New Academic Integrity Research from Canada (October, 2021)

October 15, 2021

I think this might be a record for the number of academic integrity research outputs in Canada across different venues, all published in a single week: two articles, each published in a different journal, as well as two conference presentations. It’s one thing to have a series of research outputs from a single source, such as one issue of a journal or a set of conference proceedings, but what’s worth celebrating here is that these are from multiple, peer-reviewed sources.

Hu & Zhang (2021) and Liang et al. (2021) have papers in the proceedings from Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse International Students in Open and/or Online Learning Environments: A Research Symposium hosted by the University of Windsor in June:

Hu, J., & Zhang, C. (2021). ESL student plagiarism prevention challenges and institutional interventions. Paper presented at the Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse International Students in Open and/or Online Learning Environments: A Research Symposium (Online), University of Windsor, ON. https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1048&context=itos21

Liang, A., Maddison, T., & England, S. (2021). Proactive not punitive: Strategies to prevent plagiarism and promote international student success. Paper presented at the Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse International Students in Open and/or Online Learning Environments: A Research Symposium (Online), University of Windsor, ON. https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=itos21

Josh Seeland and colleagues from Manitoba published this Classroom Note in the International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology (Taylor & Francis):

Seeland, J., Cliplef, L., Munn, C., & Dedrick, C. (2021). Mathematics and academic integrity: institutional support at a Canadian college. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1080/0020739X.2021.1981472

And last but not least, the latest article from the Contract Cheating in Canada: National Policy Analysis project that I’m leading has been published in the Canadian Journal for Educational Administration and Policy. This paper reports on our policy analysis of Ontario Universities.

Miron, J. B., McKenzie, A., Eaton, S. E., Stoesz, B. M., Thacker, E., Devereaux, L., . . . Rowbotham, K. (2021). Academic integrity policy analysis of publicly-funded universities in Ontario, Canada: A focus on contract cheating. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 197, 62-75. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cjeap/article/view/72082

In 2018 when I co-published with Rachael Edino a literature review about existing research from Canada on academic integrity, we reported that we’d found 56 sources published over 25 years. I am so proud to see how far we have come as a Canadian community to build our research and practice expertise and mobilize that knowledge via high quality peer-reviewed journals and conferences.

In case you’re wondering if academic integrity is a field of research, it absolutely is, with high quality scholarly outputs coming out every month, from scholars across the world. Of course, I highlight outputs from my compatriots because I am happy for them and proud of their work, and we are part of a global community of scholars, educators, and professionals across the world doing this work. (Hey, colleagues in Australia and the UK, are you reading this? We are catching up to you!)

Check out these recent publications and see what we’ve been doing in Canada. It’s pretty awesome.

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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, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


Webinar: Contract Cheating in Canada: Exploring Legislative Options

October 4, 2021

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: URGENT AND EMERGING TOPICSJoin us for an introductory discussion about the commercial contract cheating industry (e.g., term paper mills, homework completion services, and paid imposters who take exams on behalf of students). One question people often ask is, “Why aren’t these services illegal?” The short answer is: Academic cheating services are not currently illegal in Canada, but they are in other countries. In this session we’ll provide an overview of which countries have successfully enacted legislation against predatory industry that profits from academic misconduct. We will provide an overview of the legal structures in Canada that might facilitate or present barriers to such legislation being enacted in this country. We do not promise answers or solutions to the complex issue of contract cheating, but instead provide an evidence-base for deeper discussion.

The intended audience for this session is primarily for those in Canada interested in contract cheating from the Canadian legal context. Participants from other regions are also welcome.

By the end of this session engaged participants will be able to: 

  • Describe what contract cheating is
  • Understand how legislation against contract cheating has been enacted in other countries
  • Discover legal aspects of contract cheating in Canada and beyond

Facilitators: Alicia Adlington &  Sarah Elaine Eaton, University of Calgary
Date: Friday, October 29, 2021
Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. (Note: This is Mountain Time. Please convert to your local time zone)
Location: Online via Zoom

Please note: Registration will close on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. (MT) and a Zoom link for the webinar will be sent the morning of the workshop.

Register now

For more information, visit the website: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/academic-integrity-urgent-emerging-topics

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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, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


Academic Integrity Week 2021: Some Events at the University of Calgary

September 29, 2021

Academic Integrity Week 2021Institutions across Alberta and other provinces, as well as in Europe, are hosting a simultaneous Academic Integrity Week, October 18-22, 2021. At the University of Calgary we are pleased to be running multiple events, some of which are run for and by students, and others designed for educators and staff. The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary is hosting three webinars, which are free and open to the public. Note that all times listed are in Calgary (Mountain) time.

The Intersection of Academic Integrity and Mental Health: From Resources to Policies

Through discussions and activities, participants will examine academic integrity through a mental health lens. One of the topics addressed in this session include the impact of the academic misconduct process on student and faculty mental health. At a structural level, one of the topics highlighted will be bringing a mental health perspective to the development or review of academic integrity-related policies, processes and procedures. The session will conclude with Q&A, as well as resources to support student and faculty mental health and wellbeing.

Facilitator: Andrew Szeto, PhD
Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Time: 12 – 1 p.m.

Contract Cheating in Alberta and Beyond

Join us for an eye-opening webinar about contract cheating in Alberta. We will talk about essay mills, homework completion services, unethical tutoring services, and thesis consultation services that all cross the line into academic misconduct. Learn about the size and scope of this predatory industry and how it preys on our students, including engaging in blackmail and extortion.

Facilitator: Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD and Sheryl Boisvert
Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Time: 4 – 5:30 p.m.
Locations: Online via Zoom

FOIP Training for Academic Integrity

Learn how the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) applies when there are suspected or actual breaches of academic integrity. Learn what information can be shared, with whom and why.

Facilitator: Katharine Kinnear (FOIP Coordinator, Legal Services) and Jennifer Sinclair (FOIP Advisor, Legal Services)
Date: Friday, October 22, 2021
Time: 12 – 1 p.m.
Location: Online via Zoom

For more details and to register, visit the website: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/series-and-events/integrity-week

Please share this information with your networks.

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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, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


Ghost Grading: Part 2 – Examining Possible Legal Loopholes in Canada

September 7, 2021

In Part 1 of this series I talked about how contract cheating companies are now targeting professors and teaching assistants (TAs) to offer grading services. Since then, I have done a bit of digging into whether it is legal, or even permissible to outsource one’s grading responsibilities.

I figure if you are hired to for an academic role that includes teaching that would also including taking responsibility for grading and other duties related to assessment. Of course there are provisions to work with a TA in some courses, but TAs are also employees of the university and their work is approved by the institution. In cases like this, working with a TA is a perfectly legitimate activity and there is no deception. Ghost grading is different because it can happen without the knowledge or permission of the employer.

Ghost graders are unauthorized individuals, hired under the table, to perform academic duties that would otherwise be conducted by academic staff or teaching assistants.

Employing ghost graders also deceives students because they have no idea who is assessing their work or who has access to it. Just as educators expect students to complete their assignments themselves, without engaging a third party, so too, should students be able to expect their professors and teaching assistants to assess their work. If a professor or TA hires a ghost grader, the student has no idea what that individual or company might do with their work without their knowledge, such as re-sell it or share it to the contract cheating company or any other additional third party. You can start to see how the practice of using unauthorized ghost graders gets complicated fast. By hiring a ghost grader, educators are breaking trust with their students and their employers.

University faculty members at publicly-funded universities in Canada are often unionized. To my surprise, I found several examples of collective agreements and employment contracts that do not strictly prohibit the outsourcing or sub-contracting of one’s duties. I started with my own university. I searched for the terms “outsource”, “outsourcing”, “subcontract”, and “sub-contract” in our collective agreement for academic staff. I found no matches for these search terms. I reviewed the collective agreement and it was not immediately evident to me that there was any clause that specifically prohibits faculty members from outsourcing their job duties to a third party. (Please note: I am not a lawyer or an expert in contract law.)

I found this puzzling. I am the first to admit that I am not a lawyer, and nor am I an expert on labour laws, collective agreements or contracts. So, I reached out to the University of Calgary Faculty Association (TUCFA) on August 12, 2021 via e-mail to ask for clarification regarding outsourcing in University of Calgary’s collective agreement, but yet to receive a response. To be fair, I am quite sure they remain very busy with matters related to COVID-19 and I will update this blog post if I receive a reply from them.

Out of curiosity, I repeated the search and scan with the collective agreements for academic staff at the University of Alberta (Alberta, Canada), the University of British Columbia (British Columbia, Canada), and Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada) with similar results. As a non-expert, I could find no immediate evidence in any of them that it is prohibited to outsource one’s grading responsibilities, or any other employment duties, for that matter.

I should point out that I have not conducted an in-depth investigation into this. I am situated in Canada and I cannot speak to what happens in any other country. I did not conduct a scan of the collective agreements that cover teaching assistants, but I would not be surprised if the situation was the same.

Following my first blog post on this topic, I received a number of e-mails from individuals telling me stories of professors at their university (in Canada and elsewhere) who regularly outsource their grading duties, paying for services out of their own pocket or under a research grant, classifying them as “professional services”. This is all anecdotal and I cannot substantiate any of it.

What I can say is that it seems there may be a legal loophole, at least in Canada, that would allow contract cheating companies to wiggle into this new line of business of offering grading services to professors and teaching assistants. As with student contract cheating, the companies would not be at fault, particularly since there are no laws in Canada prohibiting these kinds of companies from operating. In other jurisdictions, were laws against contract cheating have been enacted, the focus has been on academic cheating, so there may be loopholes elsewhere that legally allow companies to reach out to faculty and teaching assistants to provide sub-contracting services.

Of course, no collective agreement or employment contract can be exhaustive of all the ways that an employee can engage in misconduct. It could be that there is no clause in these agreements that strictly prohibits outsourcing of work because it falls under a general category of employee misconduct that might be addressed on a case-by-case basis, with investigators considering numerous pieces of evidence and details. It seems bizarre to me that this particular loophole exists, because it has left post-secondary institutions vulnerable to exploitation from commercial third-party providers who profit from various forms of misconduct. And if faculty and teaching assistants do not know that it is unacceptable to outsource their work, then it seems reasonable to expect that some of them might fall prey to companies who promise to ease their stress and relieve them of aspects of their work that they find unrewarding or too time-consuming.

Contract cheating companies are infiltrating higher education faster than ever before; and they may have just found a whole new market for illicit academic outsourcing services with professors and teaching assistants being their target customer base.

Read more:

Ghost Grading: Part 1 – A New Twist on Contract Cheating

Related posts:

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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, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


Ghost Grading: Part 1 – A New Twist on Contract Cheating

August 19, 2021

You likely already know about commercial contract cheating (e.g., term paper mills, essay mills, assignment completion services, and so on.) It seems some companies behind these services are pursuing a new line of business, targeting educators. Companies are targeting graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) and faculty members offering “grading” assistance. Grading is a term we use a lot in Canada, but it can also be called marking or assessing. Although this is a new twist on contract cheating, it would stand to reason that this type of service might be called contract grading, but that term already exists in Canada and the United States and it has an entirely different meaning, so I have dubbed this service “ghost grading”.

With ghost grading, third party commercial entities offer to do grading for TAs and profs on their behalf.

It seems to work like this: a company approaches the TA or instructor individually, often via e-mail. The company offers to provide grading services for a fee. The company operates as a third party to complete grading work on behalf of instructors, who pay a fee to outsource this work.

Instructors and TAs are being pitched on the idea that the rate they pay for sub-contracting out grading duties is less than their own hourly rate would be, so they are gaining back time to work on other, more interesting projects.

The prof or TA makes a private side deal with a third party company. The educators give the company their learning management system (LMS) login credentials and their grading is “taken care of” by the contractor.

These companies sometimes allege or insinuate they are reaching out to the TA or the prof with the permission of the administration or the school. Of course, this isn’t at all the case. The school administration might have no idea this is happening, or at least, not until after it has been discovered. By that point, might be considered misconduct on the part of the TA or academic staff member who has engaged with one these companies and dealt with as such.

Remember, contract cheating companies are predatory and they care about one thing: generating profit, lots and lots of profit.

They are known for having sophisticated marketing and they know exactly what messages to send to get new customers. A naïve teaching assistant who actually believed that the company is operating with the permission of the administration can be completely duped and even though they might be committing an act of misconduct by engaging with the company, they might also be a victim of the scam.

So far, I can find little documented about this phenomenon, but I am hearing increasing reports of it happening. If you have been approached by a company offering such services, please feel free to reach out to me. In Part 2, I’ll share more about this practice and its impact.

Read more:

Ghost Grading: Part 2 – Examining Possible Legal Loopholes in Canada

Related posts:

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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, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.


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