None of the Above

June 10, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Hey, students. Want to see a copy of last year’s midterm? Try

Inside Higher Ed reports on the new website that scans and uploads exams for students to download. The idea is certainly not new. Students have given returned exams to friends. Fraternities have long kept exams on file for members to share. But as with everything else, the Internet broadens the scope for good or for evil.

I’m not sure where I stand on this. The idealist in me says that you put something on an exam because it’s important that students know it. And if it’s important that they know it, you should let them know that it’s important. It’s like the test for your driver’s license. The DMV doesn’t try to keep it a secret that they’ll ask you to parallel park. You know that it’s part of the test, so you learn to do it.

Whispering in my other ear is that little red fellow with the pointy ears and tail, and he’s saying that I should guard my questions because those sneaky students will just learn only what’s going to be on the test. Worse, they won’t learn ideas; they’ll just learn to circle “c” or “a” or “none of the above.”

What bothers me most about the website is what bothers me about this orientation towards exams, an orientation shared by students and faculty. In the ideal, education is a co-operative venture. Students want to learn, teachers want to teach, and together they explore ideas. But in the model that PostYourTest builds on, education is us-versus-them. We have the power of grades, they have We have the power to assign papers, they have paper-writing, “research” websites, and we have We have test banks, they have have


newsocprof said...

i agree with you -- i was involved in a similar conversation lately with respect to notes and access to the internet during exams for graduate students. what do i care if they use notes or google durkheim? my job has nothing to do with whether or not i can remember the exact citations of articles (i am notoriously terrible at this) and everything to do with my ability to synthesize several lines of research in interesting ways. it seems to me that if students can demonstrate the latter, i don't much care how they get there.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am Demir, the creator of I came across this blog and I have to say that the author had thoughts that focused on both the good and the bad that my sit could bring, and that is great. I feel I do need to talk about the author's statement, "But in the model that PostYourTest builds on, education is us-versus-them." I never wanted or want to create any kind of animosity between students and professors. I feel that this site is helpful for both parties; for students how to understand how a professor creates his/her exams, and to help professors create a better, more thought-out exam. I hope all is well with you out in the internet!

Anonymous said...

The PostYourTest site is a flagrant violation of copyright laws. When someone writes an axam, they own the copyright to that material. Demir tries to get around this by having the students who post the exams "verify" that they have "permission" from the professor (and the student is allowed to remain anonymous). Use of copyrighted material requires a contract and this contract can't be brokered by a third party without the knowledge of the copyright holder. For the site to have any claim to due diligence, everyone should automatically be on the "banned professor" list as a default. What should be done to stay legal (and honest by any sense of ownership for intellectual property) would be to have the student provide the email address of the test's author. Then the PostYourTest website could contact the professor and get explicit permission. It is clear that Demir knows that there is something shady with his way of getting tests because he allows anonymous posting. Demir should step up and run his website in a legal (and moral) manner.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm - no response from Demir about copyright issues. Not surprising. Maybe he's hoping to stay under the radar. That will work until the first lawsuit hits.

Anonymous said...

By following the DMCA, Demir has set up the site legally. In the First Amendment, Prior Restraint sets precedent for disallowing a ban of material until it has already been posted. This was decided in Gravel v. United States in the 1970’s where the Government didn’t want the NY Times to publish a copy of the leaked Pentagon Papers which detailed how awfully planned and executed the Vietnam War was. The Supreme Court said that you can only request removal after the fact.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act follows in these footsteps by asking those that want their content taken down to request it by asking the site administrators, which it seems does.
Frankly I don't see what all the fuss is about, considering professors (such as yourself anonymous poster number(s) 3 and 4) can take advantage of the website and create new tests from exams that have already been posted. This way we can create higher quality content!
-Anonymous Professor

Anonymous said...

Last weekend it seems that received their first international exam. Perhaps it is ominous, or perhaps this means that other people across the world agree with the idea of transparency in education.
Anonymous Professor