Exam Software

Zipsix and Law v. Life have been complaining that the exam software limits the value of an honor code. I think they’re both right to complain. Law students should be trusted and expected not to cheat, and requiring silly software to prevent cheating only presupposes an inability to adhere to our shared ethical values. Of course, this argument has to be applied to law students as a group. If taken personally, one could always argue that the software protects the individual from others in the group. When applied to the group as a whole, the software serves a limiting function. It limits not the ability to cheat (I’m supposing that no one would) but rather the ability to choose software and conserve resources. (Students will ultimately pay the software maker, and it’s the students’ time that is used in installing and getting used to the new interface.)
I haven’t known BU to make a big point about cheating, but why should they? The message is clear enough: don’t cheat. It’s not the kind of tricky situation we study in a class about professional responsibility. There are no conflicting ethical opinions. It’s very easy to know where the boundaries are and to stay on the right side.
I’ve had at least one take home exam that wasn’t open book. Why can we be trusted not to talk to each other or look at study guides (when they’re easily available) but not to do the same thing in a supervised classroom?
Still, I’m in favor of exam software. It’s a mechanism to bridge the gap between new tech (computers) and old tech (bluebooks) in the eyes of administrators. To the extent it facilitates the ability to type exams without a noisy typewriter, I’m happy to comply.
I wrote a little more on the topic here.