The workshop for which the slides are included below was particularly interesting for me, as it was the first workshop for some time that I’d delivered focusing on the issue of student plagiarism, rather than the much more specific problem of contract cheating.
To me, this is an important reminder that there are many staff who need advice about how to design plagiarism opportunities out of their assessments. This seems to be particularly the case for new staff who are just entering the lecturer ranks.
Much of the good practice recommendations for setting assessments that make plagiarism difficult also hold for contract cheating. It continues to be important for staff to set fresh assignments every time to remove the temptation for students to cheat, yet some staff still do not seem to be doing this. But staff should also be aware about how easy it would be for students to outsource some types of assignments.
We will continue to need workshops on plagiarism prevention, contract cheating and all types of academic integrity.
I’m often asked to deliver workshops on contract cheating for different audiences and academic disciplines and I’m always keen to help with these if I can fit them into my schedule.
I delivered a workshop for the Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences Learning and Teaching Conference at Sheffield Hallam University, which I presented as a way to encourage academics there to think about the type of assessments that they were asking students to complete.
This workshop led to a particularly interesting discussion about what types of assignments work best in different disciplines. I do continue to believe that subject specific solutions to contract cheating are needed, although much of the necessary work does not seem to have happened yet.
Some of the recent contract cheating work that I’ve been engaged with and have found to be the most interesting has been looking at the marketing funnels behind contract cheating services.
These funnels are increasingly elaborate. It’s no longer enough for an enterprising individual to set up a website offering to write essays for students. The successful sites now look closely at how students will find their website, they pay big commissions to the affiliates who send them traffic and they plug into existing services designed to write essays rather than need to employ their own writers.
I explored a lot of these issues in my talk about contract cheating at the International Center For Academic Integrity Inaugural Mediterranean Conference, held in Athens, Greece.
It is really interesting to look at all of the different individuals who are getting a piece of the money paid by a student to a contract cheating service. In many cases, only a small proportion of this goes to a writer. There’s certainly much more work on contract cheating supplier, essay mills and marketing that I hope to complete (and more formally publish) in the future.
Robert Clarke presented the conference version of this, so if you did attend his talk, you might find that the emphasis on my video version is different. If nothing else, my presentation did not have the strict time constraints that were present for the conference video and that allowed me to explore this area of exam cheating in more depth.
The ways in which exam cheating technologies are evolving continue to astound me. There is so much more happening now than students sneaking a few notes into an examination. I fear that this will continue to be a big story in the coming months and years.
Many academic studies looking at contract cheating think about this only from the point of view of this being a way for students to get essays, terms papers and assignments written for them.
The reality is that the definition of contract cheating extends much more widely than that. As part of wider work, I’ve recently been looking a lot at exam cheating and there are certainly mechanisms that are easily available for students to use to pay a third party to attend an examination for them.
These slides, originally presented at the CSpace Conference devoted to teaching and learning and held at Birmingham City University look further into the issues about how third parties can become involved in the exam taking process.
The slides from the exam cheating presentation include examples of cheating seen in agency sites, as a spin-off to the work that essay mills already offer and on online classified sites. They also look at the people being paid to held students with exams through advances in technology.
There’s a whole murky underworld of exam cheating going on through students who have the money and this continues to be an area that needs research and practical solutions.