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Contract cheating denotes the payment of a third party by students to do academic tasks in their place. This research paper elucidates the prevalence of the application of technology by students in cheating and possible prevention measures. Social media sites help students to acquire and share information concerning the availability of contract cheaters. This research utilizes the primary approach of collecting data and the qualitative method of data analysis. Information was sought from students and educators at the University of Campinas in Brazil. 78 participants took part in the study by responding to open-ended interview questions. Contract cheating presents a great problem to academic integrity. Female students have a higher chance of hiring people to complete assignments and research tasks on their behalf than male learners. Contract cheating will be eliminated effectively through enhanced awareness of its negative effects on students’ present academic life and future professional practice.
Technology, for instance, social media, has led to students cheating and hiring individuals online to do their research in addition to multiple-choice examinations and quizzes. Contract cheating happens where learners decide to pay a third party to do assessable tasks on their behalf. Although it is not a new happening, most students and teachers concur that there has been an international increase in the use of technology to cheat in examinations by learners across all disciplines (Sobaih, Moustafa, Ghandforoush, & Khan, 2016). This has increased the extent of community anxiety regarding the credibility of higher education qualifications, students’ ethics, excellence, academic integrity, and the worth of research and e-learning. Of vital concern is the rise of marketing-savvy business providers who pelt learners with their advances in social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter over and above other advertising forums and online sites under the guise of providing academic services. This paper discusses the prevalence and avoidance of the use of technology in cheating in research and other examinable tasks. Despite having some limitations, increased awareness, student verification, and authorship assessment systems are beneficial in the promotion of learners’ ethics and academic integrity by preventing the use of technology to cheat in examinations.
Cheating and hiring individuals online to carry out students’ research, assignments, and multiple-choice examinations vary from traditional plagiarism since learners do not just copy and paste content. Instead, students are choosing to pay for non-plagiarized (unique) content. Such cheating produces work that is custom-written to the expectations of students, for instance, by effectively adhering to instructions of an assignment (Mellar, Peytcheva-Forsyth, Kocdar, Karadeniz, & Yovkova, 2018). This practice is getting worse as students are now giving money in exchange for a whole PhD thesis that is done on their behalf. In most developing countries around the world, the PhD thesis market has become openly blatant. In some countries, sections of the cities are widely known to be thesis markets.
In the United States, Canada, and other countries, services regarding the writing of thesis as well as contract cheating continue to be highly concealed in the online black market. Attributable to female students engaging in more household duties after school than their male counterparts, they have a greater compulsion of paying other people to do their assignments and research projects. Social media platforms assist learners in getting and share information regarding where to find people to undertake academic tasks on their behalf (Okada, Whitelock, Holmes, & Edwards, 2019). With the help of social media, students also come across sites where they can auction their work to different bidders. Some sites show exactly the way such processes are carried out. Students begin by placing orders and providing instructions for different assignments and research tasks. After that, they can directly communicate with different bidders in an attempt to figure out who they would like to contract. Following the choice of the most preferred contract cheater, learners follow the entire workflow progression online while asking and answering questions where necessary.
Studies have established that there are numerous reasons behind a student outsourcing his or her examinations, assignments, and research projects to a third party (Lancaster, 2019). For most learners, the pressure to finish the task within a short duration or improve their grades might compel them to seek the services of contract cheaters. For other students, they find that the time they might use to do the task is better off if spent on a well-paid job. For instance, in a case where a student has a job where they earn $15 every hour and an assignment would take them about 10 hours to finish but outsourcing it costs only $50, they choose to make $150 and only spend part of it to pay for the completion of the schoolwork. This leaves them a profit of $100 and, in most instances, even a higher grade. If students are careful, instructors do not discover that they cheated in assignments or examinations.
Most of the contract cheaters live offshore in nations such as India and Pakistan, and the amount of money they make from students is much when converted to local currencies. Nonetheless, some contract cheaters are not located offshore. Researchers have established that a few lecturers and assistant professors also choose to earn an extra amount of money above their insufficient salaries by providing black market academic services (Tauginienė & Jurkevičius, 2017). For example, the working conditions of Canadian professional academics came under increasing scrutiny in the recent past, and some of them were categorized as poor by the country’s statistics. In many developing countries, poorly paid part-time academic staff teach most undergraduate students, with some making even lower than $10,000 per year. Such situations push several instructors to have a second and secret job where they operate as contract cheaters. The majority of learners who seek the services of contract cheaters are not aware of the real identity of the person who completes assignments and research papers on their behalf, and they do not bother to know as their relationship is merely transactional. What matters is whether the students get their academic papers completed, which they submit for grading, and the suppliers receive the agreed compensation.
Educators are in a great predicament when it comes to addressing the problem of contract cheating because it is difficult to notice and almost impossible to verify. The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) has recently generated a toolkit to assist educators and institutions of higher learning in dealing with contract cheating. Some of the most effective approaches encompass informing students of the negative effects of contract cheating and enlightening them concerning the best means of making good ethical decisions concerning their academic tasks (Lancaster, 2019). In most universities, a resource faculty enlightens students and educators on the most favorable ways of designing assessments and successful detection of contract cheating, respectively.
More than 50 institutions of higher learning around the globe have become dedicated to global strategies of curbing contract cheating. This requires such institutions to raise awareness about the problem to the students and share practices of preventing the issue with educators (Tauginienė & Jurkevičius, 2017). Annual events are held in dedicated institutions to assist educators and learners in realizing what contract cheating is, its negative effects, and how to avoid it. Such practices have resulted in social media campaigns employing hashtags such as excellence with integrity and defeating the cheat. This is mainly carried out in a bid to discourage students from hiring contract cheaters. The forums make it easy for students, educators, and other interested parties to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter as a way of raising awareness concerning such a deep-seated problem that threatens academic ethics and integrity over and above, producing half-baked graduates.
This study employed the primary method of data collection and qualitative technique of analysis. Information was obtained from educators and students at the University of Campinas in Brazil. Of particular interest in the research was whether e-assessment facilitates cheating in examinations among students and why female learners appear to be more affected than their male counterparts. Ethical approval for the research was sought from the Ethical Review Committee at the institution. The researcher sent random invitations for taking part in the study where 70 students, 6 educators, and 2 administrators turned up. The respondents were given open-ended interview questions and allowed three days to complete and submit their responses.
The researcher found that the major modes of teaching at the university are the face-to-face approach, distance education (having some components of online support), and blended learning (which has a considerable aspect of e-assessment). Contrary to the students, educators and administrators affirmed that cheating by learners and hiring individuals online to do their research papers and assignments are the greatest problems that they encounter in higher education. The students showed a lack of awareness concerning the negative effects of contract cheating. Female students were found to be more affected by the problem than male learners. All the respondents asserted that the use of e-assessment makes contract cheating easier and widespread.
Although cheating in examinations is a problem that has been bedeviling higher education for a long time, technology has greatly facilitated its prevalence. Nevertheless, as a component of a multi-faceted approach to tackling the vice, technology may also play a considerable task in the prevention of contract cheating. They are having many household chores after school leaves female students with minimal time for study and completion of assignments. This has compelled most of them to seek the services of contract cheaters through social media platforms. The extensive use of written, typed assignments, examinations, and research papers coupled with technological advancement that enhances social media interactions have created room for contract cheating. Some students choose to keep a copy of the submitted work, which they later sell to their colleagues for re-submission. There is a need for students, educators, and academic administrators to join hands in an effort to come up with the best strategies for eliminating contract cheating.
The explosion of contract cheating in recent years has resulted in increased problems for the global community of scholars attributable to the attack on academic integrity and ethics. Contract cheating is very different from plagiarism and has negative effects on the students’ professionalism and learning outcomes, the reputation of the institutions of higher learning, academic integrity, public safety, and ethics. If proper practices of curbing the problem are not established early enough, the issue may in some way appear normalized as a tolerable approach for completing academic tasks, which could heavily weigh on the future professional practice of affected students. Although it constitutes a kind of fraud, contract cheating is hard to discover (Lancaster, 2019). While institutional administrators have resorted to tackling the longstanding problems of plagiarism, poor comprehension, and low academic literacies, education alone is not adequate to address such an intentional and concealed type of cheating.
The fears that technology, particularly social media and the internet, has eased and facilitated an increase in the rate of contract cheating are unwarranted. Cheating in exams by students in institutions of higher learning is not a recent phenomenon. Before the emergence of social media, when oral examinations prevailed, the problem of cheating in tests by students still existed (Morris, 2018). During that period, the most common form of cheating in assessments was to have other people impersonate students and take examinations in their place. Prior to the occurrence of photography and the issuance of identity cards, the practice was more difficult to discover than today.
Reviewing a wide pool of studies identifies several reasons behind increased contract cheating, which include varying attitudes, increased demands of learning, and poor curriculum design. Other reasons are situational aspects, the busy life of modern learners, some teaching methods, and the personal attributes of students. The causes of contract cheating underscore the intricacy of the issue and the necessity of a multi-faceted advance to dealing with the problem. To address the setback of contract cheating successfully, the United Kingdom quality assurance organization has proposed the application of education information and increased awareness to students and educators. The agency has also recommended the utilization of authentic evaluation and a combination of assessment techniques, blocking of social media sites and websites promoting the practice, international detection processes that integrate linguistic study tools to complement text-corresponding software, and creation of suitable regulations and strategies. Nevertheless, the approaches mostly detect plagiarized content and may not successfully notice unique work presented by a student but done by a third party. Contract cheating will best be eliminated if students are regularly informed of its negative effects on their current academic life and future professional practice (Lancaster, 2019).
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Contract cheating has negative effects on students’ ethics, academic integrity, and professional practice. Female students are more affected by the problem than male learners. This study has shed light on the impact of technology in the facilitation of students’ cheating and hiring individuals online to complete their research papers, assignments, and examinations. Nonetheless, technology also presents a potential area of significance in the application of a range of approaches to deal with contract cheating successfully. Increased awareness among students is the best intervention for addressing the vice effectively.
Lancaster, T. (2019). Profiling the international academic ghostwriters who are providing low-cost essays and assignments for the contract cheating industry. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 17(1), 72-86. Web.
Mellar, H., Peytcheva-Forsyth, R., Kocdar, S., Karadeniz, A., & Yovkova, B. (2018). Addressing cheating in e-assessment using student authentication and authorship checking systems: Teachers’ perspectives. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 14(1), 2-21. Web.
Morris, E. J. (2018). Academic integrity matters: Five considerations for addressing contract cheating. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 14(1), 15-19. Web.
Okada, A., Whitelock, D., Holmes, W., & Edwards, C. (2019). E-authentication for online assessment: A mixed‐method study. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(2), 861-875. Web.
Sobaih, A. E. E., Moustafa, M. A., Ghandforoush, P., & Khan, M. (2016). To use or not to use? Social media in higher education in developing countries. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 296-305.
Tauginienė, L., & Jurkevičius, V. (2017). Ethical and legal observations on contract cheating services as an agreement. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 13(1), 9-16. Web.