Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Contract Cheating - What We Should Do About It

How Contract Cheating Works

Contract cheating providers make students believe that if they use the services they are being smart students who will deliver what their professors want such as a 10 page paper or an excellent score on the final exam. Students may also believe that if they use these services, they will be able to deliver what their parents want (good grades) and what employers want (a degree) (Gallant, Oct. 5, 2016).

Why Do Students Use Contract Cheating Services?

The underlying reasons may be complex and are shaped by individual and situational factors, but perhaps at the heart of it, contract cheating providers deliver services that we do not -“help” on their academic work 24 hours per day, 7 days a week (Gallant). Students often do not work on their assignments between 9 and 7, Monday-Thursday and 9 to 2 on Fridays, when the Student Success Center offers assistance in the Writing and Tutoring Center. So where else can students go when they need help?

Gallant (2016) wrote that students often use Google to find things and when she Googled “essay writing help”, the 7th hit was “strategies for essay writing” from Harvard’s Writing Center and the 25th hit was Purdue’s Owl site, but the rest of the hits were all possible contract cheating sites.

Essay “help” is just the beginning. Many of these contract cheating companies or freelancers, will offer to take exams or entire courses for your students (whether online or in person). Be aware that contract cheating providers exist, they exist to serve your students, and your students are using them. Brad Wolverton, in “The New Economy of Cheating” (Chronicle of Higher Education, August 28, 2016, subscription required), estimates that the annual revenue for one of the largest contract cheating providers is “in the millions”. The UK’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) “Plagiarism in Higher Education” (August 2016) report also posits that the industry is expansive, likely involving thousands of students every year (Gallant).

Should We Do Something About It?

We must do something about it! Gallant (2016) argued that this type of fraud perpetrated on the public, on employers, and on the government, could crash the knowledge economy. The knowledge economy is built on education credentials, specifically who has the grades and certifications needed to fill the jobs that fuel the economy. If these grades and certifications are fraudulent, the jobs are filled by incompetent people at best, and ethically challenged people at worst (Gallant).

Survey studies have found that people who cheat in school are more likely to cheat at work, and since the rates of cheating are high (as high as 41% in some studies), that means that at least 41% of those being hired have cheated in school. And since less than 1% of students at most schools are reported for cheating, that means that at least 40% of new graduates being hired have learned that cheating is a strategy for success, perhaps even for “excellence” (Gallant).

If students are taking grants and loans from the government to pay others to do their work for them, then our taxpayer dollars are being squandered. According to Gallant, we should be morally outraged about the fraud perpetrated by these contract cheating providers and the students who use them.

What Can We Do About It?

  • Respond to cheating when it is detected in order to leverage it as a teachable moment and to ebb the normalizing of the practice.
  • Refer students to the academic and language support services available through the Student Success Center so that they don't feel the need to do business with contract cheating providers.
  • Create your own bank of questions for exams rather than relying on question banks written by the textbook publishers. These test banks are often available on the internet and available for purchase or for free.
  • Utilize authentic and alternative assessments and link them to solid learning objectives and integrity standards.
  • Employ methods to ensure that the people taking your classes and exams are the same people enrolled in the class.

Join the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

October 19th is Carnegie's Global Ethics Day. Join and receive an Institutional Toolkit with more specific tips and ideas for preventing and detecting contract cheating.

Click for more information about Contract Cheating visit the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. There are links to government reports, news reports, presentations, and research.

Information for this article is taken from:
Gallup, T. B. (Oct. 5, 2016). "We need a hero! How Contract Cheating Works". WCET. Retrieved from