Student challenges prof, wins right to post source code

Fascinating Boing Boing post by Cory Doctorow about a student’s fight to publish code that he wrote for an assignment.

Kyle’s a student at San Jose State University who was threatened with a failing grade for posting the code he wrote for the course — he wanted to make it available in the spirit of academic knowledge-sharing, and as code for potential future employers to review — and when he refused, his prof flew into a fury and promised that in future, he would make a prohibition on posting your work (even after the course was finished) a condition of taking his course.

Kyle appealed it to the department head, who took it up with the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development and the Judicial Affairs Officer of SJSU, who ruled that, "what you [Kyle] have done does not in any way constitute a violation of the University Academic Integrity Policy, and that Dr. Beeson cannot claim otherwise."

There’s a lot of meat on the bones of this story. The most important lesson from it for me is that students want to produce meaningful output from their course-assignments, things that have intrinsic value apart from their usefulness for assessing their progress in the course. Profs — including me, at times — fall into the lazy trap of wanting to assign rotework that can be endlessly recycled as work for new students, a model that fails when the students treat their work as useful in and of itself and therefore worthy of making public for their peers and other interested parties who find them through search results, links, etc.

Kyle’s blog post has lots more detail — including copies of the correspondence with his Prof and the university administration.

Thanks to Glyn Moody for Tweeting it.