correct books had been ordered for the courses that I supervise and/or to warn instructors of any bookstore SNAFUs.

Turns out that the bookstore decided to stock the solutions manuals for many of our courses -- even though we didn't order them.

Not so many students can use the solutions manual responsibly. Many more tend to rely on it as a source of right answers to turn in for credit in courses where homework is collected and graded. This is pretty blatant plagiarism, as the students should know that their instructors also have copies of the solutions manual. But it's very rarely prosecuted*, so students continue to do it.

I asked the bookstore manager how the solutions manual got stocked if we didn't order it. (Anyone who has dealt with the bookstore should understand the irony here: how many times have you ordered something only to have the bookstore not stock it?) Turns out that she browses the publishers' catalogs for math and physics and will order any additional supplements that she thinks might help the students.

*Many faculty feel that it's not worth their time to follow-up on this sort of thing, believing that students who cheat on the homework will score poorly enough on the tests to eliminate the need for a formal penalty.