Distance learning truly isn’t perfect.
A seventh-grader from Southern California and his mother found a way to get 100% in his grades on an online learning platform.
Lazare Simmons, 12, received a grade of 50% in an assignment for his history class on the online platform Edgenuity.
His mother, Dana Simmons, initially tried to console Lazare. “I was like well, you know, some teachers grade really harshly at the beginning,” said Simmons, who is a history professor. Her son then explained that he got his grade less than a second after submitting his work. Simmons then realized that an algorithm comes up with Lazare's grades.
Taking Advantage of an Algorithm
The Verge reported that Simmons “watched Lazare complete more assignments. She looked at the correct answers, which Edgenuity revealed at the end. She surmised that Edgenuity’s AI was scanning for specific keywords that it expected to see in students’ answers. And she decided to game it.”
For every short-answer question, Lazare would write two long sentences and a disjointed list of keywords.
“The questions are things like… ‘What was the advantage of Constantinople’s location for the power of the Byzantine empire,’” Simmons also said, as reported by The Verge. “So you go through, okay, what are the possible keywords that are associated with this? Wealth, caravan, ship, India, China, Middle East, he just threw all of those words in,” she then added.
According to Edgenuity’s website, answers to certain questions get a 0% if they do not have keywords, and 100% if they have at least one – while others earn a certain percentage based on the number of keywords entered.
With his new strategy, Lazare now gets perfect scores. The Verge also reported that Lazare “isn’t the only one gaming the system.”
“More than 20,000 schools currently use the platform, according to the company’s website, including 20 of the country’s 25 largest school districts, and two students from different high schools to Lazare told me they found a similar way to cheat,” The Verge reported.
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