Monday, December 24, 2012

Three Practical Steps For Academics To Take To Reduce The Impact Of Contract Cheating

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Cheating (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Thomas Lancaster

Contract cheating is an undesirable undertaking within college and university education.

This form of cheating occurs when a students gets a piece of work completed for them which they then hand in as if they wrote this for themselves.

This is a dangerous trend within education since the student is getting academic credit, which may lead to an award, for a piece of work that they didn't create themselves.

This gives a false expectation about the skills that the student will have when they join the workplace.

The good news is that the literature related to contract cheating contains many case studies and suggested methods that will help academics to combat this growing problem.

This article identifies three popular practical steps which can be used to reduce the impact of contract cheating. They should be considered in light of the wider assessment processes within which this form of academic misconduct falls.

First of all. steps should be taken to make sure that work is completed within the classroom wherever possible. This means that students cannot leave and get their work completed somewhere else. This also allows academics some time to become familiar with their students and the work that they are completing. Where it is impossible to completely monitor this, checkpoints can be placed within assessment so that student progress can be monitored in some other form.

Second, the weighting of any piece of work on which contract cheating may be possible should be considered. It should be impossible for a student to pass a module based on contract cheating alone. In many cases, this will mean that coursework will need to constitute under half of the work on a particular module. This can be supported by other forms of assessments which are taken under controlled conditions; these include examinations, vivas and presentations.

One third method to consider when aiming to reduce the impact of contract cheating is of interest. Consideration has been paid to the use of Honour Codes, where students are compelled to report other students who they believe to be cheating. With this method, students who do not report cheating that they know about are said to be equally as guilty as the cheaters themselves. Where this method is plausible according to the local assessment regulations it is well worth considering further.

In summary, the growing problems associated with contract cheating do need careful attention within education to avoid this reaching the levels of wider student plagiarism. Coursework should be set so that it can be completed within supervised sessions wherever possible.

The weighting of work completed outside the classroom should be closely considered so that students cannot pass purely in this manner. The availability of Honour Codes should be investigated and used wherever possible. Only by such a multi-pronged approach can the impact of contract cheating be reduced.

Thomas Lancaster is an academic who regularly researches and presents on contract cheating. More details about Thomas Lancaster can also be found on his professional presence, which also contains many blog posts related to cheating and plagiarism issues.

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