I’ve been asked a lot recently about cheating in examinations, particularly where technology is involved. In some of the more sophisticated cases, this can be thought of as the latest development of contract cheating, where a student can hire someone to communicate with based outside an examination room. They can then receive answers from them.
I spoke about this topic at the Plagiarism Across Europe And Beyond conference, which looked at activities throughout the world of academic integrity.
The presentation also contains a number of fresh examples of people trying to outsource their examinations through contract cheating providers, including one person wanting their English language examination taking for them (actually a relatively common request).
One of the more interesting examples shown involves someone asking to have the exam for a job with an essay mill taken for them. As I’ve said before, these type of positions can be of great demand.
Plagiarism Across Europe And Beyond was an excellent conference and I’ll say more about it in future posts.
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.
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.
There has been a lot of work in the contract cheating field recently aimed at getting students on board. Many students feel very strongly when they know other people are cheating. I’ve worked with the Student Unions at Coventry University and Staffordshire University to hold events. The activities at University of Northampton are part of the wider work to move the partnerships with students further forward.
I’d encourage more Student Unions and individual students to get involved with the movement against contract cheating. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance with this.