Post-secondary Institutions Globally Join Together To Fight Academic Contract Cheating

By: Kw Now Local News - U of W News
| Published 11/12/2020


As many as 16 million people could be receiving fraudulent certifications yearly

'50% of students admit to cheating. And 93% of them feel it's acceptable, and not unethical, to cheat.'

On October 21 the University of Waterloo joined colleges and universities across Ontario and around the world to participate in the International Center for Academic Integrity’s (ICAI) fifth annual International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. Waterloo joins hundreds of post-secondary institutions worldwide in marking the day with interactive and educational virtual activities for their communities.

What Is Contract Cheating?

Contract Cheating is a form of academic dishonesty where students have academic work completed on their behalf, which they then submit for academic credit and advantage as if they had created it themselves. This day of action aims to raise awareness of contract cheating and the threat it poses to educational systems. As many as 16 million people could be receiving fraudulent certifications yearly as a result of contract cheating.

ICAI has noted that contract cheating is on the rise as a result of the virtual learning required during the COVID-19 pandemic. Essay mills and contract cheating services have been ramping up their advertising to take advantage of vulnerable students.

“Waterloo has been working very hard to ensure that our students have access to the supports they need to complete their academic work without these services,” said Amanda McKenzie, Director of Quality Assurance and Academic Integrity at Waterloo. “We are glad to join with other post-secondary educational institutions to mark this day and raise awareness about the threat of contract cheating. Waterloo students work very hard for their academic success and it’s important to ensure that that work is not devalued.”

Integrity under attack

This year ICAI will run a student contest titled “My Own Work Helps Me Excel with Integrity,” where the top three students will win a gift card. Students are encouraged to create messaging to speak out against contract cheating. Students can submit videos, poems, songs, artwork and much more. Students are also encouraged to post their messages against contract cheating using the hashtag #myownwork #excelwithintegrity.

This year, ICAI organizations worldwide live streamed more than 20 hours of their activities to demonstrate a united global front against contract cheating.

50% Of Students Are Cheating About Once Per Year

According to the ICAI, violations of academic integrity are common phenomena in our educational institutions. Decades of work by Donald McCabe, Rutgers University, suggest that as many as half of our students are cheating at least once per year. The Josephson Institute, which surveys high school students every other year, suggests that while 50% of students admit to cheating, 93% are “satisfied with their own ethics and character”. Clearly then, we have a situation in which a great number of our students are engaging in their academics with the idea that it is acceptable, and certainly not unethical, to cheat. Although few would deny that violations of academic integrity are bad for our students, bad for our educational institutions and bad for our society, cheating seems to continue because of a lack of serious attention to the matter. Thus, the kind of “normal” cheating that has occurred since the beginning of schooling (e.g., copying homework or using “cheat sheets” during an exam), has evolved into something even more insidious and damaging to education in the twenty-first century.

What drives someone to cheat in the first place?

This is multifaceted and typically exasperated by stressors or pressure due to family expectations, financial demands, mental health issues, poor time management or organizational skills, lack of engagement in course content or connection with instructor etc.

What are the telltale signs Of Cheating?

"Some telltale signs that a paper was written by a third party can be found in the properties of the document. For example, there may be the name of the original author (i.e., not the student) or notes to the student from the author. In addition, in the text of the document there may be different tones or writing styles or word use that are inconsistent with the student’s previous writing or writing level," said Amanda McKenzie.

Does widespread cheating reflect poorly on the institutions?

At present, widespread cheating is not specific to any one institution, but is a result of the sudden shift to online teaching and learning in a health pandemic. Students have resorted to basic survival skills to cope and in some cases they have engaged in academic dishonesty to protect their academic grades and standing.

Impacts Everyone

Academic Contract Cheating impacts everyone because when students commission pieces of work to be completed by others and then submit these pieces for credit toward their academic credential:

  • the credentials given by educational institutions are untrustworthy
  • it causes reputational damage to educational institutions
  • it allows students to purchase their way to a degree, thereby turning all of our educational institutions into diploma mills
  • devalues the education of other students who played by the rules
  • creates and contributes to a culture of fraud and commercialization of education

The courage to act with integrity

“Academic Integrity is the foundation of the educational enterprise. When students submit assessments that are honest, trustworthy, respectful, responsible and fair representations of their knowledge and abilities at a particular point in time, they are exhibiting the courage to act with integrity even when under the stress and pressure of schooling,” said ICAI