New article: Strengthening the research agenda of educational integrity in Canada

July 25, 2018

There’s been lots of research done about plagiarism, cheating and other topics related to academic integrity, but how much of it has actually been done in — or about — Canada? That’s the question my co-author, Rachael Ileh Edino, and I asked when we set out on a journey to review the published research literature about these topics, casting a specific lens on the Canadian context.

The results have been published by the International Journal for Educational Integrity.

Article screen shot.jpeg

Abstract

We present findings of a literature review on the topic of educational integrity in the Canadian context. Our search revealed 56 sources, published between 1992 and 2017. A historical overview showed a rise in the number of scholarly publications in recent years, but with an overall limited number of research contributions. We identified three major themes in the literature: (a) empirical research; (b) prevention and professional development; and (c) other (scholarly essay). Our analysis showed little evidence of sustained research programs in Canada over time or national funding to support integrity-related inquiry. We also found that graduate students who completed their theses on topics related to educational integrity often have not published further work in the field later in their careers. We provide five concrete recommendations to elevate and accelerate the research agenda on educational integrity in Canada on a national level. We conclude with a call to action for increased research to better understand the particular characteristics of educational integrity in Canada.

Check out the entire article: Strengthening the research agenda of educational integrity in Canada: a review of the research literature and call to action.

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This blog has had over 2 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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“Growing our own teachers”: Rural individuals becoming certified teachers

May 30, 2018

I’ve been working on a project on rural teacher education for a few years here in the Werklund School of Education. This week, my colleague, Dr. Dianne Gereluk, presented on behalf of our research group at a panel at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Here’s a slide deck that summarizes the findings of our project:

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This blog has had over 1.9 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.


Action Research for Graduate Program Improvements: A Response to Curriculum Mapping and Review

May 1, 2018

CJHE copy.jpgI’m excited to share news with you about a new article that’s just been released with co-authors Michele Jacobsen, Barb Brown, Marlon Simmons and Mairi McDermott. Here’s an overview:

Abstract

There is a global trend toward improving programs and student experiences in higher education through curriculum review and mapping of degree programs. This paper describes an action research approach to program improvement for a course-based MEd degree. The driver for continual program improvement came from actions and recommendations that arose from an institutionally mandated, year-long, faculty led curriculum review of professional graduate programs in education. Study findings reveal instructors’ perceptions about how they enacted the recommendations for program improvement, including

  1. developing a visual conceptualization of the program;
  2. improved connections between the courses;
  3. articulation of coherence in goals and expectations for students and instructors;
  4. an increased focus on action research;
  5. increased ethics support and scaffolding for students; and
  6. the fostering of communities of practice.

Study findings highlight strengths of the current program and course designs, action items, and research needed for continual program improvement.

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This article is the result of a two-year project with our amazing team. It has been incredible to learn with and from them as we embarked on this journey together. We are eager to share what we learned about how to improve students’ experience in our Master of Education program.

Check out the entire article in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

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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.


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.


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.

 

 

 


21st century definition of plagiarism

January 23, 2018

Not long after I started getting interested in academic integrity, I began wondering how different universities defined plagiarism in their official policy documents. That led me to do an analysis of policy documents from 20 Canadian higher education institutions, and the results were published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Interchange. Basically, what I found was that there was no consistent definition of plagiarism across Canadian post-secondary institutions. In other words, we don’t agree about what actually constitutes plagiarism.

This makes it confusing for students and for professors, especially considering that students might attend one school to do their undergraduate degree and another for their graduate degree, or that professors sometimes change jobs, leaving one institution for another.

It used to be that the definition of plagiarism was simple: literary theft, but it is a lot more complicated than that in the 21st century, where digital outputs account for as much, if not more than, printed products. Students and professors have asked me, “So, how do you define plagiarism in plain and simple terms?” The answer is actually quite complex and a bit messy. But in the interest of demystifying the issue, here is a straight forward infographic that may help.

Let me say that this resource is simplified — perhaps overly so. My goal here isn’t to be reductionist and I fully acknowledge that not everyone may agree with these simplified explanations. But sometimes it can be easier to wrap your head around something simple to start and then tease out the complexities once you are more comfortable with the basic concepts.  I offer these not as the be-all-and-end-all definition, but rather as a starting point to help educators and students clarify and demystify basic concepts and also to engage in productive conversations about how to cultivate academic integrity and reduce plagiarism.

Definition of plagiarism (jpg)

Here is a free, downloadable .pdf of this infographic that you are welcome to use with your students for teaching purposes. Feel free to use it as a conversation starter to help students understand what plagiarism is and how to prevent it in their own work.

Related post:

Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study https://wp.me/pNAh3-1LD

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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.


New article: “Credit where credit is due”

December 19, 2017

Credit where credit is due - coverIn my latest article, “Credit where credit is due: How to prevent plagiarism in the 21st century classroom” I tackle the tricky question of what it means to plagiarize in the age of copy-and-paste. I also offer K-12 teachers five practical tips on how to prevent plagiarism among school-age children.

Most of my research and writing is focusing more and more on academic integrity and plagiarism prevention in higher education contexts. But it is important for K-12 teachers to be able to talk about these topics to their students, too. That’s what inspired me to write this article.

The full article was published by the EdCan Network and it is a web exclusive in their most recent edition. You can check it out here: https://www.edcan.ca/articles/credit-where-credit-is-due/

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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.


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