back to article Educating Verity

It's my own fault. If you've told me once, you've told me a hundred times to ignore them. You know the sort of thing: Bacheelor, MasteerMBA, and Doctoraate diplomas available in the field of your choice that's right, you can even become a Doctor and receive all the benefits that comes with it! Last year, I fell victim to a …


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  1. RW

    "The Elements of Style"

    The referees who passed this gaseous horror of a paper should be publicly mocked for laziness. They should have returned the manuscript to the journal editor with a copy of Strunk and White's immortal "Elements of Style" for forwarding to the paper's "authors", along with a note suggesting that the writing style alone disqualifies it for publication.

    The referees may have been unable to spot the plagiarism, but on mere stylistic grounds alone, the paper makes a mockery of the concept of clarity.

    One suspects the referees of saying "well, I can't figure out what they're saying, so I'll assume it's all good." Shame on them.

    When I wrote my PhD thesis, my research supervisor and I spent hours every day polishing the language. At the time, I was in despair at his nit-picking ways, but in retrospect I see that he was working hard to attain a kind of lapidary prose where not one word was redundant and not one logical connection was obscured. Good to him, and hail to his memory.

    PS: I realized that this paper came from the Indian Institute of Management. Aha, now all is clear: management! Betcha they have MBA's or some similar qualification, the attainment of which does not require development of an understanding of the concepts "mine" and "thine" and their differences.

  2. Dave

    So What is New in the World?

    Here we have the problem - I can write something that is completely my own work and yet manage to construct a few sentences that match another paper in the field. Once upon a time this wouldn't have been an issue, but with Google around to check every phrase, plus specialist bits of software to assist, it becomes increasingly difficult to write something unique. I could go the way of George W Bush and just make up some new terms that no one else has used before, but somehow I don't think that would be acceptable for a professional science or engineering paper.

    An example - discussing the progress of a project with the company COO, I pointed out that "progress is a vector". I subsequently plugged the phrase into Google and sure enough, someone else had already used it, even though I'd not seen it before. The same can be a problem in the patent field, given how many people manage to patent the bleedin' obvious.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well done, rather showed the OU up, I thought they'd have had a bit more spine.

    I wouldn't have bothered with the course, I'm afraid I've got no tolerance for BS.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    The plagiarism is a problem for IEEE. One of the important roles of academic publishers is to ensure originality and quality of the work that they publish. That they accepted they had erred is reassuring, even if the penalty does not seem to fit the severity of the crime.

    It is reasonable for academics to assume that published papers that have been peer-reviewed (which is supposed to catch plagiarism) have not been plagiarised. The OU can hardly be faulted for not knowing the provenance of a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    The complaint that the OU have admitted to sending "not good" papers bears some examination. Would you rather that they only send you good papers to read? Do you think that would enhance your analytical skills and help you to judge for yourself the merits of what you read? If your comments to every text were essentially that the authors are right, how much would you learn?

    Anyway, as a result of reading that paper, you have been led to scour the net for further sources of information, reading and understanding them in far greater depth than if they had just been handed to you on a plate and have learned (ok, reinforced your previous knowlege) not to trust the value of something just because someone recommends it.

    Looks like you're getting great value for money so far ;)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @RW - Management?

    When you said this:

    "PS: I realized that this paper came from the Indian Institute of Management. Aha, now all is clear: management!"

    I was thinking exactly the same thing, except for "management", substitute "India".

  6. Steven Raith

    @ AC : Hmm

    "Anyway, as a result of reading that paper, you have been led to scour the net for further sources of information, reading and understanding them in far greater depth than if they had just been handed to you on a plate and have learned (ok, reinforced your previous knowlege) not to trust the value of something just because someone recommends it."

    I'm all for learning stuff yourself and examining your sources carefully, but you would expect higher education to provide you with source information and references that were not only relevant, but also not worded in such a way that gives the impression someone just put a thesaurus through a shredder and taped bits in sequence to pad out their work...

    Steven R

  7. Paddy

    If it doesn't skim then reject

    I often skim text and try *not* to give the benefit of doubt to the authos of 'scholarly papers'. If it doesn't skim, then I more often find, that on closer examination, the author isn't trying to be clear.

    (It's not only Wikipedia tha may contain crap).

    - Paddy.

  8. Tony W

    Bad can be good

    Not surprised at all. At least the plagiarism wasn't directly by your tutor. In my MSc course, I noticed that some of the wording seemed familiar, and found that a rather obscure paper by a work colleague had been seamlessly integrated into the course notes with no attribution.

    But it was good that some of the example answers given for past papers had mistakes, because I didn't have the nerve to say so until I had checked everything really well. Took time and effort that I would never have spent otherwise, and I'm sure that improved my mark in the final exam a great deal.

  9. Piers

    OU - FAIL. Oh how the mighty have fallen....

    The OU give you a paper to read that is clearly bollox (technical term). This is within its own terms, without reference to the fact that the reason its bollox is it's been badly copied from elsewhere! The OU's response is simply inadequate, as indeed is the fact they used the paper in the first place. I get the feeling that Verity is somewhat "stooping to conquer".

  10. John Styles

    Disagree with the last A.C.

    What are the O.U. doing giving out this gibberish?

    Bet Ms. Stob won't be on their Christmas list this year :-)

    For what it's worth, I did a few of the O.U. CCI MSc. courses but decided it was a waste of money - the two basic courses were good, as was the HCI one. The rest tended to be 'write 100 line program in language blah', and as we all know, writing 100 line programs in anything is easy but nothing to do with the price of fish.

    It does sound like the O.U. has jumped the shark, there wasn't anything that bad in the ones I did.

  11. Dr Stephen Jones

    Garbage in, Garbage out

    @AC: "Would you rather that they only send you good papers to read?"

    One would expect that Open University tutors can distinguish between a good paper and a bad paper. It is far from clear that whoever is responsible for M885 can, or even cares in the slightest.

    This course should be suspended from the OU syllabus and the competence of the tutors independently investigated. Once they have been dragged from the golf course.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    M885, well I remember

    As someone slogging through an Open Uni MSc Software Development, I well sympathise. Lots of the material is 'the ideal' and not 'what happens in the real world' or is a painfully self-referential word play. But thats academia for you :)

    BUT it really gets the grey matter working, evaluating, investigating, arguing, exposing you to new ideas. Hard work but worth every penny. Disemboweling a published paper is quality stuff, I'd have given you +25% just for that!

    And if the study doesnt work out, surely the IEEE would have you as a reviewer.

    PS> put aside real world experience and just jump the academic hoops :)

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Well spotted

    Kudos for calling it as you saw it, but read "Corrupted Science: Fraud, ideology and politics in science" by John Grant for more of same.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Much, much worse than that

    I did an OU course on technology and gender (well, it seemed like a good idea at the time), and came across an academic called Donna J Haraway. If you haven't read her stuff, then you've never truly been confused... One of her papers is called Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©Meets_OncoMouse. And the title makes much more sense than the contents.

  15. Robert E A Harvey

    Not all

    I really enjoyed my OU course - which I undertook 15 years ago in pure maths. It was well written by people who understood the subject and led me to research a lot more in the days before the internet.

    But I have also taken a 'technology foundation course' which was purely mathless hand-waving - physics for people who can't do sums - and seen some of the computing modules published recently, which are all tosh and woffle.

    But so is modern computing tuition - gone are algorithmics, the works of Knuth, Codds Laws, and anything remotely rigourous. Tony Hoare, where are you? What we get now is examples of APIs and IDEs; working through examples of protocols, most of which are neither used nor up to date; and specious "theories" - such as the implimentation of fixed width web content.

    The OU has been bullied by the great societies to restrict or tailor it's original free-form ideas on education to suit the job market and it all seems very sad.

  16. BlueGreen

    @AC: Hmm

    Do you work for the OU?

    The original paper was in dreadful nebulous, worthless language. Taken at first reading, it should never have been allowed on a course. It's garbage. Let me try to answer some of your questions (I can only speak for myself as if I were in Ms Stob's position):

    "Would you rather that they only send you good papers to read?" - yes

    "Do you think that would enhance your analytical skills and help you to judge for yourself the merits of what you read [if they had sent you good papers to read]? " - no, if her course was about good, clear writing, where examples of garbled craptitude had merit as counterexamples. However hers was a computer course and the analytical skills required were towards software so the actual answer to you question is, yes.

    "If your comments to every text were essentially that the authors are right, how much would you learn?" - pure duplicitous misdirection by you. She wasn't talking about whether the authors claims were right or wrong, just their clarity (and after a while their honesty). Both of which patently sucked. A disgusting attempt at spin, well done you.

    "Anyway, as a result of reading that paper, you have been led to scour the net for further sources of information, reading and understanding them in far greater depth than if they had just been handed to you on a plate and have learned (ok, reinforced your previous knowlege) not to trust the value of something just because someone recommends it." - good god, how patronising can you get. And more duplicity too - what she learned was about bureaucratic sloth and impotence, and the inability of the OU to set up its coursework properly. Not software reuse.

    I'd recommend to you 'Uses and Abuses of Argument: Critical Thinking and Fallacious Reasoning' (ISBN 076740517X) except that you seem to have read it, digested it and absorbed exactly the wrong lessons from it.

  17. BlueGreen

    and a note on your xkcd panel...

    ... <> which mentions deconstruction. Chip Morningstar made a genuine attempt to understand it and here's his experience and conclusions:


    Well worth a read.

  18. jake Silver badge

    Comp. Sci. and free thinking

    "I had previously associated this sort of thing with fashionable humanities, not our own beloved Comp. Sci."

    Eh? Have you ever read comments here in ElReg? The [insert hard/software/OS of choice] fanbois are constantly parroting the words of others.

    I've done a little teaching here in the BayArea(tm) over the last 25 years, and it's absolutely shocking how few people entering the IT world are capable of having an original thought. They learn by rote, and take exams/tests almost mechanically. It's sad, really.

    I tried to shake up my sysadmin/syssecurity class by bringing in an ancient DEC machine running TOPS-10 and a bunch of dumb terminals. My texts were mostly Tannenbaum. Several of the class complained to the administration, and a ruling came down that my "teaching platform was archaic and irrelevant in the modern world". Keep in mind I was trying to teach CONCEPTS, not applications.

    I replaced the DEC with donated/salvaged PCs running BSD (servers & routers) and Slackware/KDE (desktops). Didn't cost the school a dime. The same group of students complained. Out went the free system, and in came a Windows based network. The mind absolutely boggles.

  19. J

    What's up with Indians?

    Good on you for all you did, Stob. I am not from a CS background, I'm a biologist. And I can tell this is common in our field too. I've seen data that is cut and pasted from part of one figure to another figure in published papers, but with the name of the organism swapped. I wasn't actively looking for it, but it was so obvious that it drew my attention; even the artifacts of image compression were identical from one figure to the other. Falsified data.

    Now on to the Indians. I give an evolution and phylogenetics class a couple times a year in the uni here, for a couple of graduate courses on software and algorithms applied to biology. In the four or five years I've done this, twice I have managed to detect cases of academic dishonesty. One was a copy/paste of a couple of paragraphs from some PDF on the web to homework - the idiot didn't even change the number to reflect the exercise itself, and the answer would have been wrong anyway even if he had, because the paragraphs had nothing to do with the question. Easy to detect, because did the stupid PhD (!) student think that nobody would notice that a student does not write like that, and that content? I immediately googled it and there was not even change from the original sentences. Another case was not plagiarism (at least not of the same type), but one student doing the homework, and two other, late (but I let them submit it anyway, because I'm so nice :-), copying the files and all from the one who did the work. The idiots did not notice that the output files included time stamps with the date and time, up to the second, when the program was run. In eight different files. Hehe. They just slightly edited the file names and thought I would not notice.

    Anyway, all that to say that they were all Indians. Anecdote, of course. Funny thing is that I was describing these cases to a couple of faculty guys, without giving names or anything. And one of them, director of the center, quickly asked: "were they Indian". That surprised me, but he told that they (the center) has to give them a sort of "ethics in academia and research" or the like when they enter school. The Indians seem to think it is perfectly fine to go around plagiarizing and copying like that, apparently. Seems to be some cultural thing, I guess. I would never had guessed, and thought it was just coincidence that my two instances of dishonesty involved only Indians... Well, keep an eye out for them -- but don't forget the other students either! :-)

    I refuse to use the new icons unless they are strictly necessary to clarify something (like joke alert)...

  20. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    I want the old icons back

    I think I remember that paper, I actually tried to read it. Well, it's just "IEEE Software" and not everything in there is usable (plagiarism or not). Some articles/opinion pieces are pretty good and give you a few ideas or nuggets of wisdom to take away, some papers may apply to your real-world problems, some may not but may still be readable and some may be so far out of bounds that you might better spend the time reading a book on ... uh ... effective field theories. Lesson: If some inner voice says "WTF?" within the first 5 paragraphs, make a rude gesture, then skip & jump.

    "Bullfighter" give the quoted paragraph a Flesch Readability Value of 10/100: "You like to hear yourself write. (...). Seek help." although the Bull Diagnosis is Good: "Congratulations - you rely upon standard words to explain concepts." Well, yeah.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consider suing

    The OU response indicates they are people who seem to be averse to the real world - and quite indifferent to the work you put in to expose this plagiarism, and for which they awarded you a nice -15%.

    It is one thing to use freedom of speech to research the bleedin' obvious and hold weird opinions - quite another to justify indifference when faced with having to respond over a teaching methodology, to customers who have paid to be taught something useful. Any judge would take a dim view of that, treating it as symptomatic of negligence. Your mark in any case looks like a simple denial of justice. Scroogle for cases where vapid scholarly bluff and bluster has been called.

    The trouble is that the universities, like the politicians, rarely have to account before an independent tribunal. Both know that should the going get tough, they can simply run off to the Privy Council, and have every verdict turned their way. (Practically unlikely, as they ususally succeed in tying up then drowning the opposition in obfuscations).

  22. Anonymous Coward


    No, I don't work for the OU. I haven't read the book either, but thanks for the tip - I'll seek it out.

    "if her course was about good, clear writing, where examples of garbled craptitude had merit as counterexamples. However hers was a computer course and the analytical skills required were towards software so the actual answer to you question is, yes."

    A degree is not just about skills specific to the topic. If that is all you want, enrol at college. A degree course, particularly a postgraduate one, is supposed to teach the student many other transferable and generic skills. If you employ a graduate from a good university, you should have an expectation that they will have mastered certain skills. You would not, for example, expect your graduate to cite Wikipedia as a reliable source of information. It doesn't matter whether they are enrolled on a Comp. Sci. course or studying the history of ballet in China.

    What is missing from the story is the question of why this paper was on the reading list. What did the course developer expect the student to gain from it? It may have been included to serve a range of purposes. Or its inclusion could be indicative of poor standards. Without knowing the reason, it is difficult to say whether the paper furthers the aims of the course.


  23. Sean Baggaley

    No surprise there...

    My own experiences with the education sector have made me extremely cynical of its fitness for purpose -- particularly at the FE and HE levels.

    I've even worked within the education sector and am now well aware that the most important criterion for almost every major institution is money. More students = more money.

    It may shock US readers to learn that even their own schools, colleges and universities effectively buy entire courses and curricula from companies based in India. (Yes, you read that right: your own country's very *education* is being outsourced!) Companies such as NIIT. ( -- check out their (incomplete) list of clients here:

    The UK's own education sector is, however, not exempt. The OU is presumably not exempt from the same pressures that have made a mockery of the UK's own university sector of late -- particularly in the area of language skills, where someone who can barely speak English can still manage to walk away at the end of the course with a full Bachelors degree from a major British institution.

    I, for one, welcome our future Indian and Chinese overlords. I suggest everyone else here does so too, unless you actually intend to do something about it instead of whining on some random website's comment system. (Oh, wait...)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Academia is staffed with cowboys

    It is part of the grand con. Any organization can become a university, and hand out little slips of paper. These people are useless on the whole, their information is very suspect, and quite a lot does not really work in the real world.

    It is just a business, and of course it relies on people perpetuating the myth, by giving them little slips of paper which they hope to impress other people into giving them slips of paper that have some value.

    As far as acquisition of knowledge these places do a very poor job. In IT beware hiring someone with a degree or beyond, better to see they have a library of books with animals on the cover, and check out the OS they are running on their laptop.

    Those who can do, those who cannot cowboy teaching.

  25. Hugh_Pym

    But you still finished the course.

    At the point of entering the first TMA you would have been able to back out and get all your money back. Despite the dreadful start (and unforgivable tutor support) you completed the course and passed. Must have thought it would do something for you.

    Did the course as a whole do you any good?

  26. David Harper
    IT Angle

    My experience of OU postgrad IT courses was much better

    I took the OU's postgraduate diploma course in computing several years ago, before M885 was introduced, and I found all but one of the seven modules to be excellent. I especially enjoyed M873 "User interface design and evaluation", M865 "Project management" and the superb T852 "Learning from Information System Failures", which looked at reasons why large IT projects fail -- a subject close to the hearts of Reg readers.

    I only found one module disappointing, T853 "Information Systems Legacy and Evolution". I guess I should have smelled a rat as soon as the course text started quoting from the works of Jurgen Habermas, a philosopher and sociologist who specialises in "critical theory", a subject which Wikipedia summarises as "the examination and critique of society and literature, drawing from knowledge across social science and humanities disciplines."

    And this was in a course from the Engineering and Technology section of the OU! I'd already paid for the course, so I stuck with it and eventually managed to bullshit convincingly enough to pass the exam, but it left a sour taste.

    Still, one dodgy course out of seven is a better average than my undergraduate degree, and I'd recommend the OU's postgraduate IT courses without hesitation.

  27. Robert Goldsmith

    Peer Review

    Academic publications are chock full of poor quality and sometimes plagiarised papers and this is something all Phd students quickly learn as part of 'critical analysis' of other peoples' research. Why do people publish such work? Because more publications directly translates to more money and status for the individual and the research facility. Why are the papers accepted? Often because a conference or a journal needs a certain minimal number of papers. Why does Peer Review sometimes fail to weed such papers out? Because Peer Review is yet another time pressure on academics who really just want to get on with their own research. But all is not lost. After all, shredding a published paper can gain you high merit and anyone who recognises a bad paper as such will also be able to avoid other publications that have been based on it - quickly pruning the massive list of papers they need to read in a subject down to something more manageable. My personal favourite paper (in Evolutionary Hardware, an area in which I researched for 5 years) included a beautiful log curve graph showing how an experiment converged on the optimal solution 'as hypothesised'. All very impressive until a quick check of the graph's error bounds showed that, to all intents and purposes, the graph might as well have been a straight line.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    So you want us to help you with your homework?

    Good job there's lots of charitable readers here who don't mind you using El Reg to help you with your homework!

    The text appears to say that open source code that is not written for a specific platform is the best, and that good open source code should be adaptable or flexible.

    That do you?

    If it were me I'd be sending it back and asking for the homework related to thesubject I'd paid for though.

    Paris Hilton because although the icon looks nothing like her the new icon does look like a bookish zombie school marm.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    @Steven Raith

    "but you would expect higher education to provide you with source information and references that were not only relevant, but also not worded in such a way that gives the impression someone just put a thesaurus through a shredder and taped bits in sequence to pad out their work..."

    So that's why the text books I've read seem to be padded out with nonsense...they are padded out with nonsense!

  30. chuBb.
    Thumb Up

    reminds me of uni

    Once had a lecture on plagerism where every one of the slides was plagerised from different uni's

  31. V.Srikrishnan

    Out of the woodwork

    Everytime an article comes out pointing out some stupid antics concerning Indians, out come these vicious comments. Sure, i have been read the Register for a long time to understand the good natured joshing regarding nations. However, the comments by some of readers are in bad taste.

    To issue the standard disclaimer: i myself found the original articles stupid and IMHO Institutes of managements are nothing but classical gas, more so the IIMs who try to shameless ape the harvard/wharton model.

    Academic dishonesty is a problem everywhere, given the killing competition and the mad race for papers and fund.

    Yes, an Indian and a PhD student.

  32. Richard Barnes

    Doesn't surprise me

    I was unfortunate enough to be sent on the OU MBA course. You wouldn't believe (or maybe you would) the quantity of concentrated bollox that we had to read as part of that course. As an example, try this one from the Managing Learning Module: "Valuing differences: the concept and a model" by Barbara Walker - outstanding!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Question 2?

    So what was the question?

    Was it so specific as to be about that particular paper?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I well remember TA225...

    I had a number of arguments with my OU tutor about how Compact Disc technology was supposed to work. I got fobbed off mostly, until the point when I submitted an assignment with correct answers that (shock!) didn't match the answers the tutors were using. I could go on about 1/2 wavelength return trips and destructive interference, but... long and short, the 'reference answers' were plain wrong.

    I pointed out where the correct answers were to be found in the texts on the recommended reading list, but I still didn't get a sensible answer.

    I refused to submit the final assignment in protest, but somehow they saw fit to award me a "pass 1" which I calculated to be a mathematical impossibility. They probably wanted me to just go away without making a fuss.

    The OU ain't what it used to be. Bring back those beardy types on BBC2 at 6a.m. on a Saturday.

  35. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    We have had some excellent Indian PhD students

    and they were from various IITs, not IIM. So do not go knocking Indian computer scientists! Not everyone finishes a PhD with 6(!) peer reviewed journal publications (IEEE PAMI, and Journal of Machine Learning Research included).

    I actually use IEEE Computer as a source for articles to give to first year students, but you must read them carefully yourself to weed out the bad ones. I choose them mainly as papers to give an idea of what currently going on (or hot/hype) in various fields of CS, rather than as high level reviews. I often spot weak arguments in them, and then see whether the student spot them.

    In my books, a student detecting plagiarism in such a thorough way would get a 10/10

    Those saying MSc or PhD degrees are not relevant to business should perhaps reflect that many are trained as computer scientists, not developers. These are different ball games, but we need BOTH.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    What's with the pubic hair?

    I've just noticed that amidst all this heated debate, we've overlooked one of the best El Reg bylines ever: "a breeze is riffling academia's pubic hair".

    I don't know who writes them, but I really love that one.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    @V.Srikrishnan - woodwork?

    I haven't seen any comments that are in particularly bad taste regarding India.

    From my personal experience of outsourcing work to India, I found that there is a generally different attitude to plagiarism, copyright and intellectual property in general. I can best describe that attitude as "relaxed".

    Perhaps you are arguing that plagiarism is just as widespread here as it is in India, but all I can say is that in my experience, no it's not.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    More OU not so good

    I took an OU course a couple of years ago and it was compete hogwash. The person who set the course used one of their own books as the main resource and in the first coursework assignment I received a 69% mark for debunking the example used to explain their theory using excerpts from the primary sources the authors themselves cited. Barely scraped a pass in the written exam which required regurgitation of the theory in reference to another situation.

    I then complained to the OU about the use of the course setter's own book and attaching my debunking coursework. Whilst I only received a boiler plate letter in response the course was removed.

  39. Marvin the Martian

    Academic aims and standards.

    > convert a straightforward observation into a non-committal abstraction.

    This is the aim of academic research, to gather lose data into general knowledge.

    That said, this is far worse plagiarism than stealing a bon mot or two (as IEEE cat 4 implies), it is stealing the underlying ideas and considerations wholesale. Stealing entire paragraphs is here basically done, but then dressing the corpse with incoherent english.

    On the third hand, the authors being non-anglosaxon enters into a very very structural problem. Not being a native speaker of (let's call it) high-english relegates you to the amateur league. Top quality scientists can often not get their message across because of this. People like this just ruin it further for their third world peers. For all I care, even Ramanujam could not get his ideas across because it didn't fit in the academic form all of us atlanticists expect/demand --- others basically re-created what he did (and he had recreated what others did before).

  40. Anonymous Coward

    No surprise at all

    "but somehow they saw fit to award me a "pass 1" which I calculated to be a mathematical impossibility."

    The amount of times I was told to pass a student so that they wouldn't have to re-enrol.

    The amount of times I was told not correct a students work with comments, "beacuse it's not what the module requires us to do".

    The amount of times I was told to fudge a few lessons together because we had forgotton to timetable it in (bearing in mind some of these lessons should have been taught in yr1 and I was told to shoe horn them into the arse end of yr2).

    Anon, cause some of this shit might still come back at me, even though I quit teaching because of the above.

  41. Shakje

    @Sean Baggaley

    You've even worked within the education sector? Well done! Was it higher education or do you mean primary school?

    The real money isn't from students, but for research universities, with big funding coming in.

  42. hammarbtyp

    Bit disappointed with Verity

    Ok a disclaimer here, I have completed an OU degree (My first was in physics and who needs that) , I am currently working for my MSc and I work part time for the OU as a associate lecturer. I am also a full time software developer. This does not mean however that I feel the OU is without criticism, however generally they do a very good job at a very hard task i.e. bringing high level education to all levels of people whatever there previous educational experience. In fact I would say they are world leaders in such endeavours and something rightly the UK can be proud of. It is probably the only place someone working full time can extend there education and renew there skills at a reasonable cost

    Which is why I find Verity's article difficult to take (and I have been a fan since the .EXE days). The first paragraph especially was well below the belt, comparing the OU with the type of degrees you can buy over the internet. An OU degree has to go through the same standards as any other degree program and should be valued the same. In fact, compared to many degrees offered nowadays by more traditional universities I would suggest its a damn bit harder work( Like my brother in laws Leisure studies degree which consisted of 20 hours a week of which 15 were "reading" hours)

    As for the course itself, I haven't done it, but it does seem that the IEEE should of been taking the brunt of the blame for poor review process rather than the OU using it as part (although not a major part of the course). And as someone rightly said, the ability to think independently outside the accepted industry thinking should be a important part of any higher education course.

    Perhaps however Verity's tutor should of been a bit more willing to discuss there comments more fully, as I like to do from time to time, but with 20-30 students clamouring for attention plus all the other pressures(Note the part time bit) it is not always possible to do this especially when the criticism fell outside the course fundamentals.

    Also in the interest of balance, It would also be nice to know whether Verity felt they got anything out of the course at the end of the day. I can only assume that by completing the course they felt it was worth going on

  43. Eurydice Sophie Exintaris

    IEEE's getting sloppy...

    Sorry you had to read through that.

    I must admit, I'm stunned the IEEE hasn't taken the paper down!

    I'm pretty sure that if something similar had happened at the University I attended (McGill, in Canada) the professor would've been out the door, along with all students involved!

    Plagiarism of any form was so frowned upon and purposely hunted, that very few resorted to it, and even then extremely carefully (to the point that by the time you wrote down your version of things, you'd actually done research without realising). I mean, with so many tools out there to check the individuality of a paper, and electronic submission being the norm (at least at McGill), catching the culprits was a tiny script away. Perhaps the IEEE should look some of those up! I'm sure they're described in a few of their papers anyway...

    Once I achieve world domination, I will have to take care of that too....

    *scribbles in little black book*

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "On the third hand, the authors being non-anglosaxon enters into a very very structural problem. Not being a native speaker of (let's call it) high-english relegates you to the amateur league. Top quality scientists can often not get their message across because of this."

    Many years ago I was a copy editor, admittedly in a benighted Third World country (the USA), and I can tell you that there are plenty of native speakers of English who cannot write for beans, hell, who'd think they did well to match the prose of Madanmohan and De.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @IEEE's getting sloppy

    I understand why the IEEE might not want to take it down, since their review concluded that the technical majority of it is accurate, but realistically, it should be removed from a clarity standpoint, if nothing else.

    When I was in uni, back towards the beginning, I was in a fairly low level course (that was phased out the next year due to complaints about how bloody useless it was and how obtuse it was) and had to right a small research paper. Basic "Choose from a list of topics the professor already knows something about" setup, although thankfully the professor handed us a fairly long list to pick from. I did the assignment, cited sources, etc, and handed it in. Pain in the ass, since the topics were still above our heads in terms of what had been taught, but it was one of those "stretch" scenarios.

    Next class, I got asked to stay after, and it turned out that I had "plagarised" one of my CITED SOURCES because I made a sentence that used seven of the same words in a row. Only reason it was noticed? The program they run it all through flagged it and wouldn't accept it as not being plagarised. The professor basically told me that I just needed to reword it and resubmit it, and he understood that he was asking almost the impossible- since the words used where a technical definition I was expected to have a fairly weak grasp on at the time, and there were only so many ways to phrase it without going into far more detail than was expected of anyone in the course.

    Needless to say, I wasn't the only one this happened to, but for the most part, if it was obvious that you weren't trying to do so, they just pulled you to the side and asked you to change it around. if you were caught intentionally plagarising, though, they chucked you out so hard you bounced on brick walkway. They gave you a fair chance to explain, but unless you had a damned good explanation, you were simply out, and you had to reapply for enrollment a year later if you wanted to come back.

  46. Dr Alfred D Vella

    What's all the fuss?

    It is, in my opinion at least, Verity who is out of touch with reality and with the current state of reality.

    What an old fashioned idea to expect 'learned articles' to be original and contain the truth and nothing but the truth - I think that that Idea went out in the 1970s!

    Did we not have a VIP who used an uncited source as an excuse to go bash some foreigners who had some oil?

    Are not our universities encouraged to pretend that the ' The external examiner system is a key mechanism by which the UK higher education system ensures comparability between institutions. '


    Well if anyone can pretend that a Cambridge degree is comparable (in the above sense) with a Bedfordshire one - they must be in cloud cuckoo land.

    Maybe I got lost on the way home;)

  47. Nic Brough



    Let no one else's work evade your eyes,

    Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,

    So don't shade your eyes,

    But plagiarise, plagiarise, plagiarise...

    Only be sure always to call it please research.

    With apologies for "researching" Mr Tom Lehrer, but it just seemed so apt...

    Mine's the one with "copy of old Vladivostock telephone directory" in the pocket...

  48. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I see nothing has changed

    Well not since the good old days of the M301 course, the joys of a 3 week crash course in Java for those of us who've never done it before, the excitement as the first course book "Concurrent systems" by Jean Bacon (1st edition) arrives only to to be destroyed by just how dire a writer Jean Bacon is(not that she does'nt know her stuff of course..just wish she could put over better).

    The dreaded 'UML for beginners' bit... this is an actor... this is a box... this is a class definition, and this is your rational rose licence that expires 1 day after the final exam screwing any chance of revision for a resit

    Then 2 units on 'managing projects' or better phrases as "Howto baffle senior management with IT B.S. until they agree to fund your orbital laser cann... oops IT infrastructure"

    Then a nice exam and a bright shiny certificate is yours... unless you fail.

    Still better some some under grad OU courses where 10% of the exam mark depends on knowing 1 yes ONE page from a 600 page book

    Boris Dip.Comp.(Open) BSc hons Open (failed)

  49. Tony

    My two pennorth

    I've done a number of courses via the OU (although not M885) - completed a PG cert and PGD in computing. Next stop Dissertation and MSc.

    My feelings are that generally, the courses are pretty good and well worth the money. The course material is normally well produced (c'mon Verity, this is Post-graduate work, not C.S.E) and the tutors are very helpful and provide a good level of support. Certainly, I feel that I have had the opportunity to develop my skills in a way that would not have been possible through any other institution.

    Is the material perfect; of course not. I've found errors in books and in downloadable papers which were reported, and they issue updates on a regular basis to advise people of these.

    In a recent survey of student satisfaction in higher education, the OU ranked second out of the whole of the UK - that has to show something.

    Would I recommend the OU - absolutely, without a seconds hesitation. I have had a bad experience as well, but that didn't stop me from doing other courses.

  50. steogede

    OU's response

    >> Note also that when we choose an article for the reader it does not necessarily mean that we

    >> agree with it or even think it is a good article […]

    Let me guess what it said next:

    ... it does not necessarily mean that we agree with it or even think it is a good article, infact, most of the time we don't even bother to read it. What would be the point? It is not as though we are even intelligent enough to tell difference between 'Topsy and Tim' and the works of Shakespeare. If it were not for the OU outsourcing to Nigeria we would all be running 419 scams.

    I don't expect them to recognise that it is plagurised, but they should be tell that it is meaningless drivel, after all they are responsible not just setting, but also for marking degree level coursework. I thought that the 'database' using Excel that my brother in law had to do for his GNVQ coursework was bad.


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