Is Creating a Facebook Study Group Cheating?

    March 7, 2008

An 18 year old freshman at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, could be expelled his first year of college because of a Facebook group he was the administrator of. Facebook started as a way for college students to network online and Chris Avenir used is as a virtual study group for his chemistry class. Now he faces charges of academic misconduct and could be kicked out of the university.

There were 146 members of the group according to stories I read, but after searching, I couldn’t find Avenir or the group on Facebook. The group was called Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions. The class it was created for ended in December.

Avenir has an expulsion hearing on Tuesday with the engineering faculty appeals committee. If he loses that appeal, he can take his case to the university’s senate. He claims they helped each other with studies, but didn’t cheat or post answers to homework on the site.

“…if this kind of help is cheating, then so is tutoring and all the mentoring programs the university runs and the discussions we do in tutorials,” he said.

He got a B in the class, but when the professor discovered the Facebook group over the holidays, his grade changed to an F. It sounds like cheating when you read the invitation to the group. It said: “If you request to join, please use the forms to discuss/post solutions to the chemistry assignments. Please input your solutions if they are not already posted.” However, members said they never posted solutions to problems on the site.

It seems unfair that Avenir should take the hit for the entire group, which it sounds like he didn’t start. It’s tough to know if there was cheating but from what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like there was. It does make one point well – what happens in study groups is largely unknown. But once you post it online, anyone, including your professor, can scrutinize it.