Ethical Dilemma

I am finishing my last class to earn an MBA from a local university. The final for the class is a take-home exam; the professor believes it is not realistic to expect a closed-book, closed-note exam. In the real-world, if you need help, you go look for it, you don’t try to remember the formula for a Black-Scholes option valuation by rote. Nothing more was said other than the usual admonitions about doing your own work.

In the course of finishing the exam, I searched on Google using terms relevant to the question I was struggling with. One of the first links that came up was an answer key to homework questions given in another class at another university in another part of the country. Several of the questions on the answer key were verbatim duplicates of questions on my exam with only minor variations in the initial set-up of the problem that would not affect the solution.

The answer key had only the questions and answers — no detail on how the answer was derived. I worked through the questions on the ‘other’ homework in order to understand how to solve the exam question and then applied that learning to answer the exam question.

I believe that I did my own work to the extent that I used the answer key provided by someone else to guide my understanding of the exam question — rather than simply copying the answer from one location to another, even though the answers are the same in both situations

Do I have an obligation to tell my professor what I found? To let him know that answers to specific exam questions are available for anyone to see?


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2 Responses to Ethical Dilemma

  1. Beth Fish says:

    I would assume that a professor who does not provide specific instructions expects you to use whatever resources available. I would also assume that, provided you saved the work you did to arrive at the answer and can prove that you did not just copy the answer onto your test that you are pretty much beyond reproach.

    Do you have an obligation to tell? Hard to say. Do you have any ideas why the posted homework and your exam were identical? Could the homework be the professor’s source for the exam questions?

  2. Jane says:

    I would say that, yes, you might want to share what you found with him in the spirit of “did you know?” Although if I were your professor and cutting and pasting questions from the Internet, I would not want you to catch me at it. And yes, if you did your own work and learned something, then you have nothing to worry about. Of course, if you’re worried that it will backfire on you, I would adopt the “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy…

    Also, congrats on being almost done!

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