Contract cheating: A view from three Calgary post-secondary institutions

May 24, 2019

LSAC - (Cover slide) Rossi, Eaton, Toye & Chibry

So excited to be presenting with my colleagues, Silvia Rossi (Mount Royal University), Maragaret A. Toye (Bow Valley College) and Nancy Chibry (University of Calgary) next week at the Learning Specialists Association of Canada national conference in Olds, Alberta. I am excited that sessions on contract cheating are getting accepted at national conferences in Canada. To the best of my knowledge this will be the first time that contract cheating will be talked about at this particular conference.

Check out our slides on Slideshare:

Handouts:

How to cite this presentation (APA, 6th ed.):

Rossi, S., Eaton, S. E., Toye, M. A., & Chibry, N. (2019, May 27). Contract cheating: A view from three Calgary post-secondary institutions. Paper presented at the Learning Specialists Association of Canada (LSAC) National Conference, Olds, AB.

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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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The ethics of outsourcing: Contract cheating in the health professions

February 15, 2019

This morning I had the pleasure of providing a continuing education session to the Orthopaedic Surgeons at their City Wide (Grand) Rounds. The session was offered live at the Foothills campus and participants from various hospitals around the city joined by video conference.

2019 02 15 Ortho CWR Poster[1]Learning Objectives:

  • Define and explain what contract cheating is
  • Explain how the global contract cheating industry works
  • Understand the impact of contract cheating among medical and health program students

Here’s a copy of the title slide:

Title slide - Orthopaedic surgery rounds

References:

Bagshaw, E. (2016, May 26). University of Sydney’s medical school in second cheating controversy. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/education/university-of-sydneys-medical-school-in-second-cheating-controversy-20160525-gp3g3h.html

Bretag, T. (2017). Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, Good Practice Note: Addressing contract cheating to safeguard academic integrity  Retrieved from https://www.teqsa.gov.au/latest-news/publications/good-practice-note-addressing-contract-cheating-safeguard-academic

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

Curtis, G. J., & Clare, J. (2017). How Prevalent is contract cheating and to what extent are students repeat offenders? Journal of Academic Ethics, 15(2), 115-124. doi:10.1007/s10805-017-9278-x

Eaton, S. E. (2018). Contract cheating: A Canadian perspective.  Retrieved from http://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcblog/2018/07/24/contract-cheating-a-canadian-perspective/

Eaton, S. E., & Edino, R. I. (2018). Strengthening the research agenda of educational integrity in Canada: A review of the research literature and call to action. Journal of Educational Integrity, 14(1). Retrieved from https://edintegrity.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s40979-018-0028-7 doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-018-0028-7

Hosney, M. I., & Fatima, S. (2014). Attitude of students towards cheating and plagiarism: University case study. Journal of Applied Sciences, 14(8), 748-757. doi:10.3923/jas.2014.748.757

International Center for Academic Integrity. (2016). Institutional toolkit to combat contract cheating  Retrieved from http://integrity.fiu.edu/pdfs/Contract%20Cheating.pdf

Lancaster, T. (2018). US in first place for essays orders (not surprising), with the UK and Canada in equal second place [Tweet].   Retrieved from https://twitter.com/DrLancaster/status/1029014675198013440

Lancaster, T., & Clarke, R. (2008). The phenomena of contract cheating. In T. S. Roberts (Ed.), Student plagiarism in an online world: Problems and solutions (pp. 144-158). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Inc.

Lancaster, T., & Clarke, R. (2015). Examining contract cheating, essay mill use and academic misconduct by students on health courses.  Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323425525_Examining_Contract_Cheating_Essay_Mill_Use_and_Academic_Misconduct_by_Students_on_Health_Courses

Newton, P. M., & Lang, C. (2016). Custom essay writers, freelancers, and other paid third parties. In T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity (pp. 249-271). Singapore: Springer Singapore.

O’BRien, N., & Smith, A. (2015, June 6). Cheating scandal: Sydney university to review medical study unit. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/education/cheating-scandal-sydney-university-to-review-medical-study-unit-20150606-ghi5d2.html

Plagiarism.org. (2017). How big of a problem in contract cheating?   Retrieved from http://www.plagiarism.org/blog/2017/12/12/how-big-of-a-problem-is-contract-cheating

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (UK) (QAA). (2017). Contracting to cheat in higher education: How to address contract cheating, the use of third-party services and essay mills  Retrieved from http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/Contracting-to-cheat-in-higher-education.pdf

Rogerson, A. M. (2017). Detecting contract cheating in essay and report submissions: process, patterns, clues and conversations. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 13(1), 10. doi:10.1007/s40979-017-0021-6

Tonkin, A. L. (2015). “Lifting the carpet” on cheating in medical school exams. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 351(August), 22-29.

Turnitin. (2013). Paying for plagiarism (webinar). Retrieved from http://go.turnitin.com/webcast/paying-for-plagiarism

University of Alberta. (n.d.). Student Conduct and Accountability: Proving Misconduct.   Retrieved from https://www.ualberta.ca/provost/dean-of-students/student-conduct-and-accountability/proving-misconduct

Walker, M., & Townley, C. (2012). Contract cheating: A new challenge for academic honesty? Journal of Academic Ethics, 10(1), 27–44. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-012-9150-y

If you would like  a copy of this talk, please e-mail me at seaton (at) ucalgary (dot) ca

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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.

 


Multilingual Essay Mills: Understanding Contract Cheating among Second Language Learners – Workshop

February 1, 2019

U of C logo - 2015As many of you know, I’ve been developing a research program on academic integrity over the past few years. Last year I began collaborating with my friend and colleague, Dr. Roswita Dressler, on a project that brings together our combined expertise in academic integrity and language learning.

It started when I noticed that almost all of the research that I’d seen about contract cheating was focused almost exclusively on services provided in English. That led us to ask ourselves what the market was students of second languages. We undertook a rapid review to help us get a general sense of the landscape. We wrote up the results and they have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. I’ll post about it when the publication comes out later this year.

We are also doing a workshop at the University of Calgary’s Language Research Centre  to help teachers of second languages build their understanding of what the contract cheating industry is and why they need to pay attention.

Workshop description

Contract Cheating_Poster - LRC WorkshopContract cheating happens when students have a third party complete academic work on their behalf. The term was coined by UK researchers Clarke and Lancaster (2006). It includes, but it not limited to essay mills and homework completion services. Suppliers of this form of “black market” academic work exist mainly online. Students can simply upload a digital copy of their assignment instructions to a website, insert a delivery date and pay for the work by credit card. Contract cheating is big business. Owings and Nelson (2014) found the essay mill industry in the United States alone to be valued at a minimum $100 million USD. Estimates show that over 71,000 post-secondary students in Canada buy academic work online (Eaton, 2018). There is growing evidence to suggest that contract cheating is not limited to academic work completed in English, but also in a variety of world languages.

In this workshop, you will learn more about what contract cheating is, how it happens, and how second language learners can order homework tasks, essays and even theses from online providers, customized to the exact instructions of an assignment. We will discuss strategies for prevention and detection, along with an examination of what to do if you suspect a case of contract cheating among your students.

Date and time: Friday, February 15, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Location: Craigie Hall, 4th floor, Room D-420

This workshop is open to the public and is free to attend.

References:

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

Eaton, S. E. (2018). Contract cheating: A Canadian perspective.  Retrieved from http://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcblog/2018/07/24/contract-cheating-a-canadian-perspective/

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

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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.

 


2018 International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

October 4, 2018

At the University of Calgary we will mark the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating on October 17, 2018. We join with dozens of other institutions worldwide who have pledged their commitment to take action by registering their participate with the International Center for Academic Integrity.

ICAI Intl Day of Action 2018.jpeg

Contract cheating includes, but is not limited to, essay mills, homework completion services and impersonators for exams and even course work. Join us for an engaging and invigorating campus-wide discussion about how we tackle this complex subject.

At the University of Calgary, I’ll be co-hosting a campus-wide event with our our Academic Integrity Coordinator, Lee-Ann Penaluna, hosted by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

In this session participants will:

  • Explore what contract cheating is in a post-secondary context.
  • Explore how multi-stakeholder approaches are needed to address this complex subject.
  • Reflect on concrete ways to detect and deter contract cheating.

We are excited to announce we’ll have a special guest presentation via Skype from Dr. Thomas Lancaster, from the UK, whose is one of the world’s leading experts on contract cheating.

We will also join in the social media white board campaign, using the hashtags #excelwithintegrity and #defeatthecheat.

2018 International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

The event is open to everyone on campus, including students, faculty, staff and others. We also welcome members of the public to find out more about what contract cheating is and how to take action to promote integrity in education. Register to attend the University of Calgary event here.

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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.


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.

 


Using video posts to promote engagement in online graduate learning

July 16, 2018

The first time I engaged with a group via e-learning was in 2005. I have been teaching graduate courses online since 2011. We often follow a standard learning design of having students read material and then write an online discussion post summarizing and/or reflecting on their readings. They repeat this format in just about every course they take. Students have anecdotally reported that they find this process tiresome, static and not very productive in terms of learning.

As a course instructor, I also find it somewhat unproductive. Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that written tasks have their place. At the same time, I also believe that we can provide students with challenging and engaging ways of learning that go beyond the traditional text post on a discussion board.

With that in mind, I have been playing around with using video to make online learning more engaging for my students. Since the course I am teaching right now is as Master’s level course called Language Learning and Technology, we are learning about how to incorporate technology into learning meaningful ways. I figured that if continue to engage through traditional text-posts, we are not really learning how to incorporate technology in new ways! So, I  have challenged the students to do video posts about their course readings, instead of their usual weekly write ups. Students are creating and sharing videos of 3 minutes or less that classmates and I can read and respond to. Students post their videos within our learning management system (D2L) that is associated with the course.

To lead by example, I have also been posting weekly videos welcoming students to each week of the course. In this week’s video post, I offer my own reflections on a recent article that I read, showing them how they can do their own reflections on a reading in their video posts.

Reflections on what I have learned from an instructional perspective

I realized after I posted my video that I could have conducted a more in-depth reflection in my post. This was good learning for me, because I had a lot more thoughts swirling around in my head about the reading I did, but I didn’t express them all in the video. In a written post, I would have taken the time to write, edit, revise and then maybe edit and revise some more. In the video post, I shared my reflections, but didn’t fuss over whether it was perfect. I will be mindful of this when I engage in my assessment of students’ learning using this format.

You can see that I start off with the date, and mentioning the weather for today in Calgary, where I live. I wanted to show students that I was not recycling material and that what I was creating for them was new and fresh.

I think showing that the material is new not only enhances learning and promotes principles of academic integrity, it shows we are not being lazy as instructors. I think that traditional text posts can be problematic in terms of academic integrity because students may be tempted, from time to time, to have someone else write posts on their behalf. This is a form of contract cheating (where a third party completes work on behalf of a student). Curtis and Clare (2017) reported that about 3.5% of students admitted to contract cheating. Even though that percentage is small, it is still important for instructors to offer students ways of demonstrating learning in ways that go beyond traditional writing tasks. It is important for instructors to changes the circumstances that might make it easier or more tempting for students to have someone else complete work on their behalf.

I mention this only because I research and write about topics related to academic integrity, so it’s always on my mind. By and large, I think our students are committed to their learning and act with integrity as professionals and as learners.

My intention with these activities is to offer students an opportunity to engage in ways other than text that is authentic and interesting. The process of reflecting on readings is different when we engage verbally than in writing. We are still using text-based elements of the course such as replies to weekly posts, but so far, video seems to providing a fun-yet-rigorous way for students to showcase their learning.

References:

Curtis, G. J., & Clare, J. (2017). How prevalent is contract cheating and to what extent are students repeat offenders? Journal of Academic Ethics, 15(2), 115-124. doi:10.1007/s10805-017-9278-x

Kumar Basak, S., Wotto, M., & Bélanger, P. (2018). E-learning, M-learning and D-learning: Conceptual definition and comparative analysis. E-Learning and Digital Media, 15(4), 191-216. doi:10.1177/204275301878518

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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.


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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