Contract Cheating and Commissioning Staff Development Workshop

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.

You can see the slides used in the workshop on my SlideShare account. They are also embedded below.

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.

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Article by Thomas Lancaster

My name is Dr. Thomas Lancaster, and I am a Associate Dean in Recruitment at Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My background is in the Computer Science discipline. My best known academic research relates to student plagiarism and contract cheating. Please browse around the blog and the links, and feel free to leave your thoughts.
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