Contract cheating requests ‘blatant and wide-ranging’

New research finds students paying low prices to cheat on introductory courses

October 11, 2019
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Student requests for contract cheating services are both “blatant and wide-ranging”, according to new research.

Analysis of data from 1,579 Twitter messages by Thomas Lancaster and Alexander Amigud, published in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, looked at how much students were typically willing to pay for someone else to do their work for them. The average was $33.32 (£26.99) per 1,000 words.

The three most frequently offered payments for contract cheating were $20, followed by $50 and then $100, although the authors found paying someone else to sit an exam carried a far higher premium.  

According to the paper, the requests for contract cheating “made through a channel that is visible to the public, are both blatant and wide-ranging”.

The results demonstrate the low rates of payment offered for contract cheating, which would mean some essay writers would struggle to earn the minimum wage for their “work”. The study found this was still attractive to some writers, “however, students are running a risk of receiving work of low quality”, the authors say.

The study also found that mathematics, including algebra, calculus and statistics, was the subject outsourced the most, followed by English and history. This is in contrast to previous studies, which have identified business subjects as being most at risk of contract cheating.

However, the maths assignments were not necessarily requested by those studying maths specifically, but were often the type of basic questions testing statistics skills and ensuring students can analyse quantitative data that are needed for a whole host of subjects, according to Dr Lancaster, a senior teaching fellow at Imperial College London.  

These assignments were often from first-year courses. The kind of thing contract cheating providers “can complete quickly and make money from”, Dr Lancaster said, particularly as proficiency in English is not required for maths subjects.

The worry is, if “students aren’t able to do these assignments for themselves, how can they expect to complete dissertations and other advanced work that rely on these skills?” Dr Lancaster said.

Another issue identified by the paper was evidence of family involvement in academic cheating activities, as well as students offering rewards that were not specifically financial, such as food, drugs and alcohol, gift cards and personal attention.

According to Dr Lancaster, who was helping to organise the International Day of Action against Contract Cheating on 16 October, this, and the fact that students were still so brazen about requesting contract cheating, showed that universities needed to take a wider approach to the issue.

“Children need to learn about integrity from an early age, both at school and in the home. This means educating friends and family too…We need to look at how we communicate the message of academic integrity beyond students and into the home environment,” he said.

“We have to address integrity throughout the whole student journey and embed solid integrity principles in everything from curriculum design, to the education we give students, to the methods we use to detect when integrity fails.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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