“Contract cheating occurs when a student procures a third party (who knows about and benefits from the transaction) to produce academic work (that is usually, but not always assessable work) that the student then submits to an educational institution as if it were their own” (Ellis, Zucker & Randall (2018) p. 1).
Academic misconduct of any kind is a risk for students.
Use of third–party sites for copying or outsourcing their work will likely be understood as academic misconduct for the most part by students. Interactions can start out as access to learning resources or tutoring help and become group-sourcing of answers and become outright collusion. Some sites even reward students for posting their own past papers or assignments and exams by “unlocking more credits” that allow those students more access to services. A naïve or under-pressure student can make costly mistakes as they find themselves on a slippery slope that may seem, at first, to be low risk.
Students need to know more
With contract cheating, there is increasing evidence of the predatory nature of these services. Students need to be warned of these issues.
- Some services are known to aggressively recruit students including targeting those who are vulnerable based on their own internet activity or based on characteristics like international student status as a proxy for students studying in an additional language.
- Some services target honours students and graduate students for employment as tutors, and those students may not recognize they are involved in exam cheating or other forms of academic misconduct until it’s too late.
- Blackmail in the near and longer term has been noted as a real problem that students may not anticipate as users or employees or contributors to these sites and services.
- Some students are not sufficiently concerned, and we need to talk about this with them.
- This tip sheet for students is a product of the Academic Integrity Committee of Ontario (AICO) which is a forum for academic integrity practitioners and representatives in Ontario colleges and universities.
Is it academic misconduct when students post materials on these sites?
Students might question whether posting their own past assignments constitutes academic misconduct. In the USask academic misconduct regulations, this action could be academic misconduct as per definition (k): “knowingly assisting another person to engage in actions that amount to academic misconduct, including the supply of materials prepared by the student to another student for use by that student as the work or materials of that student”. See this posts for more on what instructors can do to protect copyright.
Talk about it with students
Letting students know that you know about contract cheating is a good strategy. See this post for talking with students and this one for instructor strategies in addition to talking with students about the multiple kinds of risk they take with contract cheating.