From Thomas Lancaster, Academic Integrity Expert:
Contract cheating is a term that we originally publicised in 2006, based around a research study carried out of the use of the RentACoder (now Freelancer) site. The working definition of contract cheating has changed over a series of subsequent studies, talks and publications, but we’d generally classify this loosely along the lines of:
Contract cheating describes the process through which students can have original work produced for them, which they can then submit as if this were their own work. Often this involves the payment of a fee and this can be facilitated using online auction sites.
One of the most striking aspects of the original research into contract cheating has been how cheaply students can have work produced for them. Often, this costs only a few dollars when an agency site is used, using an auction process to help students find people to create assignments for them. This work is often produced far cheaper than traditional essay mills.
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Since contract cheating produces original work, this is unlikely to be picked up using standard text matching plagiarism detection services such as Turnitin.
Some of the more interesting findings across our research have related to the extent of the use of contract cheating services. Very few students do this as a one off, suggesting that there are students who are continually cheating (and, presumably, getting away with it). There are also outsourcers who have published tens, if not hundreds, of assignments, made up from a variety of different universities and courses. This suggests that a “third party subcontractor” is in operation, likely taking orders from students at a high price and then outsourcing them again themselves at a lower price.
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There is a lot of potential for further research into contract cheating, in particular trying to establish how and why students cheat. There is also a gap in the knowledge about how to detect this contract cheating. A variety of methods have been proposed, from requiring all assignment specifications to be submitted to a central repository to make them traceable, to using techniques from linguistics to investigate when an assignment has not been written by the student who submitted it.
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Beyond this, there are parallels with the research into the anti-plagiarism fields, in particular looking at the policies, processes and penalties surrounding contract cheating, and how to write assignments to prevent contract cheating.
Link to the rest at Thomas Lancaster
For those looking for an interest hook about this topic, would you be concerned if you learned your physician procured his/her undergraduate and professional education by paying others to create assigned work? How about the accountant who prepares your tax returns?
There is a website devoted to the challenge of Contract Cheating.
PG was interested to find a discussion of a possible legal approach to sanction contract cheating.
From The International Journal for Educational Integrity via Google Scholar:
The phenomenon of contract cheating presents, potentially, a serious threat to the quality and standards of Higher Education around the world. There have been suggestions, cited below, to tackle the problem using legal means, but we find that current laws are not fit for this purpose. In this article we present a proposal for a specific new law to target contract cheating, which could be enacted in most jurisdictions.
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Contract cheating, as we define here, is a basic relationship between three actors; a student, their university, and a third party who completes assessments for the former to be submitted to the latter, but whose input is not permitted. ‘Completes’ in this case means that the third party makes a contribution to the work of the student, such that there is reasonable doubt as to whose work the assessment represents.
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Proposal for a new “offence to provide or advertise cheating services”
(1) A person commits an offence if the person provides any service specified in subsection (4) but in the case of a service being provided in part then a person commits an offence only if the assignment or work could not otherwise be reasonably considered to be that of the student concerned
(2) A person commits an offence if the person advertises any services specified in subsection (4)
(3) A person commits an offence who, without reasonable excuse, publishes an advertisement for any service specified in subsection (4).
(4) The services referred to in subsections (1) to (3) are—
a. completing in whole or in part an assignment or any other work that a student enrolled at a Higher Education provider is required to complete as part of a Higher Education course in their stead without authorisation from those making the requirement;
b. providing or arranging the provision of an assignment or any other work (in whole or in part) that a student enrolled at a Higher Education provider is required to complete as part of a Higher Education course in their stead without authorisation from those making the requirement;
(5) A person shall not be guilty of an offence in subsections (1) (2) and (3) above if he or she demonstrates that they did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained that the services might or would be used for the purposes specified in subsection (4)
(6) Where a body corporate is guilty of an offence under this section and the offence is committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he or she, as well as the body corporate, is guilty of that offence.
Using ‘strict liability’ removes the need to show intent on behalf of the provider of contract cheating services. The offence could be added to existing legislation (e.g fraud, or education laws) or could stand alone. It would apply to individuals as well as companies; a friend or family member who completes an assignment for a student would be committing an offence. Would apply to examinations as well as coursework, thus covering exam impersonation (although a separate specific offence to this effect could be included to put the matter beyond doubt).
Link to the rest at The International Journal for Educational Integrity