Contract cheating: acting globally won’t stop students scheming locally

Essay mills aren’t the big problem

With a research emphasis on essay mills and the like Rebecca Awdry (Deakin U) and Bob Ives (Uni Nevada) wondered about students informally outsourcing work from people they know, so they undertook an international survey in 13 countries.

They found;

* student’s engagement with informal outsourcing is positively correlated to the rate at which they believe the general student body is cheating and the number of people they know cheating. (However, while this is statistically significant, effect sizes are small).

* this, and believing there are acceptable reasons for cheating are common across all countries and disciplines

* study level, age, whether their tutor knows their name, gender, first or second language learners, and intrinsic/extrinsic motivations for learning have no to little effect on outsourcing. “Given the quantity of studies which have found gender, age or level of study to be related to cheating behaviours, this was a surprising outcome,” Awdry and Ives argue.

And then there is the finding that creates problems for people who think shutting down commercial providers is the solution,

* “students are more likely to cheat with a friend or someone close to them, over an acquaintance or someone unknown to them, supporting our findings of far higher rates of outsourcing from friends/family compared to outsourcing from other students

What is to be done:

Peer influence, “must be addressed.” “Students are more likely to cheat if they think other students are cheating, or their friends report having cheated … Publicising numbers of students caught for cheating could reduce inflated perceptions students have of how common cheating is.

And institutions must be seen to take cheating seriously. “Seeing others cheat and not caught may remove fear of detection, and with it, deterrence.”


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