Artificial Intelligence Led Threats To Academic Integrity Slides

My final presentation at the European Conference on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism 2022 was in area I’ve been talking about informally in talks and interviews for some time, but which I have not previously presented as part of a whole talk. As I found out, I easily have enough material for a full 60 minute exploration of artificial intelligence and academic integrity, not just the short version I ended up presenting.

To me, the growth of artificial intelligence systems designed to write like a human offers us a lot of opportunity to write, produce and develop more efficiently. But what should we do if this artificial intelligence technology is misused in an educational setting, for example to write essays or coursework assignments in place of a student?

You can see the slides I used below. They are also on my SlideShare account).


Many of the issues surrounding artificial intelligence and education run in parallel to those seen during the growth of contract cheating. That is why I am keen to draw attention to this issue now, rather than wait until it is too late to take action.

You can find systems that will not only write documents, but will also review and summarise literature, develop presentation states or create artwork. There is a question to be asked about at what stage we consider an artificial intelligence system to have creativity along the lines of a human.

The whole area is complex. As people working in the field will know, intelligence is not really the right word to use for systems like the ones discussed in the presentation. The whole background behind how these systems works is heavily dependent on mathematics and outcomes are often predictable. But many results now are so impressive that the systems look intelligent.

I ended the presentation asking the question how should we work with artificial intelligent technologies in education, rather than against this. If we want to avoid going down the path in which contract cheating has taken education, this is a alternative route that will need both some serious consideration and the adaptation of current practices.

International Center For Academic Integrity Conference 2022

The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) Conference is one of the highlights of the year for people interested in the academic integrity field. The 2022 conference took place virtually, with a great mix of discussion going on in the background of the presentations and in the Whova app used for managing the programme.

Sometimes I write a long review about the conference. This year, I just want to share a few key takeaway messages. To me, much of the conference was about reinforcing ideas, rather than presenting the results of new research studies. In fact, I rather felt at times there were presentations holding back their research results for future publication, which is rather a shame with such a large and interested audience.

The conference was also celebrating 30 Years since the ICAI was formed (quite an achievement), as well as looking towards the future. Thoughts about the future featured heavily in the panels and in many of the presentations.

With four parallel sessions, I couldn’t attend everything, so these are some of my takeaways from the sessions I did get to attend.

Students As Academic Integrity Partners Are Key For The Future

There were several excellent examples shared during the conference about how students and staff can work together, both to promote academic integrity initiatives and to conduct research. Both staff and students reported how valuable such arrangements were. The students from Bow Valley College talked about the benefits of being part of a community and how this had helped them with motivation to reach their goals.

Prakhar Nagpal presenting with me on academic integrity research

I can relate to those benefits from my own experiences. In my presentation, I shared presenting duties with Prakhar Nagpal, one of my own students, and we talked about research we’d conducted looking at how to identify misuse of homework help sites.

Students from Maynooth SU talked about the ways in which they had been approached by companies wanting them to breach academic integrity. They found particular problems with sites designed to help students to cheat in maths and that students did not necessarily consider these as problematic in the same way that they might for services designed to create written work for them.

They also found that staff did not have a good understanding of the advertising and temptation that students are exposed to. This is something for the academic integrity community to work on in staff development sessions and which students could play a huge role to lead or support.

Academic Integrity Information Is Often Hard For Students To Find

Academic integrity policies tend to be written in a manner that is difficult for students to understand. It was very pleasing to hear about work at Maynooth SU which plans to write user friendly versions of these.

Mary Davis also stressed how academic misconduct procedures being put into place against a student could lead to them being seen as an outsider and not knowing where to go for help. This situation was made worse by having policies that were overly long, poorly structured and not written in student-friendly language. Mary encouraged institutions to review their local documentation against the Universal Design for Learning principles.

Staff working at the University of Calgary shared an interesting approach they’d used, adding answers to common academic integrity questions to a chatbot. The introduction of the chatbot was not without problems as it also identified how much information was missing, but the staff were able to get a good sense of the type of questions students were asking, which included a lot of requests for help with citing and referencing. No matter how much work takes place to help students with referencing, there are always opportunities for more support.

The Future Is Technology, But Technology Is Not Academic Integrity

The term arms race has come up a lot recently, relating to the idea that as the technology available to breach academic integrity improves, so too does the technology required to offer a defence. It’s a situation I can relate to as a computer scientist, seeing people working on technology at both sides of this problem. At one side, there is a wish to write better automated text to look more like a human. At the other side, such technology can be misused to write assignments in place of a human.

The problem is that not everyone understands technology, how to engage with it, or its limitations. This is evident when people talk about text matching software, where they often want to translate difficult time consuming investigations into a simple process. For example, they may just want a simple number which tells them if work is plagiarised or not.

But, let’s face it. Technology isn’t always the most natural thing for everyone, as seen when one delegate accidentally shared their ongoing Teams chat in place of their presentation slides.

In a panel discussion I was part of, I asked delegates to consider how they could support students to embrace changes in technology and prepare students for the future.

Contract Cheating – Celebrating 15 Years? Feature Presentation Slides

Wednesday October 20 2021 marked the Sixth International Day of Action against Contract Cheating. The online activities were slightly scaled back compared to 2020, but I was delighted to deliver the opening address before joining a panel discussing contract cheating on an international level.

I used the opportunity to discuss how it was 15 years since Robert Clarke and I published our first paper on contract cheating and to ask how the sector was adapting to this.

You can see the slides I used below (and also on my SlideShare account).


The video of the presentation and the accompanying panel is also available on YouTube.

In the presentation I discussed both the positive changes happening in the sector around contract cheating, but I also offered a warning about emerging developments which the sector should be aware of (I also wrote more about contract cheating challenges on LinkedIn here).

My view is that generally things are moving in the right direction, but if left unchecked the new challenges will just move into the place of the old ones. This is one of those areas where the educational community really has to be proactive.

Academic Integrity: The Student Partnership Approach – Keynote Presentation Slides

Quality and Qualifications Ireland have established a National Academic Integrity Network which is doing great work in Ireland to raise awareness of academic integrity and the related challenges. They invited me to deliver the opening keynote presentation for National Academic Integrity week and I was able to talk about a topic that’s been at the forefront of much of my recent activity, working in partnership with students.

You can see the slides I used below (and also on my SlideShare account).


In the keynote, I shared lots of examples of how the sector approaches student academic partnerships, including the very first activity of this type I can remember being involved with as part of the Birmingham City University Student Academic Partners Scheme back in 2010.

Much of my recent activity in this area has been working with students as research partners. I have seen so many interesting new findings developing through this route and my biggest regret is that I haven’t yet found homes for all of the research.

There are many other ways to work with student partners, including involving students in academic integrity decision making processes. I do recommend that everyone explores the opportunities available at their own institution.

Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity 2021

The 2nd Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity, an event that takes place every two years, was held virtually on 22 and 23 June 2021. The Symposium was a large scale event, with over 700 people registered and the third big academic integrity conference of 2021 (following the International Center for Academic Integrity Conference and the European Conference on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism.

Although aimed at a Canadian audience, being virtual the event was attended by delegates from all around the world. I gave the keynote address looking at academic integrity communities, a theme that was also picked up elsewhere at the conference. You can read more about the conference on Twitter with the #CSAI21 hashtag.

Research into academic integrity and contract cheating in Canada has developed very quickly over a short space of time. Some people presented multiple times, being involved in a lot of interesting ongoing research projects and other collaborative activity.

I attended as much of the symposium as I could, but with five parallel sessions it was impossible to attend everything. Here are three of my take-home messages from the symposium.

File Sharing Sites Won’t Go Away

The student use of file sharing sites has to be the academic integrity story of the pandemic. It was also one of the discussions that appeared repeatedly at the conference. These were also called pay-to-pass sites in other presentations, a rather fitting expression.

Bow Valley College have done a lot of work on this area, after they found students posting their exam questions and assignments online. Bow Valley College even showcased the information they were able to get back from investigations with one of the sites, with some students surprisingly being brazen enough to register with their educational email address.

Staff at Bow Valley College received information about students using Chegg to cheat on their assignments and exams. They were alerted to this when they kept finding the same (wrong) purchased answers appearing in student work.

A little reported concern was exactly how academics feel when they discover their students using file sharing sites. Heather Martin from Bow Valley College found staff were feeling defeated, demoralised and disrespected, thinking that all their hard work creating course materials was not valued.

Ebba Kurz said that students need regular reminders that they are breaching copyright and not respecting intellectual property when they post materials on file sharing sites. Ebba recommended making a statement about this explicit as part of course materials.

Brenna Gray questioned the Canadian use of homework systems. It’s an idea I haven’t come across in the UK, but apparently some Canadian institutions require students to pay extra to take required off-the-shelf courses. They tend have to complete assessments within those courses. Unsurprisingly, the answers to such courses are readily available online for a fee.

Certainly there are undesirable practices happening in higher education which, although they don’t excuse contract cheating, do show why students may choose to not focus their own attention on certain assignments. We do need to question why such undesirable developments are happening and how we can ensure that academic integrity really is a key discussion for everyone in education.

We Can Always Learn From The Past

Although new methods that students can use to cheat come along all the time, there’s very little in the academic integrity field that is completely new and has never been studied before.

I mention that as there were quite a few talks which repeated ideas which I’ve seen at other conferences already this year, or which built upon things I remember being talked about 10 years ago. After all, a lot of Canadians are now seeing contract cheating as a brand new problem (even though, as I mentioned when I spoke at the conference, it was almost 15 years to the day when the first presentation of the research Robert Clarke and I conducted on contract cheating took place).

We can always learn from the past. Previous research studies are much more readily available than they’ve ever been before. So many studies are now accessible through Google Scholar. But at the same time, in the interest of building community, we have to find ways to support people joining the academic integrity field and give them the opportunity to share what they’re discovering (and express their feelings).

Sarah Eaton spoke about the history of contract cheating in Canada, finding newspaper adverts dating back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Nowhere was the need to remember the past made clearer than in the presentation Sarah Eaton gave about the history of contract cheating in Canada. Sarah had tracked down largely forgotten theses and news stories, including a (failed) 1972 attempt to make what we would now call contract cheating illegal.

Sarah also estimated that contract cheating services in Canada were doing $10 million (Canadian Dollars) of business per year back in the 1980s. We often underestimate the sheer scale of the contract cheating industry.

We Will Keep Hearing More And More Horrific Stories About Contract Cheating

It is rare that I’m surprised by stories of the techniques used by the contract cheating industry.

Universities are already having to deal with the problem of what happens when a disgruntled writer or company contacts them to say a student has been using their services (sometimes when an attempt to blackmail a student fails).

A new variant of that technique has emerged, falling much more into the phishing levels, where scammers are inventing contract cheating cases either in an attempt to collect student details, or to get universities to pay them money in sympathy for their loss of earnings.

We also heard of companies reporting when graduates had worked for them back to the original university. Presumably this happens when the graduate decides they no longer want to continue as a writer. At the same time, false reports were also being made, a difficult situation when these also have to be investigated.

Canadian universities sell advertising space around the campus, including in bathrooms. One delegate discussed how their university had been taking paid adverts from a contract cheating service advertising in Mandarin and the posters remained active for some time. The rise of local contract cheating services each supporting only one course was also explored.

One contract cheating provider managed to get the contact details of all students on a course and found out details of a quiz they had upcoming. It then emailed personal invitations to all students saying they could “assist” them with that quiz (for a fee).

Other contract cheating providers have started running their own conferences and have even provided academics with research funding to make themselves seem legitimate. It is disappointing that people are falling for the contract cheating industry tricks, but we need to stay alert and also think about how we support academics who get taken in by the contract cheating industry.

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