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College Professors Recall The Most Genius Things Students Have Ever Done In Their Class

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College is a formative time in many people's lives. It's usually the first taste of real freedom, and real accountability, many people get as young adults.

Some choose to coast through the experience with as little effort as possible, while others struggle with the extra responsibility and expectations. Still others find their calling in education and really apply themselves to the whole experience.


College professors deal with a wide variety if students from different backgrounds, with different interests and abilities, and this can lead to some pretty interesting outcomes in the classroom.

Reddit user ziggiddy asked everyone on r/AskReddit:

"College professors of Reddit what is the most genius thing you have seen a student do in one of your classes?"

20. 

I had one student who recorded my class and sold the recordings!!

TelescopiumHerscheli

19. 

I'm a student, and On our exams we are able to have an index card we can write notes on to use as a reference during the test. Most kids just write super small, but this genius wrote some notes in red ink, and others that overlapped in blue ink. They then used 3d glasses to be able to read the jumbled mess. I sat there in astonishment. m1234321p

18. 

I was a TA, we had a statistics course at our university that was unnecessarily hard to get through our undergrad business program. Anyways we had a student who recorded himself using doing the homework and uploading it on YouTube for the other students to understand (it was genuinely helpful). He even used different numbers and examples and what not to not give ya the answer.

The professor caught wind of it and claimed he was cheating gave him 0's on every assignment/test up to that point, threatened to sue him for using her materials to make public, and made him public apologize to the class for "academic dishonesty". That guy literally helped so many people that would struggle in the class or be in tutoring for HOURS. Forget that professor. Batterypacked123

17. 

While teaching an algorithm class, I prefer giving assignments that require no code. Instead, I ask them to write pseudocodes.

Nevertheless, most of them try to convert a piece of code into pseudocode. However, one of the students handed me in almost a full technical paper using LaTeX. I admired that student. Talked to him after grading, and told him that I wish I was that smart when I was in college.

Nobody topped him yet. PisEqualToNP

16. 

I was taking an easy elective class in college and my professor would give out 30-40 question test-like homework assignments. While googling to understand some of the concepts, I came across a site that had every question, word for word, and in order. I could tell that the questions were the same through the google search preview, but opening the page blurred everything except a subscription box in the middle. I think my teacher was trying to make extra money off of selling her own answers. Either that, or she was stealing the content.

Regardless, I'm no good with code so I didn't even think to try anything fancy. I just used a ctrl+A on the page and pasted it into a word document. It worked. I had plain searchable text I could reliably pull from the internet every week. I didn't tell a soul and got everything I needed to "pass" the class just through the homework assignments. BurberryPert

15. 

Not a college professor, but I was in a 400+ student auditorium when a bizarre incident occurred during a final exam.

Barely five minutes after we started the test, a student gets up, hands in his paper to the proctor, yells "WE OUT!", and JUMPED OUT THE WINDOW.

It was the first floor, but still. dysenterychampion

14. 

My Dad is a chemistry professor. This means that he gets to filter all the students trying to get into medical school. A surprising amount of them are cheating morons, which doesn't bode well for medical school. You can't cheat your way through a surgery. Nevertheless, I've got stories.

One time one of my dad's colleague's students managed to secretly install on his professors keyboard software that would track what was typed in. He figured out the professor's password, got into the grading system, and changed his and his friend's grades. They almost wanted to give him some credit for ingenuity, but the school makes its students sign an honor code and part of it is that they understand not to cheat, so he was booted. Poor kid. I hope he's using his clever tricks to better society.

Lately my dad's been stressing out about the whole online class thing and how you prevent students from cheating. His solution was to make tests way harder but allow use of the internet. He didn't feel he had to specify that you shouldn't get somebody else to do problems for you (edit:) after he had already stated so clearly.

But he found one of his students using this one website (edit:) called chegg where you could post the question and have people solve it for you. The students apparently making this really compelling case that he didn't know it was cheating. Maybe if he gets booted he can go to law school. CrimsonDawnSyndicate

13. 

There's always that story of the guy that showed up to class late, saw a problem on the board, and assumed it must be the homework for that week. He completed it and turned it in the week after.

Turns out it wasn't homework, but rather a famous unsolved mathematical principle that he just discovered a proof for.

EDIT: Here's the full story yottalogical

12. 

I am a professor, so... My students are very bright for undergrads, but there are no real Good Will Huntings. One clever thing I notice a student do now and then is instead of (or in addition to) copying a long-detailed timeline or diagram I spend writing an hour writing out on the board, they will pull out their phone and take a picture of the board. narwhal_

11. 

I once had a student who turned in an essay not in full sentences, but in bullet points. I was about to fail the student, except that all bullet points entailed one clear, concise point, every point clearly indicated its purpose for the overall argument, and the structure was more logical than most essays I had read before.

It was a bit like going from a late-Wittgenstein to an even more condensed version of an early-Wittgenstein. I decided to use my grading scheme on it, and basically the student met all the requirements I had communicated before, so it was an A.

In another instance, a student decided that my assignment was boring, so they started the essay by arguing that the question was boring for the following reasons, coming up with a better question (which was admittedly more interesting, but would have been too hard for the assignment), and then answering this question by using arguments established in the previous part about how the original question was boring. That one was an A+. fidadst

10.

I watched one of my students write a crib sheet on a small piece of plastic and place it perfectly inside the label of her water bottle so that it was barely visible, but readable inside. Over the course of a two-hour lecture. It was magnificent. No I did not call her out on it or demand she throw her water bottle away. It's not my business what she chooses to do in another class.

Students cheat for a lot of reasons, but often times we find it's because the professor's expectations are ridiculously f*cked (it's usually this one), or because the student is dealing with far too much on their plate and cheating can alleviate at least some of that burden of stress for an underprivileged student. I'm not saying it's right, but I understand it.

-TerpinOne

9.

A friend of my brother's was doing a Bachelor in Pharmacology and the only elective that fit his schedule was Philosophy. He had no interest in it but had to pass with at least a C in his final year. When he got to the exam there was one question on the paper:

"Is this a question?"

After the 3 hour exam he was talking to fellow classmates and asking what they had come up with. They had discussed word etymology, structures of thought, ideas on different cultural elements of language, the impact of spiritualism on philosophical questioning and reasoning and so on. He said "Oh no" and got real worried. Then a fellow student said "What did you write?"

He said "I wrote "If that's a question then this is an answer" and then left the exam room after 5 minutes. To his astonishment he got an A+

-ziggiddy

8.

I taught a lab that had a microscopy section back in the late 00s. Despite having a microscope camera for taking pictures of the field of view in my own high school labs and the technology being readily available, it was not something the university was willing to spring for the students of a 100 level class. One of my students just stuck his IPhone camera right up to the ocular lense of the scope and took a picture. I was floored. Now looking back I'm thinking "of course that would work why wouldn't it?" but at the time myself and my Blackberry were very impressed.

-ccajunryder

7.

We had assignments based on the daily lectures in class. Assignments were due at the end of the week, but this one student always turned his assignments in minutes after each class. I notice on his laptop, while everyone else was taking notes on theirs, he would be filling out the assignment as the professor went through his powerpoint. He would also ask the professor questions about the lecture that gave him the answers to the assignment. Not only was he learning from essentially taking notes, but he never had to do homework outside of class.

-littlebop33p

6.

Not me, but I took and Intro To Accounting class that was required for all Business Majors where we had a teacher that was teaching his first college class ever. He said T Accounts were for nerdy accounting people and wanted to show everyone how to look at the P&L and Balance Sheet like a business does.

He would assign us things to do and if you couldn't figure out the answer he would tell you to re-read the chapter the answer was in there. As you could guess a ton of kids struggled or had to cheat to get by after the first test.

But then there was some kid who had taken accounting before at a different university and the credits didnt transfer so he was forced into this class and he knew all the answers. He hosted a Homework Review in the library on a whiteboard and answered any questions and helped everyone study. I think we all just learned from that dude more than the teacher.

-13times5plus4

5.

I'm a TA for a chemistry class. Twice a week the students have to turn in a worksheet to me, and I require them to have them stapled because of the mess it turns into otherwise.

Anyway, one student made it through the class without buying a stapler because they figured out some wierd oragami like way of folding the corners together in such a way that you physically could not get them unstuck without carefully undoing the folds. Now I teach it to my students and tell them if they don't own a stapler they can just do that.

-SirWallaceIIofReddit

4.

On an exam, a student answered a question about DNA topology with an answer that neither the prof nor I had ever seen...and it was correct. And neither of us had come up with it.

And that made us have to go back and re-grade the entire class's answers to that question.

-MikeGinnyMD

3.

This wasn't so much genius as it was ballsy, but in the last class I taught, students were required to give a 10 minute persuasive speech about a topic. I listed some common topics from previous classes like whether college athletes should be paid, legalizing marijuana, stuff like that. They were supposed to do a little bit of research and incorporate empirical evidence into their presentations.

This guy did a whole 10 minute speech, complete with a powerpoint presentation, on why one food item was better than another, similar food item. It was completely and totally irrelevant, subjective, and not related to anything the course discussed.

However, the presentation was very well done. Where students often struggle with the use of filler words, improper preparation and a flat, boring speaking voice, this student was engaging and seemingly excited about the topic.

Because I use a rubric, I told him I had to take off points for the fact that his "research" relied mostly on personal opinion rather than evidence, but I still gave him an A- because the actual presentation itself was well done. Honestly, it was one of the better speeches I heard that semester, if you don't factor in the content.

-False-Guess

2.

My math professor told the class a story about an incredible student he had. He liked having both calculation questions (solve the diffeq, etc) and proofs testing conceptual things in the class. Well one time, this incredible student managed to proof things that were well beyond the scope of the course. She would also ask questions that suggested incredible insight about the class.

He was impressed and had to see what her math background was. Well, it turned out she was a C and D student. In fact she failed Calc 3 and got a C (I think) the second time. Her first exam also suggested that she had a very difficult time solving and applying the kinds of things learned in the course. Yet she could prove the bonus question extremely well.

He realized that she just had a hard time with applied math but was incredibly gifted at pure math. So he went to the head of the math department and after some fighting, managed to convince the department chair to give her harder exams on the account that the exam must be approved. Well that's what he did. And the department was astonished at the difficulty of the 2nd exam. She could never complete this! But she did. And she got an A in the course.

To this day he and her are good friends and she visited the class near the end of the semester (she was doing a pure math phd).

This stuck out to me. Honestly, I don't think she would have pursued mathematics. And that would have been a shame. The professor stood out to me. Not only was he an incredible teacher but he really cared about his students.

-MercuryHead

1.


I was taking a Romantic era lit class in University, due to some quirk of scheduling it was twice a week, 6-9 pm. We all had to do presentations for a tiny part of our grade on whatever the topic of the day was throughout the term. We were encouraged to take a very wide ranging view of what could constitute a presentation. This prof was pretty great and actually managed to get a bunch of 20 year olds to dress up in period costumes to read poetry to the class, or to tell pulpy stories about all the banging the Byrons and/or Shellys got up to.

Buddy was a super friendly guy who had time for everybody. Imagine the personality of Jack Black in the body of a 24 year old Harry Potter.

His day to present comes up and the poem is Rime of the Ancient Mariner. At first he doesn't show. The Prof goes through the preliminary matters and then before she can ask where he is, Buddy KICKS down the door to the class and struts in with somebody dressed as a fisherman and a woman in a showy prom dress. These people are not in our class.

He proceeds to take a literal boom box (this is like, 10 years after those stopped being a thing?) to the front of the room, plug it in, and start playing the Rime of the Ancient Mariner metal song by Iron Maiden. We think "Ok, cool, this is his presentation..." NO!

Dear reader that is not what happened.

What happened next was a 60 plus minute reenactment of the overall story of Rime of the Ancient Mariner through a Hunter S. Thompson Lens. The woman is initially the guest going to a wedding whom he stops, but then terrorizes her and holds her captive with a reenactment (a presentation within a presentation) with his captain friend about how he killed an Albatross in an aviary while pressuring this captain figure into driving him around to score more drugs as things kept spiralling out of control.

As this is going on the girl at first seeming terrified of them, circles around throws on some dark makeup and suddenly, with everyone's attention on this weird gonzo reenactment, makes her entrance as death and his rival from the play, lecturing them for their mortal hubris and both demanding her attention and ignoring her.

The metal song stopped playing 15 minutes ago and the whole class is caught off guard by this reversal when they thought the whole thing was wrapping up after he got to the part in his weird story about the dead bird.
But she keeps going in a fury! She throws out the sea captain / driver. And then she and he finish out the rest of the poem, with the mariner receiving his curse. They must have been rehearsing for weeks, there's no reference to anything written down, and they are just LIVING the emotional depths of this reckoning.

As they draw to the end she resumes being the woman waiting for a bus / wedding guest. They finish. Take a bow. The class is part amazed, part confused, and just besides themselves. There is some scattered applause, then he abruptly takes his boombox and they storm the fu*ck out.

Never came back to the class that night.

The proff takes a break, pokes her head out to look around. Tries to talk about the poem but she just can't. We've all just witnessed something together. Something weird, and wonderful, and spell binding. None of us put a stop to it, least of all her. There was nothing left to say about Coleridge.

No presentation I have ever experienced in my educational or professional career will ever approach the time I saw a gonzo re-imagining or Rime of the Ancient Mariner in a lit class.

-Scotchtw

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