The Honor System at Virginia Tech
Some more details about my studies at Virginia Tech. My courses are Linear Systems Theory, Neural and Fuzzy Systems and Electronic Control of Motor Devices. The first two are on graduate level, what means, that they are a little bit more tough and tricky. The last one is undergraduate level and more relaxing.
Unlike Germany there are no fix hours when classes meet. The three credits are a vague expression for the time spent in class, split in two or three sections. The maximum size of students for one course is 50, and more wouldn’t fit in the class rooms. When I’m talking about class rooms, imagine their size like in school. Most of them do not contain desks or tables, but chairs with a writing board attached to one arm rest. Very close in front of you is sitting the next person. If you ever have the unusual desire to stretch your legs, you can only do this to the right or left of his chair. Just think of economy class seats.
The teachers work, depending on their preferences, mainly with chalk or with OHP. This is very similar to the German style. Due to the small class size the feeling is more like in school, more questions, more interaction. And also the instructors are more gentle when answering, even questions of doubtful importance (my opinion) are replied to most friendly and patiently.
And there is homework. This means assignments that have to be turned in on due date. And don’t dare to daley them! The grading of these assignments has significant impact on the overall grading of the course. And even some of the mid term exams are take-home-assignments. And this will be a lot of work — I can tell you. Concerning cheating, there exists the honor code system. We were introduced to that during the introductory sessions. It simply means that whenever the instructor has two very, very similar homeworks in front of him he can pass this to the honor code system people who will investigate the case. Actually you can even volunteer for this and take part in this process. Anyway, if the charge is found to be valid the culprit is punished, from getting a “0” on his paper up to expelling him from VT. But as I heard these processes are very seldom.