Now seniors, Derek Lomas and James Tunick have with the help of faculty and tech support from Information Technology Services begun to implement their business plan, which tied for first place at last year’s Yale Entreprenurial Society Y2K competition. The price tag, they estimate, will be between $5,000 and $10,000 for the startup costs of their experiment in “peer-oriented education” and intellectual exchange.
Unfortunately, Yalies tend to be tentative when it comes to their major academic projects. A stroll down through the Hall of Graduate Studies will show many students are none too eager to pick up end-of-semester work, for example, let alone follow through in a more substantive way. If a good number of Yalies don’t find time to read the comments on their final papers and exams, it is difficult to imagine students making the effort to post them on a server and fill out a page of questions used to sort for D-SWAP’s search engine.
If the system earns a following, though, and students are interested not only in reading work but also in submitting it, the possibilities could be tremendous. Someday, many years from now, a 22nd-century Yalie would be able to access a library of work, interesting as much for academic merit as for what it indicates about Yale at any point in D-SWAP history.
In the more immediate future, one could read essays written for classes he is taking or on a subject of interest. One might use bibliographies to help with research or even a fact or two that was particularly relevant. One might even be tempted to borrow more, knowing, as they do, that a Yale professor afraid of his e-mail likely will not spend time plugging chunks of term papers into a student database.
Certainly, enablers of academic dishonesty already exist in abundance on the Internet, and the potential benefits of D-SWAP outweigh the considerable likelihood that a student now and then will decisively cross the hazy line the server creates between eager edification and overindulgence. But before that even becomes a threat, there is the monumental task of convincing students to make use of the system at all.