Website Hijacking by Contract Cheating Companies

April 17, 2018

For a while now I’ve been working on projects related to preventing and addressing violations of academic integrity such as plagiarism and contract cheating. Contract cheating is a complex form of cheating, but it basically boils down to someone else doing the work on behalf of a student. The term “contract cheating” was coined more than a decade ago, in 2006, by Clarke and Lancaster in the U.K.

There are companies whose entire business model is focused on helping students cheat. They can go by different names depending on the services they offer. They have been called “essay mills”, “paper mills” or “homework completion services”. The companies make their money in different ways. They might charge by the page or charge a flat fee for an entire assignment.

To the surprise of many teachers and educational administrators, contract cheating is big business. Studies have found that this industry is likely worth a minimum of $100 Million USD in the United States (Owings and Nelson, 2014). Studies in the UK and New Zealand also estimate the contract cheating industry to be worth millions in those countries, too (Draper & Newton, 2017; Yorke, 2017).

These companies lure in students with offers of “help” and promises of making their lives easier. Their rhetoric is that of persuasion and manipulation. They try to trick students into believing that there is nothing wrong with paying a company to do academic work on their behalf when nothing could be further from the truth. The language contract cheating companies use in their advertising seems benevolent, but the primary focus is for them to make money, not to help students. These companies are driven by profit first and foremost. They have sophisticated marketing methods that can be both aggressive, insidious, and sometimes, even illegal.

I had heard anecdotally that contract cheating companies sometimes hijack other websites, putting their own ads on the site. Presumably, it is cheaper for them to hire a hacker to get into a less secure site than to pay to have their ads posted legitimately online. Last week, I accidentally found one such website. The website seemed to belong to a small, well-meaning community organization in the United States.

I have redacted the information to avoid the possibility of legal action, but here is a screen shot showing what it looked like:

Contract cheating website hack

Figure 1: Screen shot of redacted webpage compromised by a contract cheating company.

Upon analyzing the situation more deeply, it looked like the hijackers had gone into the organization’s web site and created several sub-pages. The original pages of the organization such as the home page and sub-pages created by the legitimate website owner were completely intact and untouched. It looked to me as if the hijackers had gone into the background of the site and created additional, publicly available sub-pages where they then posted ads for a contract cheating company, complete with links that re-directed to the contract cheating company’s website. Upon inspecting the website further, I found that the metadata of the page had been populated hidden keywords such as “essay writing”, “plagiarism-free” and “thesis assistance”. This means that students searching for those terms might be led to the advertisement on the newly-created sub-pages, which they would then click on to be re-directed to the contract cheating website. If that was the case, then this an unsuspecting community organization might not have found the newly-created sub-pages for some time.

Small non-profits and community organizations often lack awareness and resources about how companies like this can compromise their websites. In an excellent article on nonprofit cybersecurity, Sheela Nimishakavi (2018) notes “all nonprofits need to implement appropriate security measures”. Julie Campbell (2018) offers some excellent tips on how nonprofits can fight cyber-attacks. Here are a couple of Campbell’s recommendations:

  1. Upgrade your computers and software.
  2. Train and inform employees and volunteers.
  3. Focus on passwords.

A website owner, whether they are an individual or an organization, may be completely unaware when a contract cheating company compromises their site. If you see an ad for a contract cheating company, look at the website address. If it looks like it might belong to a person or an organization who is not at all affiliated with exploiting students, contact the website owner to let them know. In this case, I found the contact information for the website owner and e-mailed them to let them know their site had been compromised.

References

Campbell, J. (2018). 8 ways nonprofits can fight cyber attacks. The Balance. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/better-nonprofit-cyber-security-2502537

Clarke, R., & Lancaster, T. (2006, June). Eliminating the successor to plagiarism: Identifying the usage of contract cheating sites. Paper presented at the Second International Plagiarism Conference, Gateshead, United Kingdom.

Draper, M. J., & Newton, P. M. (2017). A legal approach to tackling contract cheating? International Journal for Educational Integrity, 13(1), 1-16. doi:10.1007/s40979-017-0022-5

Nimishakavi, S. (2018). It’s 2018: Do you know where your nonprofit’s cybersecurity is? Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2018/01/26/2018-know-nonprofits-cybersecurity/

Owings, S., & Nelson, J. (2014). The essay industry. Mountain Plains Journal of Business and Economics, 15, 1-21. Retrieved from http://www.mountainplains.org/articles/2014/General%20Research/Mountain_Plains_Journal_of_Business_and_Economics_Volume_15_2014_1-21_General_Research_Owings.pdf

Yorke, H. (2017, January 13). More than 20,000 university students buying essays and dissertations as Lords call for ban on ‘contract cheating.’ The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/01/13/20000-university-students-buying-essays-dissertations-lords/

Note: This blog post is a reprint of a full report that is archived in the University of Calgary digital repository. Here is the citation for the original:

Eaton, S.E. (2018). Website Hijacking by Contract Cheating Companies. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/106494

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

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How to Prepare a Teaching Dossier

April 10, 2018

The first time I was asked by my department head to prepare a teaching portfolio was back in the 1990s. At the time, I had no idea what one was or how to go about preparing it. We’ve come a long way since then and now there are some terrific resources out there to help teachers, graduate students and professors prepare a teaching dossier (also known as a portfolio).

Here are some things to think about when preparing your dossier:

Elements of a Teaching Dossier.jpg

If you work at a university with Teaching and Learning Centre, check out the resources they have available. Often, these centres will host workshops or provide individual assistance to members of the university community working on their dossiers.

It takes time to develop a teaching dossier. It’s part thinking, part writing and part figuring out how to present the information to a reader who may or may not be familiar with your professional experience. Give yourself plenty of time to develop your dossier. Ask a colleague or two to look over a draft and get some feedback.

Here are some resources that I think are tremendous and will help you understand what a dossier is and how to prepare one.

Printable online resources

Canadian Association of University Teachers. (2007). Teaching Dossier  Retrieved from http://sfufa.caut.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Sample-Teaching-Dossier-.pdf

Centre for Leadership in Learning at McMaster University. (n.d.). Preparing a Teaching Dossier. Retrieved from http://cll.mcmaster.ca/resources/pdf/DossierPackage_Web.pdf

Dalhousie University. (n.d.). The Step-by-Step Creation of a Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from https://cdn.dal.ca/content/dam/dalhousie/pdf/dept/clt/Resources/Step-by-step%20Guide.pdf

Korpan, C. (2015). Guide to Preparing Teaching Statements and Dossiers. Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/learningandteaching/assets/docs/instructors/for-review/TA%20Professional%20Development%20and%20Information/Guide%20to%20Preparing%20Teaching%20Statements%20and%20Dossiers.pdf

Memorial University of Newfoundland. (2016). Suggested Framework for a Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from https://citl.mun.ca/TeachingSupport/consultation/Framework_Dossier_March_2016.pdf

University of Toronto CUPE 3902. (n.d.). Ten Tips for Preparing a Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from http://www.cupe3902.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Ten-Tips-for-Preparing-a-Teaching-Dossier.pdf

Websites

University of Toronto Teaching Assistants’ Training Program. Preparing the Teaching Dossier: Guidelines. Retrieved from http://tatp.utoronto.ca/teaching-toolkit/teaching-dossier/preparing-teaching-dossier-guidelines/

Vanderbilt University. (n.d.). Teaching Statements.   Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu//cft/guides-sub-pages/teaching-statements/

Western University. Preparing Your Teaching Dossier.   Retrieved from https://www.uwo.ca/tsc/resources/selected_teaching_topics/teaching_dossiers/guide_to_constructing/preparing_teaching_dossier.html

Check out this related post:

Why you shouldn’t post your teaching dossier online https://wp.me/pNAh3-2gr

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


The impact of tech on how instructors teach and how students learn

April 3, 2018

Use of tech cover.jpgI am thrilled to share a new book chapter that’s just been published. The chapter is, “The impact of technology on how instructors teach and how students learn”. It part of, The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning, edited by Richard Harnish, K. Robert Bridges, David N. Sattler, Margaret L. Signorella and Michael Munson. It is published by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. (I know, I know, I’m not a psychologist, but the topic fits with one of my areas of interest.)

In this chapter I talk about how technology is impacting educators in terms of their pedagogical knowledge and classroom practice, as well as how tech impacts how students learn.

One of the best things about this book is that is freely available online! You can download your own copy from: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/useoftech

In fact, the publishers have an entire collection of free books that anyone can download on topics ranging from academic advising to research on teaching, among others. Check them out here: https://teachpsych.org/ebooks/index.php

On a personal note, I have to say that I really appreciate contributing to works that are Open Access, so readers from anywhere can download, read and enjoy. There’s much to be said for this kind of publishing model and as a writer and a scholar, being able to share my work in this way is energizing.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Workshop: Essay Mills, Theses-On-Demand and Contract Cheating

March 27, 2018

I recently attend the 2018 International Center for Academic Integrity conference in Richmond, Virginia, where I moderated a panel on contract cheating. Panelists included Tricia Bertram Gallant (UCSD), Christopher Lang (University of Toronto) and Mark Ricksen (Turnitin).

Workshop description

How do you know if your students are buying their work from the Internet? How prevalent is this practice, anyway? How do you talk to your students about the issue of contract cheating? Get answers to these questions and more in this interactive workshop. Find out the latest research and get practical resources to help you with your own students.

Learning outcomes

Participants will:

  • Gain insights into how contract cheating really works (and how easy it is for students to buy papers or even a complete thesis online).
  • Learn what the latest research says.
  • Learn practical tips on how to detect contract cheating and how to talk to students about it.

This workshop is free of charge and open to everyone.

Contract cheating workshop

 

More info: http://www.ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/events-workshops/essay-mills-theses-demand-and-contract-cheating-latest-research-and-resources

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 

 

 


Understanding and Exploring Signature Pedagogies for TESOL Teacher Education

March 20, 2018

Sig ped coverI’m excited to share a new resource that’s been almost a year in the making. I’ve been working with some amazing colleagues: Santoi Wagner (University of Pennsylvania), Jennifer Hirashiki (Westcliff University) and Julie Ciancio (Westcliff University) on “Understanding and Exploring Signature Pedagogies for TESOL Teacher Education”. This is a freely available, Open Educational Resource (OER) intended to help teacher trainers working in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this report is to elevate the collective understanding of what it means to be and become a TESOL professional and what differentiates “TESOLers” from other teachers. We have intentionally prepared this report as an Open Educational Resource (OER), so it can be freely shared with an international audience.

Methods: This report synthesizes literature relating to signature pedagogies, teacher training, and educational technology.

Results: We explore the surface, deep, and implicit structures of three signature pedagogies of TESOL teacher education: (a) developing the TESOL knowledge base; (b) cultivating reflective practice; (c) engaging in a TESOL practicum. We also situate TESOL within a technology, content, and pedagogical content (TPACK) framework as a means to further understand how and why TESOL teacher education can and should incorporate technology in a variety of ways.

Implications: TESOL is a relatively young discipline and has come of age during a time when technology has emerged as an essential element of teaching and learning. As such, TESOL teacher education programs must address technology as a key element of teacher preparation for the profession.

Additional materials: Contains 1 table, 1 figure and 81 references.

Keywords: signature pedagogies, English as a second language, TESOL, teacher training, teacher education, TPACK

Citation (APA): 

Eaton, S. E., Wagner, S., Hirashiki, J., & Ciancio, J. (2018). Understanding and Exploring Signature Pedagogies for TESOL Teacher Education. Calgary: University of Calgary.

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


New Journal: Canadian Perspectives on Academic Integrity

March 13, 2018

I’m so pleased to announce the launch of a new journal: Canadian Perspectives on Academic Integrity.

CPAI

We officially launched the journal on March 3, 2018 at the annual conference of the International Center for Academic Integrity, held in Richmond, Virginia.

Focus and Scope

The objectives of this online, open source journal is to provide Canadian practitioners working in the area of academic integrity with a venue to share experiences and insights about their work.

This journal is focused on the Canadian context. Submissions are accepted from those with an e-mail address from a Canadian educational institution. Independent scholars without a Canadian institutional address should contact the editor before submitting a manuscript.

Open Access Policy

This journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.

Inaugural Issue

The inaugural issue features articles from some wonderful expert Canadian practitioners. The first, from Leeanne Morrow is, “Academic integrity outreach: Supporting high school students for success in higher education“. In this article, Morrow talks about the outreach she does with local secondary students to help them understand what academic integrity is and how knowing about it will benefit them once they are in university.

In the second article, Loie Gervias, talks about “Launching an institutional academic integrity campaign“. She offers practical tips on what works, what doesn’t and also shares some of the marketing materials her team used in their own campaign.

Brandy Usick and I also offer tips and advice in our “Writers’ guide for prospective contributors“. Our objective is to encourage those who work in the field of academic integrity as professional practitioners to share their knowledge, insights and wisdom.

We are looking forward to adding more contributors and articles as the journal continues to evolve.

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


How parents help their kids cheat in school

March 6, 2018

I recently heard an acquaintance complain about how tired they were at work one morning. The reason? “I was up all night working on my kid’s science project.”

The parent was adamant that their child had to “do well” on the science project. To that parent, “doing well” meant getting a good grade and receiving praise (and possibly a prize) from the judges. It wasn’t about if or how much their child learned during the process.

That got me thinking about the various ways I’ve observed parents helping their kids cheat in school. Here are a few:

Doing the work for them

When parents do their kids’ homework for them, students don’t learn.

Fixing all the mistakes

When parents fix all the mistakes so their child can hand in a perfect assignment, it doesn’t show the teacher how the student needs to improve.

Re-writing it

When parents re-write a student’s work to make it sound better, the end product does not reflect the student’s current writing ability.

Re-designing it

When parents re-work the slide deck or improve the design of a project, the end product shows what the parent can do, not the child.

Doing all the research

Parents are not helping their kids learn when they do all the background research for a project.

5 Ways parents help their kids cheat in school.jpg

Parents need to stop equating doing their children’s school work as an act of service that shows their children how much they love them. Doing a child’s school work does not send the message, “I love you!” Instead, it enables the child to avoid learning things for themselves.

When parents to school work on behalf of their children, it is a form of cheating. In fact, it is part of special kind of academic dishonesty called “contract cheating”. This is when a student has someone else do their work on their behalf. Contract cheating can happen when students buy their school work off the internet for money, or when they agree to have anyone else do their work for them, even if no money is exchanged. There is still an implicit contract in place: Someone else is doing the work on behalf of the student.

Parents can be active partners in their child’s success when they focus on learning as a process, not as an end product. That is why it is important for parents to help children learn skills like writing, designing and researching and to improve their skills over time. Learning isn’t about being perfect; it is a lifelong process that keeps going long after students leave school.

I am not saying this is easy. The temptation to “help” a child succeed can be strong. It is important for parents to understand that helping does not mean doing the student’s work for them.

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 


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