Cheating firms offer to attend Chinese students’ online courses

Agencies charge between $600 and $1,500 to complete an entire module, including assessments

July 22, 2021
Three people wearing head costume masks looking at laptops as a metaphor for Cheating firms offer Zoom proxy
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Contract cheating services have taken advantage of the shift to online teaching by offering to take entire modules for students, including attending classes, completing assignments, and sitting exams.

Online searches reveal several pages of advertisements from essay mills targeting Chinese students who are taking courses from overseas universities, with services tailored for Zoom classes and online coursework.

One company offers services that cover the entire journey of an online course, including discussions, assignments and exams. Another agency has different packages for students to choose from, with options including one-stop coaching and assistance throughout an online or blended module.

Asked about the cost of taking Zoom classes for a student, a customer service representative of one company told Times Higher Education: “If there is just moderate amount of homework, the cost should be from $100 (£72) to $150 per week – it depends on the quotation of the writer and the course syllabus.” Another agency said it charged between $600 and $1,500 for a whole module.

Agencies try to ease potential clients’ concern about being caught by offering help with communications. One service provider claims that its writers will draft emails for students and, if lecturers have any questions, “all you need to do is to forward the email”.

Thomas Lancaster, a senior teaching fellow at Imperial College London and an expert in contract cheating, said that essay mills had offered to complete entire programmes of assessment for several years now, but that the Covid-driven shift to online learning meant that “the availability of this service has come up in the discussion”.

According to Chinese media, an undercover reporter received 10 orders in one day after joining a coaching company. The journalist was told that the firm’s business was “exploding” during the pandemic.

Phillip Dawson, associate director of the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning at Deakin University, said that addressing this type of misconduct “will require a mix of positive academic integrity and adversarial assessment security”.

“Positive approaches, like educating students on the problems with these services, are essential,” Professor Dawson said. “One approach to securing real-time activities like exams is high-quality biometrics that verify the student is who they say they are, like matching students’ typing, voice or face to data that has been collected under controlled conditions.”

But he admitted that trying to stop people from “wilfully giving their identity away” was very hard.

Dr Lancaster said that universities “need to know the correct people are accessing their systems to avoid all the cybersecurity risks that come from allowing contract cheating providers access to their intellectual property”.

However, Professor Dawson added: “If teaching stays on Zoom, cheating will be there as well.”

karen.liu@timeshighereducation.com

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Print headline: Cheating firms offer Zoom proxy

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Reader's comments (6)

This should be a priority for university admins, as it degrades the quality of core services they are offering (degrees and degree certification).
Agree with you Stephen.
I am quite sure this is not limited to Chinese students. I appreciate articles that aim to raise awareness about contract cheating, but pointing the finger at students from a particular country can foster discrimination and racism. I note that the scholars you contacted for commentary were both white males. They are indeed esteemed academic integrity scholars, but the article would have been more compelling had you included the perspective of a non-white expert in the field, as well. Sarah Elaine Eaton, University of Calgary, Canada
Seriously? SO you thereby assume any research by white males is inherently racist. Any evidence for that? Chinese students are the largest international group and most lucrative. I have heard in China it is often seen as easy to get into a UK uni if you have the money and harder to get into a decent Chinese one (reported information, I know, but probably true). It is also true that some cases of Africans paying to get another African to do a driving test exam for them in the UK have been uncovered, so I doubt the Chinese are alone in this but they are by far the largest international student group.
There is a good deal of inherent racism, particularly aimed at Chinese students, and Sarah is right to flag this as a concern
Racism against the Chinese? Post evidence please as this assertion is always made without any. There may actualy be 'positive racism', in that cash cow Chinese students are never failed and are given higher marks, as a uni wants to attract more lucrative Chinese students. Also, there are many reports of bullying of any Chinese students who dare criticise the PRC regime and/or Hong Kong students or their supports - are universities deliberately turning a blind eye to this? I suggest researching some Hong Kong sites on Twitter etc (I STAND WITH HK; JUSTINIA etc).

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