Universities Worldwide Draw Attention to Contract Cheating, Oct. 21

ALBANY, NY (10/16/2020) (readMedia)-- With a global pandemic pushing more students and faculty online, colleges, universities, and other schools across the globe are joining with the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) on Oct. 21 for an International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, a practice that educators say may be more widespread with the uptick in online classes.

"Contract cheating happens when a student gets someone else to complete an assignment and then turns that assignment in as if it were the student's own work," explained Camilla Roberts, Ph.D., President of ICAI. "In some cases, the students actually pay someone else for the work, either another student directly, or through online companies that masquerade as sources for tutoring."

On Oct. 21, ICAI will launch 20 hours of Zoom and YouTube programming to shed a light on this problem. The programming will begin with a student-led panel discussion on the latest news about the topic. For the next 20 hours presenters from around the world will host discussions on topics such as COVID-19 and Contract Cheating, creating cultures of integrity at secondary schools, the business of contract cheating, and national approaches to academic dishonesty in countries such as Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and Ireland. These presentations will be free and can be viewed on ICAI's Zoom webinar platform and on the ICAI YouTube Channel.

Contract cheating is not a new problem. Prior to the Internet, magazines aimed at college students regularly carried ads for essay mills. With the internet and a credit card, however, students can find, purchase, and download essays quickly and easily. A quick search turns up dozens of companies selling essay writing services for a little as $7.50 per page.

"The quality of our education and credibility of the certificates, diplomas, and degrees schools award are at stake if contract cheating is not managed head on," explained Jennie Miron, Ph.D., Chair of the ICAI committee planning the day of action. "We put members of the public at risk if our students graduate with gaps in their knowledge and ethical deportment."

The risks to students who cheat goes beyond a simple bad grade. "Depending on the school, students risk their degree," Roberts explained. She also explained that contract cheating is a shady business, and the companies that supply the papers, essays, and research, have been known to blackmail students to extract more money from them.

The International Day of Action is in its fifth year, and organizers hope that the extra emphasis and the remote learning opportunities will draw more schools and students into the conversation and help create cultures in which contract cheating is unacceptable. More than 200 institutions and individuals have signed on to the effort, with some extending the event to fill an entire week with activity focused on academic integrity.

"There are tools that help instructors detect cheating; however, the best approach is to create a culture in which the incentives, both social and academic, are weighted against cheating," Roberts added. "Instilling academic integrity is a multipronged approach that requires active involvement from students, faculty, staff, and even governments. We hope that this year's International Day of Action, Oct. 21, will invigorate that effort."