Blog Posts from Academic Integrity Expert and Higher Education Professional
About Thomas Lancaster
I am an experienced Computer Science academic, best known for research work into academic integrity, plagiarism and contract cheating. I have held leadership positions in several universities, with specialty in student recruitment and keen interest in working in partnership with students.
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Thomas Lancaster has written 137 articles so far, you can find them below.
I presented on contract cheating at the Staffordshire University staff research conference using a digital presentation. For me, that meant by video recording, which is great, as it works well within Staffordshire University’s digital strategy, although I miss the interactive nature of presentation.
The video is worth sharing, as it discusses how the international community has moved towards supporting contract cheating. You can see it embedded below.
Cramming highlights of the many years of research work into 10 minutes is always difficult, but I hope that this serves both as a quick introduction to the research, as well as introduces some of our recent international findings (through the SEEPPAI research in particular) and presents some of the ongoing research challenges in the area.
We’re a long way away from having solved contract cheating. There’s still a lot of work necessary to understand why students cheat and to think about how we can put interventions in place to support those students, as well as to properly reward the students who approach their studies with academic integrity.
A first for me. A conference presentation when I couldn’t be physically present and had to record the presentation in advance.
For my first research presentation at Staffordshire University I tried to capture the good work going on in the contract cheating field in a presentation designed to last ten minutes. I think I managed to do this with the recording, but there’s a huge amount of interesting materials on the slides that I just couldn’t talk about in the time available.
This talk is really interesting to me, as it’s one of those talks that I could make into a full 60 minute research seminar with very few updates needed to the slides at all.
When you think about it, it’s incredibly how in just over 10 years, the contract cheating field has moved from an area where it very hard to interest people, even in the UK, to one where there is excellent international research going on across the globe. Not every country is yet at the same position here, but that just opens yet more opportunities for advancement.
Montenegro is a fascinating country, which I had the pleasure to visit as part of our SEEPPAI research. There is only one public university, but it’s spread over multiple sites. There are several private universities.
I presented some of the SEEPPAI results and participated in wider discussions about academic integrity and future opportunities in the region at an event organised by the Council of Europe.
The presentation discussed the wide range of views I’d experienced from staff and students in the region, often seeming to depend on the level reached within the university system. I was very pleased to see the interest in doing something about the academic integrity challenges, particularly from the students at the event.
There is a lot of good work going on in the region. It all just needs to be communicated to a wider audience.
I’ve been lucky enough to present in some interesting places recently which have been looking to make a difference in their academic integrity processes. One of those was in Kiev, Ukraine, where I was one of the main external presenters at an event organised by the Council of Europe and attended by senior university officials.
When I arrived at Kiev Airport, I was greeted by signs regarding corruption and to say no to it, so it’s clear that there are attempts to make a difference here. It is always going to be a challenge because of the wider expectations within the area about how the system will operate.
The discussion I was involved with focused on the wider issues of academic integrity, particularly thinking about this from a research perspective instead of something that just involved students. There were also a lot of discussions about the wider political challenges going on in the area. The session also included details of our SEEPPAI research work.
There’s clearly very good work going on throughout Ukraine and it’s also a pleasure to be involved with far reaching projects like this.
I held a detailed staff development workshop at the University of Northampton, taking a research informed view into the problem of contract cheating and looking at what can be done about it. My colleague Robert Clarke supported the workshop although he was not able to join me in person.
As always, with this type of audience, the workshop generated a huge amount of discussion. I included some new examples, including my wider ongoing work on examination cheating, a focus on the increased marketing of contract cheating services and examples given directly by essay writers and essay companies that shed a wider light into how the industry operates.
Towards the end of the workshop, I asked participants to think about how they could design assessments in light of the wider issues surrounding plagiarism and contract cheating and the need to ensure academic integrity. A summary of the main points raised is included below:
Include a demonstration of products that students create
– make these demonstrations compulsory for dissertations
Use vivas more widely and include the option of on-the-spot vivas
– should be mentioned in assignment brief
– make these vivas an option for all subjects
– ensure fairness during this process
– should be recorded
– considered as first step of academic misconduct process
Teach students all about plagiarism
– the effects of plagiarism
– the consequences of plagiarism
– the role of Turnitin
Ensure that assignments are relevant to practice
Change the questions in assignment briefs each year and remove from students the temptation to plagiarise
Get students to generate original data to include in assignments
– provide them with more personal ownership of their work
– consider whether anonymous marking is still appropriate as this can discourage personal ownership
Make sure that there is internal support for assignments
Incorporate sub-components into assessments with feed-forward opportunities
Stop using coursework and just have exams
Vary the assessment types across a programme
Link assignments together to ensure a wider understanding
– ask students to make changes to their submitted assessments under controlled conditions
I think it’s worth stressing that these capture the main ideas from across the audience. As with any group of academics, there wasn’t always a consistent view here. I’m sure that there were people in the audience who were keen to be controversial.
These suggestions also don’t necessarily tally with my own recommendations, but there are many good starting points here for further discussions.