For the people who weren’t able to attend the talk live, I’ve also produced a screencapture video version, covering much of the same content.
The video provides more details about the contract cheating marketing innovations that I’ve included on the presentation slides.
There are lots of interesting examples discussed, including many of the people who feed into essay mill marketing and the legitimate looking jobs and careers that are available. There are also examples of how cheating services are marketing themselves to students on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Welcome to the first in a new 10 part series looking back at contract cheating.
It’s now 10 years since I delivered the first conference paper and presentation on contract cheating, so it seems like a perfect opportunity to look back at some of the developments in contract cheating that have happened during that time period.
To kick this off, I was very happy to deliver an extended presentation at the Coventry University Conference, looking particularly at the question about how and why contract cheating sites, essay mills and ghostwriting services have increased their visibility during this time period.
As my first talk in front of a new audience, there was an interesting and lively discussion, with several people wanting more details about contract cheating, its prevalence and the type of students involved (all areas which I didn’t focus on during this talk). There were also questions regarding the legalities of contract cheating services. Unfortunately, most companies position their services so that the service they are offering is legal.
The talk looked particularly at the marketing behind the sites which has led to their increased prominence, all areas which I plan to look into in more detail in other parts of the 10 in 10 contract cheating series.
As part of my continued research into the marketing of essay writing services, I’ve always been amazed by how developed the industry is that is funnelling students into using cheating services. I’ve covered the use of Twitter as part of this industry in talks before, but I haven’t written about it in detail on my blog.
One observation I’ve made is that a student only has to tweet about having an essay to write, an assignment to produce or a homework to complete and they’ll immediately begin receiving writing offers from individual writers and companies offering to do that work for them. Some of the wider issues behind this formed the focus of a Twitter conversation I had with AcadEnforcer, which you can see captured in this Storify record.
Now, perhaps a wider question to be asked here is, would you hire an unknown writer who contacted you through Twitter? It is hardly difficult to find companies and individuals who are offering academic writing services for students and to perhaps identify those from whom you could perhaps have a great level of confidence that they would deliver what they had promised.
It would be interesting to commission a larger volume of written work from a selection of different writers and companies, then to verify the academic quality and originality of the results. Although there have been some small scale studies of this, they are hardly conclusive. In many studies, particularly those undertaken by media contacts, they can only budget to buy a single assignment. Even larger studies tend to bottom out at three pieces of work and these are not always solutions to the same assignment problem, making direct comparisons of quality and pricing difficult.
If any funding providers are in a position to commission and support a larger-scale study where we can buy and analyse ghostwritten work produced by essay firms, I would be keen to share my expertise on contract cheating and to be involved.
During a research and learning seminar presented at London Metropolitan University, I focused on the technology behind contract cheating and the related issues behind it. A number of examples showing how Computing academics could be involved in creating the software solutions needed to prevent and detect contract cheating were presented.
There are several examples of interest embedded with the slides, but in particular I looked at a Literature Review assignment produced for the Fake Britain TV programme. I also demonstrated a number of other ways that that a student could have that same assignment produced for them. Since this process involves the creation of original work, it is very hard to detect.
Afterwards the discussion focused on the people producing work for students. It was pointed out that many students do not need to use technology at all to get their work done. There are known groups of individuals working and in and around universities providing original academic assignment writing services, which students hear about through word of mouth.
This development is nothing new and just continues to demonstrate the wide range of personal, social, pedagogical and technical responses needed to reduce contract cheating. Continued vigilance is always necessary.
I do have a full teaching and learning seminar available on examination cheating and what can be done about it, which can be presented alongside our contract cheating examples or independently. There is a lot of fascinating stuff available in this field, including much of the technology available to enable students to cheat. Please contact me if you’re interested in me speaking about this at your event or institution.