Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity 2019

The first Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity took place in April 2019, bringing a sell-out crowd to Calgary in Alberta, Canada to discuss academic integrity. The symposium aimed to raise awareness of academic integrity challenges in Canada, along with sharing the current research being undertaken, with many findings being presented for the first time.

I delivered a new presentation and also chaired the parallel session on contract cheating, which was a major theme of the conference. Tracey Bretag also attended to present two keynotes, including a brand new talk considering how approaches to academic integrity had developed differently around the world.

Here are some of the findings from the symposium sessions I attended that are worth further circulating. There was lots of good material that I’ve seen presented in different forms before, so I’ve tried to focus this post on areas that are likely to not likely be widely known about.

 

Findings From The Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity

The contract cheating industry is manipulative – and workers don’t always realise they’re employed as part of the contract cheating industry

Corinne Hersey presenting her research into the contract cheating industry

Corinne Hersey talked about her experiences accidentally working for contract cheating services. She had been employed working for what she thought was a question and answer site. Questions could come in at any time and very quick answers were expected. It turned out that the answers were going straight to students, either as short homework questions, or to be used as part of a live online examination process.

Corinne also gave an example of how contract cheating services are hiring editors to take what may be poor quality essays and to improve them. The individuals being hired think they’re just working on lower quality work produced by a student.

 

Academic integrity has developed its own set of communities – but those people looking to subvert academic integrity have developed their own communities too

Tracey Bretag talked about the ways in which communities of practice had developed around the world, often in different geographic locations. This included in areas of the world where getting a community developed could be difficult, for example in Latin and Central America. Communities had even begun to develop where interest in academic integrity had emerged from different directions, for example the UK had originally become interested in academic integrity based on the technical problem of detecting plagiarism.

That move is positive, but I shared some less desirable developments in my talk, including showing the online communities set up by contract cheating services to help their writers, as well as independent writer communities not connected with any particular contract cheating service. I also demonstrated that some of these communities aimed at contract cheating service writers are now moving offline, with conferences being held for them in the same way that the academic integrity community holds its own conferences.

 

Many staff don’t actually know much about contract cheating and academic integrity

This was demonstrated in James Blackburn’s presentation. James had purchased an essay for £70, but educators thought that it must have cost up to £600. When James quizzed his participants he found out that academics knew very little about the contract cheating industry or how it had developed.

Tracey Bretag recommended that staff were supplied with access to academic integrity training, such as the training we developed in conjunction with Epigeum.

Staff did not seem to know that wide range of assessment types could be outsourced. I showed many examples in my presentation, based on my own searches for information about this field. But Tracey found that even authentic assessments could be outsourced. She suggested that this might be be because students were unsure how to approach unfamiliar assessments like this and so more scaffolded and nuanced support would be necessary.

 

The contract cheating industry is developing a hidden side – includes new ways of operating and the move to new markets

The hidden side of contract cheating includes the involvement of companies and the operating of individuals.

One case study presented by participants from across Calgary saw discussion of when a father had written versions of an assessment for both of his twin girls. Although written separately, the end results were still similar enough to rise suspicion. This ties in with the research that Tracey Bretag presented, showing that the majority of contract cheating goes through friends and family rather than commercial services.

Roswita Dressler and Sarah Eaton talked about their work on the non-English language side of contract cheating. There has been little attempt to study these sites. They showed one essay mill aimed at the Canadian market which would provide solutions in both English and French. They also showed that essays and academic work could be purchased in a wide variety of languages.

A new business model being used by contract cheating services looking to cut their costs was presented by Corinne Hersey. She found that contract cheating providers were outsourcing work to low cost writing services, not always with English as their first language. The end results were then sent to an editing service to correct the language and improve the arguments. Presumably using this two stage process gave better results and reduced the overall costs, leaving more profit available for contract cheating providers.

 

Note-sharing sites offer future threats – and students do not always see using these as breaching academic integrity

Nancy Chibry and Ebba Kurz delivering a live demo of a note-sharing site

The issue of note-sharing sites (also referred to as “pay to pass”) came up multiple times during the symposium, including in my own presentation. These are the sites set up where students can share notes, assessments and resources from the courses they are studying, often being made to feel that they are part of a community helping other students. As Tracey Bretag’s research suggested, few students think that using these sites, either by sharing material themselves or accessing shared material, is a form of cheating. The whole use of the term “sharing” makes this sound as though it is something positive.

The idea of sharing resources is not new. The old days of university fraternities allegedly saw these groups keeping boxes of previous assessments, designed to help the frat members to succeed with little effort. And many students groups have their own agreements to share materials. But these sites are often breaching copyright and the intellectual property of the people creating the resources, as well as tempting students to cheat by providing access to previous solutions. But it is apparently very hard to get materials taken down once they are placed online.

The viral methods used by note-sharing sites to get content were discussed. This included students being required to upload resources themselves to get access to other resources for a limited time (or alternatively paying a fee, a seemingly less inviting proposition for students). Many students did not seem to realise that their name would often be visible with the resources they uploaded.

Some attendees seemed surprised and unaware that sites like this exist. A live demo for one such individual undertaken during the conference saw 40 documents relating to his course available online, including solutions.

 

We Need To Continue With Our International Work

It is really positive to see the continued work on academic integrity taking place around the world, including in Canada. This post gives just a flavour of the many initiatives that are happening.

Note-sharing sites do offer a threat and we need to continue to make students aware that they shouldn’t be sharing university intellectual property with such sites. They are part of an advanced, always developing and manipulative contract cheating industry, all profiting off by encouraging students to breach academic integrity.

 

Social Media Enabled Contract Cheating – Presentation From Canadian Symposium On Academic Integrity 2019

What can we learn about the contract cheating industry from social media? That’s the question I asked when I delivered the feature presentation for the first Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity.

Having often presented previously on social media use in higher education (and, of course, on contract cheating), this presentation afforded me the opportunity to bring both these topics together for the first time.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


For me, this was a really interesting presentation to deliver, with lots of new ideas. These include everything from how contract cheating providers attract students to do business to them, to how they recruit writers, to how they hold their own conferences to develop writers and how contract cheating businesses are now being sold and traded like any other legitimate company.

Thanks to Sarah Eaton and her team for organising such an interesting event. Here’s a photo Sarah captured of the packed room of people attending.

Seven Concerning Ways Essay Mills Are Connecting With Vulnerable Students

Essay mills, contract cheating providers and individual academic ghost writers are becoming increasingly savvy regarding the money on offer. They know about the need to market their services to prospective students. They are finding new ways to connect with students, many of which have their basis in the same marketing techniques that legitimate businesses use to engage their customers.

This blog post discusses seven of the more unusual customer engagement techniques that essay mills are known to be using. The information from this post could be considered anecdotal, but is has been gathered from a variety of discussions with academics and ghost writers, research presentations, media stories and my own experience observing the continual fast pace of development within the contract cheating industry.

 

Method 1 – Using Students As Brand Ambassadors

For a long time, essay mills have been finding students willing to represent their brand on campus. This is exactly the same process legitimate businesses marketing to students, such as nightclubs, food services and recruiting employers, use to expand awareness of their brand.

Here, students take responsibility for getting the word out about the company they work with. There are all kind of ways that they can do this, but often this will involve making leaflets, flyers and posters visible to other students. The student may receive a bursary, or may get a commission for every sale, with trackable links. Essay mills can quickly set up a new variant site for their service, with a university name or location embedded in it. This makes sales easier to track and can make it look like the service is operating locally or is officially endorsed by a university. A variant of this technique has also seen students used as brand ambassadors to recruit other students as paid ghost writers.

 

Method 2 – Disguising Themselves As Tutoring Services

Contract cheating services have been observed presenting themselves as proof reading services, copy editing services or tutoring services to thinly disguise their real offer. The service may initial appear to be legit, but may then upsell their real offer to the student. Other apparent support services may not even go through this pretence, or may have chat windows that pop up on their website offering essay writing and assignment production services.

A particular concern has been raised with tutoring services. These can operate within a university, for example when a student’s individual requirements have indicated that they need to be provided with further access to a tutor. That tutor is often only paid for the hours directly worked. Some tutors have admitted that they will see what kind of support the student needs and, if this goes beyond that which can be provided in the time available, they will use the contact as a bridge to offer contract cheating services, subtly or otherwise. Since students can become dependent on contract cheating services, this university provided introduction can be lucrative for individual contract cheating providers who choose to promote themselves through this route.

 

Method 3 – Sponsoring Stalls At Welcome Events

Many universities hold events for new students during a Welcome Week or Freshers Week. One common event is a Welcome Fair, where different companies and student societies set up stalls to interact with the new students. Commercial stalls are often seen at these events since they bring in money for a university or its Student Union and help to subsidise the running costs.

Contract cheating companies have been observed becoming involved with these welcome events. Although they may not blatantly offer a stall themselves, they have more subtle ways to be involved, such as sponsoring a stall run by students. The stall can be encouraged to host flyers or other materials about the essay mill. A recent example of this from an Australian university saw the advertising materials being presented in Chinese, making them hard to spot by anyone not familiar with that language.

 

Method 4 – Offering Students Free Essays For Referring Their Friends

Rather like a pyramid marketing scheme, essay mills are always keen to increase the number of customers on their database. Even if they don’t directly make a sale, just the email address of a student is of value to each business. That gives the essay mill the option to keep targeting the potential customer, offering them discounts until they buy. A referral is much more powerful than a standard advert. It demonstrates to students that they are simply following in the footsteps of a trusted colleague.

As well as providing an incentive for a converting referral, such as credits towards a free essay or a discount code to use on a subsequent purchase, essay mills can present this to students as if they are doing their friends a favour. They are providing them with access to the same support service that they used.

 

Method 5 – Setting Up Fake University WhatsApp Groups

Contract cheating providers seem to be investing more time and effort to develop relationships before going in for the sale. Those relationships can be nurtured using cheap international labour. One way they’ve begun to do this is by setting up WhatsApp group which is aimed at students from a particular university and which may appear to be endorsed by that university. Students preparing to go to university are often looking for supportive communities and can easily sign up for unofficial groups (if their university or specific subject even offers an official group at all).

How these groups work is that they initially operate appearing to be like a legitimate group. Workers representing the contract cheating provider take their time to get to know students. They find out about the student, their life, their frustrations and deadlines. When the pressure ramps up, they then move in for the sale, often presenting themselves as a fellow student showing the service they used when they were stressed and which a student can use to. These are the same techniques used in all kinds of other scams, such as catfishing.

Contract cheating services are also finding ways to get access to existing student WhatsApp, Facebook and WeChat groups. Many of these groups require little in the way of verification to join and posts are not always closely monitored by universities. And, many of these groups are set up by students, so are not directly part of a university at all. I’ve heard, for example, of essay mills joining groups set up to support students in individual university halls.

 

Method 6 – Providing Free Online Resources In Exchange For An Email Address

In the world of online marketing, contact information is king. Advertising on essay related terms can be expensive. Instead, companies are finding alternative services that they can provide, in return for which they a valid student email address or mobile phone contact number.

Generally, access to free software seems to work well for essay mills. This can include software that they claim detects plagiarism, access to large databases of sample essays, or use of referencing software. Essay mills have also been observed offering a certain amount of custom writing for free, such as the first page on a longer essay. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, the cost of offering such a service is low, perhaps only a dollar or two per page, certainly lower than the cost of a pay-per-click advert against a popular search term. Having writers create free original essay samples also keeps them busy, useful if they are salaried. Even if the student does not go on to order the full essay, the service still has the sample page available to use, as well as details about an assignment that a real student is undertaking.

Students who have used a free service like this can also be at the risk of blackmail.

 

Method 7 – Signing Up For Courses To Get Direct Access To Students

Contract cheating services have become wise to the idea that their best mechanism for connecting with students is to be inside the same courses as the students are. They are signing up to those courses to get access, particularly MOOCS and other large online courses where the students are unlikely to be personally known by teaching staff and the number of potential contacts can run into the thousands.

Having such access, whether it is in the form of email addresses, or the option to set up an off-site community, can be of immense value to contract cheating providers. They can present themselves as specialist in a particular course. They can access all the same resources used by legitimate students, including lecture notes, tutor access and library resources. Some companies have been observed operating a second side-hustle, by selling materials from within the course through sites such as CourseHero.

A variant of this technique has also been observed where contract cheating services do not need to register as a student themselves at all. Instead, they wait until orders for essays and assignment solutions come in from students. They then get direct access to the site from their customer instead. This approach raises all kinds of cybersecurity issues and asks the question do universities really check if the correct people are accessing their servers.

 

Stay Alert To The Changing Contract Cheating Industry!

Shareable Infographic

As this blog post has indicated, contract cheating services and essay mills are able to get their message out to students on campus. Their techniques are developing all the time as bright new entrepreneurs choose to enter this lucrative space. There are all kinds of other techniques in use. Connecting with students through social media properties, for example, is common.

I’ve recently heard about essay mills becoming even more brazen, sending out sales people to go into university canteens and other areas popular with students to talk directly about the ways in which they can help them.

I share new contract cheating industry developments all the time in my academic integrity talks and training sessions. Click here to contact me if you’d like to discuss ways in which I can work with you or your staff and students.

Do stay alert to changes in the contract cheating industry. The past few years have seen continual developments. Such changes to essay mill and contract cheating provider operation are likely to continue and the pace of industry change may even accelerate.

International Center For Academic Integrity Conference 2019

The 2019 International Centre for Academic Integrity Conference took place in New Orleans in March 2019. The conference saw more than 250 attendees come together to talk about academic integrity. More than half of the attendees were at an ICAI event for the first time, showing how important this area of work has become. I have been to international ICAI events before, but this was my first ICAI conference in the United States.

The conference also brought with it massive interest in contract cheating. There were up to six parallel presentations taking place at the same time, but in most of these timeslots at least one presentations was devoted to contract cheating. As you’d expect I primarily attended the contract cheating sessions, but did get to a few others, so got a good idea of the main themes being discussed at the conference.

With presentations running to 45 minutes each, these was a lot of information about contract cheating presented. This include my well-attended contract cheating presentation on the first day (and I also summarised the presentation in a post about this contract cheating presentation for the ICAI blog).

Several retrospectives of the conference have been published, including these from Tricia Bertram Gallant and Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today. As I usually do, I tweeted many of the interesting findings with the Twitter hashtag #ICAIConf2019. In this post, I want to bring together six of the themes I identified which I hope will be of wider interest.

#1 – We Still Need To Know More About Contract Cheating And How To Address The Problem At A Local Level

Sarah Eaton is leading work on contract cheating awareness in Canada

Before the conference, it seemed that few people in the United States were talking about contract cheating. I know we got through to the people who attended ICAI 2019 and I hope to see more work emerging in this area, but there is still a long way to go.

It seems strange to say this, but I think that several of the contract cheating presentations were more advanced than what was helpful for the audience. There’s still a need for exposure of the problem and a level of basic information. US higher education also has its own unique operational quirks. That means that processes from one part of the world don’t automatically work smoothly if you try and to transpose them to somewhere else.

We need more data at national level, as well as plans to address contract cheating.

Some people are collecting national level data. During the conference, we found out that 28% of students in Ukraine thought that contract cheating could be acceptable, depending on the professor and the situation. Veronika Kralikova also presented on the Global Essay Mills research project, which has been collecting student views on contract cheating from different countries. Unfortunately, Veronika also that the survey used had had a major flaw, as one third of people starting it did not complete, mainly due to a question asking about their personal contract cheating habits. This shows the need for careful survey design, but also demonstrates the value of talking openly about both successes and failures so that other researchers do not make the same mistake.

Work in Canada, led by Sarah Eaton from the University of Calgary, found that contract cheating was not commonly mentioned in Canadian university academic integrity policies. Even where this was mentioned, the definitions used were inconsistent. Another useful research project would be to replicate this work on integrity policies for other parts of the world.

 

#2 – The Integrity Of The Assessment Process Is Vulnerable To Poor Cybersecurity

Many students arriving at university are technologically savvy. This can include students from all disciplines, not just those on engineering and computing courses. We’ve heard many times about students who are able to hack into university systems to obtain information, change marks or gain an advantage. The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) reported that some students were obtaining their exam questions ahead of exams, with advance papers typically changing hands for $350 USD each time.

Despite these risks, the cybersecurity in place in schools and universities is often weak. For example, I found out that some places simply set up one shared Turnitin account, then circulate the username and password for this single account for all students to use. Those login details then become available outside the organisation, perhaps explaining, for example, how essay mills claim to be able to run the assignments they do for students through Turnitin to prove that they are original.

A risk that comes from not ensuring that only the correct people have access to university online systems was also shared. Several contract cheating services now claim they will complete a whole online course for a student. They just need the login details for those students. These cheating services have been observed then using those login details to send spam messages to other students on the course, helping to multiply the reach of their business. Firms were also saving copies of as many teaching resources as possible to make them available for sale elsewhere. UMUC are working on an artificial intelligence based web crawler to find when their teaching materials have been posted online without permission, a tool which may be useful for other universities looking to protect their intellectual property.

As a Computer Scientist, I know that the poorest part of many security processes is the human element. Many otherwise good processes are vulnerable to flawed procedures or social engineering. Another example given at ICAI 2019 mentioned the problem of academics leaving exam questions visible on their computer screen, even when they had stepped away from it.

Students do not always value their personal data. Many are used to giving their email address to anyone who asks, or expect that all the advertising they see online will be personalised to them. Discussions about the importance of personal cybersecurity are necessary with all types of students.

 

#3 – We Should Be Interested In The Providers Behind Contract Cheating Services

Knowing more about the firms and writers behind contract cheating services was an area I pushed during my presentation. I was happy to hear that another delegate was working on her PhD speaking to the writers behind contract cheating services, even though she said that writers were suspicious about her reasons for wanting to interview them.

Many writers are in this line or work simply because they want (or need) the money involved. I noticed one writer from Kenya tweeting a link to my conference presentation slides and using that as evidence that essay service writers were being exploited.

Providers were found to be using increasingly cunning techniques to get students interested in their services. One concerning example given related to firms setting up groups on services such as WhatsApp and WeChat aimed at new students at a particular university. These were initially presented as friendship groups, with the firms taking the time to get to know the students, seemingly being interesting in their well-being and their progress. When the firms realised the student faced a deadline and was finding things hard going, they would throw out an offer to provide a contract cheating service. With the rapport and friendship in place, the student would be much more likely to take up that offer.

Physical adverts also appear regularly in many universities. Tricia Bertram Gallant mentioned a new technique which she had been using to address posters for contract cheating services. Rather than taking these down, where they would be replaced, they were now having stickers put on them reminding students that they should not engage in academic integrity breaching behaviour using these services.

I won’t say too much more about the challenge posed by providers thinking that they can make vast amounts of money from contract cheating as this has been covered in my recent research and presented on the blog. But, I will reiterate that it is not just the paid writers who are of interest to us. Jennie Miron from the University of Calgary also shared her favourite contract cheating story. Here, the fact the student’s mother had done the work for them was detected thanks to a comment at the end of the assignment. It read, “I really enjoyed doing this sweetheart, hope you get an A.

 

#4 – Poorly Designed Examination Processes Are Vulnerable To Academic Misconduct

Sticker used to promote academic integrity at University of California San Diego

When exam papers are badly written, or exams are not properly secured, the whole assessment process becomes vulnerable. Students can be sucked into cheating even if they did not originally intend to do so.

This was illustrated by the moving conference keynote presentation by Lewis Sims. Lewis discussed how his life had been turned upside down while he was training to be an officer in the US Navy. One of the other candidates got hold of the answer key to an upcoming exam, Lewis got hold of a copy, used it and ended up without a naval career. More than 20 years later, Lewis had turned his life around, was teaching sport and warning students not to make the same mistakes that he had.

The problem of reused questions was discussed. In Ukraine, books with answer keys to exams were said to be easily available for purchase. That is little different to sites like Course Hero elsewhere, where students supply questions and answers that they’re aware of, with the crowd sourced solution building a large repository of otherwise private course information over time. Some would argue that this is little different to the information US fraternities had always collected. Many academics were said to be totally unaware that online versions of such services existed. As long as academics keep using the same questions (something heavily discouraged in the contract cheating literature), students who choose to cheat can have an easy life.

I already knew about the problem of questions being shared when the same test is taken multiple times in a day. This is easy to do with a hidden camera. But for the first time I heard about the related problem of a photographic memory, where someone can take an early test then accurately reconstruct the questions for everyone taking it later in the day.

The importance of robust processes being in place during exams was also mentioned. UNSW Sydney showed the forms they use to record when students visit the bathroom, very useful for getting timings as evidence for exam integrity breaches, or identifying students who are using the bathroom more than would be expected. This provides an extra layer of protection when a student could easily access notes or technology in the relatively private surroundings of a cubicle.

 

#5 – Contract Cheating Detection Processes Are Improving

The artificial intelligence techniques used to work with big data were being shown to be useful to detect contract cheating, particularly for courses for which the entirety (or a large proportion of) was taught online.

UMUC presented their elaborate plans to ensure integrity using multiple techniques, including employing working with a firm to use the same fraud detection techniques as banking in their systems. This was seen as potentially being a good way to disrupt the contract cheating industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Systems looking at stylometric analysis, automatically tracking that student writing style is consistent from assignment to assignment, are beginning to emerge. UMUC also said that they planned to use these same systems for all written contributions going through the system, including forum posts. Developing corpora beyond just student essays and assignments is something I’ve recommended before and it will useful to track how closely forum writing style matches that students use for formal written assessments.

IP tracking was also proving successful. UNSW Sydney shared several examples of how they had used IP tracking within their systems to identify large contract cheating rings (sometimes involving more than 100 students at a time) These included multiple students who had hired the same contractor, who was logging into their accounts from the same IP address. They also included unusual account access patterns, such as seeing students using their accounts at times when this should not have been possible, such as during an exam.

 

#6 – We Can Get Better At Engaging Students In Academic Integrity Discussions

This visual artist at Deree is weighed down under all of his contract cheating purchases

Often, we think that students should be interested in academic integrity because we are, or that they should just “know” what is right and wrong.

There is promising work going on where academics engage closely with students as partners on the subjects of contract cheating and academic integrity. This is progress that we can learn from.

Some universities have been developing their own academic integrity modules, often online. One example I saw was the University of Central Florida, who used video and discussion activities to show students what the consequences of plagiarism would be (including the interesting solution of banning students from representing the university for a set period, which must be a threat worth considering to get through to those on the sports teams). Commercial companies have also been working on academic integrity education solutions which universities can subscribe to (for example, the Epigeum academic integrity course which I have been part of the writing team for and which takes more of a values driven approach to academic integrity).

Karen Gardiner from the University of Alabama discussed an interesting approach to teaching academic writing. Here students are required to research a member of their family from a few generations back and write about them. I saw a few potential ethical issues, for instance what if this led to a student finding out their parents are not who they thought they were or that a sibling they were unaware of had been given up for adoption, but apparently such concerns are not an issue in Alabama. What did shine through was Karen’s passion for the subject; such eductaor assion has to be one of the best ways to get students engaged with any subject.

I was also impressed by Jonathan Bailey’s talk about plagiarism issues appearing in popular culture. Jonathan shared examples of how plagiarism had been discussed on TV shows back to the 1950s. He mentioned a repeated similar plot about obscure poems being submitted as if written by the student. The most interesting example of pop culture plagiarism came from the cartoon show Arthur, where a student was required to write a five page essay with a short deadline over a holiday, with the expected result of the student finding another solution. It just shows how important sensible assessment design, including considering scheduling, is in helping students to avoid breaches of academic integrity.

One of the most interesting sessions of the ICAI 2019 conference was presented early on. Evangeline Litsa Mourelatos and Tricia Bertram Gallant looked at how well different student activities forming part of the International Day of Action against Contract Cheating had worked. They stressed the need for activity to be visible both on campus and externally. This is to show the power of academic integrity awareness and to get the media interested. It is worth thinking outside the box in this area and using the power of the student voice to come up with new ideas. Some of the most successful approaches included developing videos, using keynote speakers, giving out stickers and getting students to engage in visible pledges – ideally taking a copy of their pledge away with them. One of the most innovative ideas involved getting students actors to present contract cheating scenarios in different ways. Graffiti walls had also been used to create a visible and memorable discussion of contract cheating, but these came with a warning, one of these walls had been left unsupervised for a while and ended up covered with messages rather different to those intended.

Do Get Involved

I strongly recommend attended academic integrity events to get involved with the community of educators involved in this area. There are always good ideas being shared and it is so exciting to see the positive progress that continues to be made.

I leave you with a tweet from Tricia Bertram Gallant capturing the end of my presentation. I think this nicely sums up my thoughts of where we need to go next as a community of academic integrity educators.

Contract Cheating In The Gig Economy – Presentation From International Center For Academic Integrity Conference 2019

My first research presentation in the United States in 18 years took place as part of the International Center For Academic Integrity conference 2019. Held in New Orleans, I discussed “jazzing up” academic integrity, being far from the only conference presenter to include a local reference.

The talk focused on my recent work showing the low-cost (and free) providers of contract cheating services to students. Really, this isn’t all that new, as even the earliest studies of contract cheating agency websites I conducted with Robert Clarke showed that students could connect directly with providers for low-cost solutions. The Gig Economy just brings that finding into the mainstream.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


This was one of my favourite presentations to give, thanks to a highly receptive audience in the United States who are just starting to come around to the idea of contract cheating being a problem there. Someone asked after they could buy the book on Slide 22, but it is a fake book, designed to just show what is easily possible.

Contract cheating did turn out to be one of the major themes of the conference, with presentations showing different levels of maturity of understanding of the global problem.

Here’s a photo from the start of the presentation. Thanks to Sarah Eaton for capturing it.

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