Contract Cheating – What Do Those People Who Teach Need To Know?

The level of interest in contract cheating has changed beyond all recognition in the last year. Along with this, so has the volume of research being produced.

That makes it harder than ever to fit key insights into a one hour seminar.

My latest attempt to do this came with a session, aimed towards teaching staff, held at Deakin University.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


One fresh idea I did include was based around profiling students in order to help with an understanding of why they may be drawn towards contract cheating. In the entrepreneurial environment of higher education, where students are used to multi-tasking, this could be seen as more than just a means to an end.

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.

Using Social Media For Academic Staff As A Component Of Continued Professional Development

A tweet of mine from Social Media for Learning in Higher Education 2016 conference, for which the tweet was well-received across the academic community, sums up a change with the potential to benefit academic staff appraisal processes for those involved with teaching and learning work.

Taken out of context, as short tweets so often can be, the tweet doesn’t fully capture the detail from a rewarding presentation on the weekly #LTHEchat Twitter chat. These weekly Wednesday evening sessions have now grown into essential activities for many in the higher education teaching and learning space.

I often follow #LTHEchat live (or catch up on the Storify summary afterwards) as the chats are interesting and wide-ranging. I also try and add to the chats when I have something useful to share, although my direct teaching and learning role is now rather diminished compared to the classroom activity I was involved with a few years ago. The timeslot also doesn’t always work for me, although participating during the scheduled live hour doesn’t seem to matter, as many of the tweets chats continue well beyond the official 21:00 at Wednesday finish time.

The tweet I quoted from #SocMedHE16 reflects that some attendees of the weekly #LTHEchat said that they had asked for this social engagement to be included in their annual appraisals as part of their Continued Professional Development (CPD) activities. There was no indication that this is yet a widespread activity, but perhaps pushing this as an extension of current and recommended CPD best practice is a way forward?

In my experience, current expectations of CPD for staff appraisal processes tend to focus on tangible activities with training elements. This can include attendance at internal or external staff development and training courses, including those taken online. They can include presenting at and attending suitable conferences. Other closely related areas, such as gaining professional certifications or fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, are also often included.

I believe that an important part of staff appraisal processes is to ensure that teaching active staff are thinking of themselves as reflective practitioners. Activities like #LTHEchat fit the bill for this for me.

The #LTHEchat allows people to share teaching and learning approaches that they have tried, as well as to discuss and question ideas and approaches in a safe and communal environment. Much localised good practice is shared, which would otherwise not be officially published. Chat topics can also push attendees to consider aspects of teaching and learning that would not otherwise form part of the their CPD. For instance, a previous #LTHEchat looked at contract cheating, an area close to my heart. I would like to think that this led a new group of academics to consider their assessment design and to think about how they could verify student involvement during the assessment completion process.

In these days where budgets for traditional forms of CPD can be limited, I do encourage those managers and peer reviewers involved with staff appraisal to consider alternatives to the traditional approaches. I wonder which universities will be brave enough to more formally list engagement with social media based teaching and learning activities such as #LTHEchat as part of the official metrics that can be considered during staff Continued Professional Development reviews?

Plagiarism and Contract Cheating in Higher Education

Although I’m beginning to feel that more academics understand plagiarism, contract cheating and their importance, my viewpoint is often skewed by the community I’m in and the countries in which I work. It’s also becoming clear to me that there are other countries where these problems are much less understand.

I delivered a staff development workshop covering both plagiarism and contract cheating to representatives of the University of Montenegro.

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

The audience for this workshop was particularly interested in academic research, so I’ve included a number of examples of continuing research problems and areas where there are opportunities for researchers to become involved. The problems within the plagiarism and contract cheating fields are far from solved and there continue to be excellent opportunities to apply new technologies and artificial intelligence solutions here.