April 19, 2005

A Word about assignment submissions

Most students carefully submitted their program code for a recent assignment by carefully following the instructions I gave them: they renamed their (plain text) program files using their surnames + student identities before submitting them. The idea of this is so that I don't end up with a huge folder containing files all labelled with a variation of "Assignment 2".

One student, however, had to be different. Rather than submit the file in its natural plain text beauty that compilers find so easy to read, he/she (*) had carefully converted it to the Microsoft Word document format!

Did this student think he/she was being helpful? That it was somehow easier for me to print out this way? Since said student was also obliged to submit a paper copy, this presumably wasn't the intention.

Did it occur to the student that I might want to compile the code? And thus, actually run the program? Actually, I don't, I want to submit it to some plagiarism detection software, but from the students' point of view, running the program would be a perfectly reasonable thing that a marker might want to do with the assignment code...

One would think that if the student had actually written the code him/herself and compiled & run it on a computer to test it (as opposed to, say, trying a spot of plagiarism), then it would be obvious to the student that it is impossible for the compiler to take Word documents as input.

The mind boggles. What was wrong with the lazy option of sending the code as plain text?!

(*) Yes, I don't know whether this student is a man or a woman. Considering the class size is small and I know the names of those who attend, this isn't a good sign.


At 4:21 pm, Blogger Michael Tandy said...

I once has a programming teacher who liked code submitted on the end of a word document. Of course, he also told us to submit 'e-logbooks', testing results and similar documentation, and the online submission system has no capacity to take multiple files.

I don't know if they bothered to check the code compiles, but if they did, I guess they used copy and paste.

At 5:23 pm, Blogger Lossy said...

My colleagues and I have a great variety of preferences for how we like submissions to be handed in. Some like paper, some disk, some email, some electronic submission (like via WebCT or Blackboard or an in-house submission system).

Some like printouts with the code displayed in a fixed-width font and hate proportionally-spaced fonts, some like proportional fonts and hate fixed-width.... there's no pleasing all of us! So we learn to specify very very clearly and carefully in the hand-in instructions precisely what we need.

In one recent round of program code submissions, students *knew* that their code was going to be given to another student, for testing purposes, so they knew jolly well that there was no point in submitting their code in anything other than a compiler-readable format. And yet one student still submitted it as a Word document. Sigh...


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