We all know that cheating is wrong. But with the combined stresses of remote learning, assessment deadlines and the COVID-19 pandemic, some students may be tempted to resort to various of forms of cheating. But what may seem to be a way to make life easier right now can have serious consequences both for the person that cheats and the people around them.
With the transition to remote learning, cheating is on the rise across all universities and more and more students are getting caught up in situations that lead them to breaches in academic integrity requirements – sometimes without even realising it. While most cases are related to plagiarism, other more serious forms, such as contract cheating, are becoming more commonplace. It’s important to know that the consequences and the dangers of contract cheating are serious, not only for the students who engage in it, but for everyone else too.
Contract cheating is outsourcing of academic work to a third party. Contract cheating takes on many forms and often it’s easy to mistake certain actions for collaboration when in reality they are actually forms of contract cheating. Examples of what is considered contract cheating include:
Many sites that offer contract cheating don’t advertise themselves as doing so and will often take on the appearance of providing a legitimate, honest service. You may have seen these targeted ads when browsing the internet or as a sponsored advertisement on social media platforms. It’s easy to ignore or report ads that bluntly offer cheating services, but what about those seemingly endless ‘tutoring’ ads? It can be very confusing and can lead to unintended consequences.
If you think you can benefit from some tutoring, or are unsure what an advertised ‘tutoring service’ is actually offering, it’s far better to reach out for academic support or University teachers for advice before you find yourself in a situation that could land you in trouble.
The consequences of contract cheating aren’t simply limited to academic misconduct under the University’s policies. This could range from failing a an assignment or the unit of study, to exclusion from your course. If you are an international student, there is even greater risk: a cheating infringement can affect your study visa. Most importantly, you're cheating yourself – you won’t learn the knowledge and skills you’re here to gain in the first place, and will need to succeed in your chosen career.
Cheating on assessments negatively impacts your fellow students as it gives individuals that engage in it an unfair advantage, and can result in the entire cohort facing the consequences. No one wants to be that person. Additionally, the individuals offering contract treating services cannot be trusted. There have been cases of perpetrators blackmailing students that use their services under threat of revealing the student’s actions to the University.
Contract cheating undermines the trust employers and the general public have in universities, the value of degrees and graduates, the students. And if all that wasn’t enough contract cheating is now considered a criminal offence in Australia.
While the legislation targets the activities of commercial contract cheating companies in providing or advertising their paid services to students, it also creates a civil offence for individuals providing illegitimate assistance, whether for payment or not. This would cover situations, for example, where a friend or family member writes or contributes to a substantial part of a student’s work.
"With an increase in academic breaches across the University and across the sector, these legislative changes provide a valuable mechanism to block contract cheating companies from targeting students and empower educational institutions to educate students and keep them away from these nefarious organisations," said Professor McCallum, Registrar and Academic Director (Education).
October 20 is the International Center for Academic Integrity’s International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. Join our student reps in the fight against contract cheating.