I recently determined that some copying has occurred on some of my students’ homework assignments. While I encourage students to work together on homework, I want each student to write up his or her own interpretation of the solution. Since everyone has a unique writing style, it is not hard to determine when blind copying is happening.
I told the class that I was aware of this, and gave them the usual speech about academic integrity. I did not call anyone out, but rather let the entire class know of the situation. I was pleased when a student apologized after class for having copied and provided a reasonable explanation for why he/she did. The student had not been aware that the homework was due that day, which is believable because we had an unusual schedule due to a midterm. The student also said that he/she worked through the problems later that night after handing in the copied homework (and that the copied homework was worse than what he/she did later that night). I have no reason not to believe this, particularly with respect to my previous interactions with the student.
This is the second time this has occurred. A similar thing happened in the fall of 2008. I like that might students are willing to own up to this. I wish that they did not copy in the first place, but I like that they own up to it.
(Full disclosure: not every student suspected of copying came forward, but more than I expected did)