The Threat Of Contract Cheating – Examining The Paid For Assignment Solutions Unduly Populating The Computing Discipline

Contract cheating still poses a threat within the Computing discipline, although our observations are that this has expanded widely into other academic disciplines, particularly Business Studies, and including at MBA level.

These slides are from a recent research seminar delivered at University of West London, and contain new examples relating to the costs associated with contract cheating, and the many solutions available to people with technical skills to aim to prevent and detect this type of academic misconduct.

The slides, also available on SlideShare account for Thomas Lancaster, are included here.

I was pleased to find out from the PhD students in attendance that they had no wish to follow in the footsteps of the private tutor mentioned in the talk, who, after gaining their PhD, was advertising to complete work on behalf of students.

The idea of using stylometrics to potentially detect when work was not written by the student indicated created a lot of interest, and that is certainly an area that would benefit from continued exploration.

The Contract Cheating Saga Of Crazylarry23

Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today called Crazylarry23 “the stupid plagiarist”.

Mark Graban of Lean Blog seemed surprised that an example of postgraduate level cheating was up on Freelancer.com. He also acknowledged Michel Baudin for originally publicising this attempt at contract cheating, although that blog post no longer seems to be active.

As an academic, who along with Robert Clarke, has collected together a database of over 19,000 attempts at contract cheating, cases like this are not so surprising to us any longer. For the uninitiated, contract cheating occurs when a student gets a third party to produce assessed work for them.

We can trace over 50% of the cases we’ve identified back to the Freelancer.com agency website, as this analysis of observed contract cheating between March 2005 and June 2013 show. This isn’t a completely scientific sample, since Freelancer.com is one of the main sites on our contract cheating radar, but perhaps that’s why Jonathan Bailey labelled anyone using this site to cheat as “stupid”.

More details relating to this data set are academically available in our recent paper, “Commercial Aspects Of Contract Cheating” and several examples are expanded upon in Slides From Recent Talks by Dr. Thomas Lancaster.

The reaction to the case of Crazylarry23 does reflect the lack of publicity that contract cheating has had. In this case, raising awareness is always beneficial to the academic community and the wider industry who will be employing our students in the future.

Mark Graban discusseded two attempts by Crazylarry23, who self-identified himself as Australian, to cheat. One example included an ERP and Lean Manufacturing Essay, which Crazylarry23 insisted would “NOT be plagiarised”. This was outsourced to an author from Pakistan for $50.

Mark Graban also fulfilled the detective role, identified in our research, finding the school in Australia that Crazylarry23 attended. This was near Crazylarry23’s stated location on Freelancer.com, although our own attribution attempts have shown that the listed locations are not always accurate. The spelling of “plagiarised” in this case, backs up the premise that Crazylarry23 was native to Australia.

The role of the detective for contract cheating requests on agency websites often involves looking for trace evidence and small “clues” like these. Despite a number of our successes in identifying and attributing contract cheating cases, the sheer volume of these cheating attempts means that students are getting away with it. The academic community does need access to a semi-automated system to aid in the monitoring, collection of evidence and detective work.

The good news is that Plagiarism Today reports that successful notification of Crazylarry23’s school was made, and since the user has now left Freelancer.com, we can assume that they were identified and penalised. Copies of the bid requests are archived elsewhere based on their RSS feeds for anyone interested. Whether this is the same Crazylarry23 who can be observed to be a keen poker player using a Google search remains to be questioned.

There are still plenty of people like Crazylarry23 out there. We need to instil in our students the need for them to complete their own work and to demonstrate that they do have the skills required for success in the workplace.

I did come across an interesting tweet from Freelancer during my investigation about what had been said about the Crazylarry23 saga on the Internet.

Just Outsourcing identified that Freelancer.com was indeed complicit with the use of their site for the purposes of academic contract cheating, saying to @pheelpep, “We have had many ivy league students outsource their work on @freelancer.com 😉”. It has been speculated previously that the commission awarded to Freelancer.com through academic writing is substantial. This tweet provides a further indication which would mean that it contract cheating is not a problem that they would want to make a serious attempt to tackle.

Just Outsourcing suggests that Freelancer.com should consider how they treat requests for academic work. The site adds that “The ramifications of assisting the generation of unqualified ‘professionals’ are too large”. In our own research, we have observed attempts by trainee teachers to outsource their assignments and requests for nurses to receive help with passing their training. It does seem that there are real risks involved with agency websites assisting with contract cheating requests which the academic and professional communities need to address.

 

Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today called Crazylarry23 “the stupid plagiarist”.

Mark Graban of Lean Blog seemed surprised that an example of postgraduate level cheating was up on Freelancer.com. He also acknowledged Michel Baudin for originally publicising this attempt at contract cheating, although that blog post no longer seems to be active.

As an academic, who along with Robert Clarke, has collected together a database of over 19,000 attempts at contract cheating, cases like this are not so surprising to us any longer. For the uninitiated, contract cheating occurs when a student gets a third party to produce assessed work for them.

We can trace over 50% of the cases we’ve identified back to the Freelancer.com agency website, as this analysis of observed contract cheating between March 2005 and June 2013 show. This isn’t a completely scientific sample, since Freelancer.com is one of the main sites on our contract cheating radar, but perhaps that’s why Jonathan Bailey labelled anyone using this site to cheat as “stupid”.

 

More details relating to this data set are academically available in our recent paper, “Commercial Aspects Of Contract Cheating” and several examples are expanded upon in Slides From Recent Talks by Thomas Lancaster.

The reaction to the case of Crazylarry23 does reflect the lack of publicity that contract cheating has had. In this case, raising awareness is always beneficial to the academic community and the wider industry who will be employing our students in the future.

Mark Graban discusseded two attempts by Crazylarry23, who self-identified himself as Australian, to cheat. One example included an ERP and Lean Manufacturing Essay, which Crazylarry23 insisted would “NOT be plagiarised”. This was outsourced to an author from Pakistan for $50.

Mark Graban also fulfilled the detective role, identified in our research, finding the school in Australia that Crazylarry23 attended. This was near Crazylarry23’s stated location on Freelancer.com, although our own attribution attempts have shown that the listed locations are not always accurate. The spelling of “plagiarised” in this case, backs up the premise that Crazylarry23 was native to Australia.

The role of the detective for contract cheating requests on agency websites often involves looking for trace evidence and small “clues” like these. Despite a number of our successes in identifying and attributing contract cheating cases, the sheer volume of these cheating attempts means that students are getting away with it. The academic community does need access to a semi-automated system to aid in the monitoring, collection of evidence and detective work.

The good news is that Plagiarism Today reports that successful notification of Crazylarry23’s school was made, and since the user has now left Freelancer.com, we can assume that they were identified and penalised. Copies of the bid requests are archived elsewhere based on their RSS feeds for anyone interested. Whether this is the same Crazylarry23 who can be observed to be a keen poker player using a Google search remains to be questioned.

 

There are still plenty of people like Crazylarry23 out there. We need to instil in our students the need for them to complete their own work and to demonstrate that they do have the skills required for success in the workplace.

I did come across an interesting tweet from Freelancer during my investigation about what had been said about the Crazylarry23 saga on the Internet.

Just Outsourcing identified that Freelancer.com was indeed complicit with the use of their site for the purposes of academic contract cheating, saying to @pheelpep, “We have had many ivy league students outsource their work on @freelancer.com 😉”. It has been speculated previously that the commission awarded to Freelancer.com through academic writing is substantial. This tweet provides a further indication which would mean that it contract cheating is not a problem that they would want to make a serious attempt to tackle.

Just Outsourcing suggests that Freelancer.com should consider how they treat requests for academic work. The site adds that “The ramifications of assisting the generation of unqualified ‘professionals’ are too large”. We have observed attempts by trainee teachers to outsource their assignments and requests for nurses to receive help with passing their training. It does seem that there are real risks involved with agency websites assisting with contract cheating requests which the academic and professional communities need to address.

Don’t Want To Write That Lecture?

For academics, this request seems like a very reasonable price to pay to get someone else to get someone else to prepare a set of “good enough” slides for you.

I had this example planned as a slide for one of my own research presentations, but with that presentation at 60 slides at present, this just wouldn’t have fit it.

I support I could have saved myself a lot of time and had other people outbidding themselves to produce that talk for me for just $6 (£3.71 according to Google). Even comparing the options and paying double that to get a competent worker involved, this would represent a good deal.

There’s certainly no excuse for academics to not have a set of slides prepared when you can get offers like that (9 bidders so far), although I’d recommend setting this type of auction up as a fixed price rather than paying by the hour. Of course, I don’t know if paying someone to create your slides would be ethical

What next? Get someone in to deliver the lecture (there are some that would argue that PhD students are already taken advantage of in that way…)?

Personally, I’m one of those people who has my own presentation style and likes to be very much in control of my own slides, but I see an increasing numbers of posts on agency sites like this one.

Contract Cheating Within The Computing Discipline – Examining The Threats And Solutions For Face-To-Face And Distance Learning Courses

When I was putting this contract cheating research seminar together, I was reminded just what a volume of slides, talks and interesting anecdotes we had. Far more than can fit in every one hour session (with questions), which invariably means leaving some very interesting material out.

This time, we focused particularly on the issues that look like to cause problems to universities that teach primarily by distance learning, such as the UK’s Open University.

The slides, also available on SlideShare account for Thomas Lancaster, are included here.

There was an interesting discussion after the research seminar about the ways in which measures taken to prevent contract cheating can also cause issues for people with dyslexia. For instance, one attendee overviewed the very real situation from his own PhD studies where his university he was attending had not allowed the use of external proof readers, for fear of the potential for contract cheating. Invariably, this caused issues with the completion of his PhD.

This is certainly an area of contract cheating worthy of further discussion and opens up a whole cans of worms related to policies which really need to be explored.

No Systematic Solution To Essay Mills

I’m quoted in the cover story of this week’s Times Higher Education (although much of the story looks based around the long discussion we had on the telephone):

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/tablet/8869243B/2007944.shared

It’s an interesting feature, running to six pages in the printed version of THE (and having attracted comments on the online version).

An interesting statement is the estimate that over 15,000 customer essays are written by essay writing firms within the UK every year. That doesn’t account for the students who commit other forms of contract cheating or order from abroad.

The implication in the article is that there is no easy solution in sight, but I hope that we can do better.

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