Universities unite against the academic black market

October 17, 2017

The ConversationOn the TV show Suits, Mike Ross’s character charges a hefty fee to students to take the LSAT (law school admission test) for them. Ross has a stellar memory and a remarkable ability to take tests without getting crushed by stress — he is the perfect “contract cheater.” Later, Ross builds a career as a lawyer based on fake credentials, presumably from Harvard.

Mike Ross may be fictional, but his business is only too real within universities globally. “Contract cheaters” such as Ross complete academic work on a student’s behalf — for a fee. This work includes test taking and homework services. It includes essay-writing and even PhD thesis-writing services, also known as “paper mills.”

In my role as interim associate dean of teaching and learning at the University of Calgary, and as a researcher who specializes in plagiarism prevention and academic integrity, I have been writing about contract cheating since 2010. Since then, it has become rampant at high school and post-secondary levels.

This black market for academic work is vast and little understood. Universities in Canada, and around the world, are having a very hard time trying to police it.

On Oct. 18, 2017, many universities have committed to the second International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. This aims to tackle the issue head on — by raising awareness and sharing prevention strategies.

Read the whole article in The Conversation (originally published on Oct. 16, 2017).

Check out the radio interview I did on CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/calgary-eyeopener/segment/14438512

Related posts:

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

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2nd International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

October 16, 2017
International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating: Graphic created by University of California at San Diego.

Graphic created by University of California at San Diego.

Contract cheating is an umbrella term used to talk about individuals or businesses that provide academic work for a fee. From imposters who take tests on behalf of others, to professional homework services and paper-writing services or “paper mills”, contract cheating is big business. This black market for academic work is becoming more prevalent, is hard to detect and harder to prove. No one knows exactly how many of these services exist, or how much money they make, but their very existence is troubling. Post-secondary educators, as well as those who aspire to a career in education, need to take action against contract cheating.

U of C logo - 2015In my role as Interim Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning at the Werklund School of Education, I have the chance to organize key events that bring people together over key issues related to teaching and learning in our school. When I heard about the 2nd International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, I knew we had to join.

We’ll be hosting a Brown Bag Interactive Conversation for faculty and staff about what contract cheating is and what we can do about it. We’ll be sharing the Institutional Toolkit to Combat Contract Cheating and this 3-page handout that gives practical strategies on how to combat it.

More than 40 institutions from more than a dozen countries will be hosting events all over the world on October 18. I am so pleased that the University of Calgary will be among them.

We are using the hashtags #defeatthecheat and #excelwithintegrity on social media. Join the conversation on October 18!

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


Reflections on co-facilitating workshops with research assistants

April 4, 2017

For the past several months I have been leading a research project called “Investigating academic integrity in the Werklund School of Education: Process, policy and perceptions”. The main topic we have been addressing is plagiarism. This has resulted in invitations to give workshops in the School of Education, across campus and online. I co-facilitated three of these workshops with research assistants (RAs) Here is what I have learned:

RAs benefit from knowing the workshop details during the planning process. I outlined who the audience for each workshop was, where it would be held and how much time we would have. This helped them have a broad overview of all the workshops, not just the one they were working with me on.

RAs bring energy and insights into the planning process. We had two planning sessions, during which the RAs helped me to find resources, activities and build slide decks. As a result, the activities were more dynamic and engaging than if I had done all the planning alone.

Assigning RAs activities to lead creates a more meaningful experience for them. When I co-facilitate with colleagues, we decide who will lead which activities. I figured since the RAs working on this project are all aspiring or practising teachers, learning to co-facilitate a workshop by leading activities would be more meaningful than simply circulating handouts or taking notes. During every workshop, each RA had the opportunity to facilitate at least one activity. The result was a more dynamic workshop for the participants and a more meaningful opportunity for RAs.

When you treat RAs like professionals, they act like professionals. From the planning stages of the workshop, through to the follow up, I made a conscious effort to treat the RAs as fellow professionals, not “just students”. In return, their deportment, dress and presentation of themselves during the workshops was nothing less than exemplary. In one case, a person introducing us wasn’t sure if my co-presenter was a student or another faculty member! (I beamed with pride when that happened.)

It is OK to relinquish some control. This seems obvious, but at first I have to admit that I was a little unsure about handing over the reins to students. My fears were completely misplaced. The RAs facilitated just as well as I did (if not better!)

RAs need help documenting their workshop facilitation experience. After every workshop, I sent the RAs a citation to add to their slowly-developing c.v.’s They needed guidance learning how to document their experience and understand it as part of their developing professional experience.

Overall, I found that working with RAs required more time and energy than if I had done all the work myself, but it was time well spent. The end product was a better workshop that was more fun to plan and deliver and more dynamic for the participants themselves. I feel pretty lucky to work with such a stellar group of emerging professionals.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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


25 Strategies to Prevent Plagiarism

March 17, 2017

As part of the workshops the research team and I have been offering on plagiarism, we give participants a copy of this handout, with 25 strategies on how to prevent plagiarism in their classes.

25 Strategies to Prevent Plagiarism

We talk about some of these strategies during the workshops. Participants report that they do not know how to prevent plagiarism. Sometimes, participants tell us that it has never occurred to them that they could incorporate prevention strategies into their teaching practice, but instead, they have only thought about — and struggled with — how to address plagiarism after it has occurred. In the workshops, we talk about how instructors can implement plagiarism prevention strategies in their own courses. The discussion becomes more productive and more positive when we focus on what we can do to help students cultivate their understanding of academic and research integrity, as part of developing their reputation as emerging professionals.

Workshop participants report back that they have appreciated having these strategies on a single-page handout. So, I am sharing the handout here with you, so you can use it, too. The audience for our workshops is instructors in higher education institutions, but many of the strategies can be adapted for K-12 and other contexts, too.

Funding for this study was provided by  the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 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.


Workshop for Educators: Academic Integrity – Opening Up the Conversation Around Plagiarism

March 15, 2017

Today my research assistants, Jenny and Ian, collaborated with me to facilitate a workshop to faculty members and grad students in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, on plagiarism. This workshop is part of the knowledge sharing and mobilization for a research project on plagiarism in our school of education.

Here’s a photo of the group discussing their experiences with plagiarism in their professional practice in higher education contexts.

2017-03-15 - Worshop photo 1

We brainstormed ideas about why students plagiarize:

2017-03-15 - Workshop photo 2

Then, we talked about the reasons why students plagiarize, as informed by the research literature, and compared participants’ responses to what is evident in the literature. There were numerous parallels between participants’ experiences and what we found in the literature.

2017-03-15 - Workshop photo 3

Finally, we shared strategies about how to prevent plagiarism and also how to address it if you encounter it in a student’s work.

You can find a copy of our slides from the workshop here:

You can download a copy of the supplementary materials guide that we gave out to participants here: http://hdl.handle.net/1880/51859

Funding for this study was provided by  the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 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.


Plagiarism Workshop for Hokkaido University of Education Exchange Students

March 13, 2017

Today I co-presented a workshop on plagiarism for exchange students from Hokkaido University of Education who are at the University of Calgary for a one-month stay to improve their English language skills.

My co-presenter was Benedict “Kojo” Otoo, a graduate research assistant working with me on the academic integrity research project.

You can find a copy of our slides online here: https://youtu.be/zBnqdGM36P0

Related posts:

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 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.


New article:Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study

January 18, 2017

interchange I’m pleased to share the news with you about my latest article, published in Interchange. The title is: “Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study”.

Here is a link to the online version of the article: http://rdcu.be/oCx2

Funding for this study was provided by  the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 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.


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