A Washington Post article suggests that “the term paper is dead”. (Link via Slashdot.) The author basically suggests that plagiarism is rampant and there’s nothing educators can do about it, so we should switch to in-class methods of evaluation.
I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, I can’t help but agree that in-class writing would reduce plagiarism. On the other hand, at-home paper writing is one of the few times in a classroom experience that students can really cut loose and write about (practically) whatever they want. If it weren’t for open-ended term papers, I wouldn’t have been able to write about comic books in my undergraduate courses. Knowing that I could get away with doing things that actually interest me in academia is what convinced me to continue on this career path.
Is there a way to make a curriculum cheater-resistant but also stimulating for motivated students?