contract-cheating.jpgDid you know...

... that over 71,000 post-secondary students in Canada engage in contract cheating behaviour (Eaton, 2019)? And that Canada is now tied with the UK for second place amoung countries where students engage most often in contract cheating? The USA is number one (Lancaster, 2018).

What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating is when a third party completes academic work for a student (with or without payment) and the student submits it for a grade. 

The academic work being completed, in full or in part, by these third parties can include essays, assignments, colluding with others on a take-home exam or test, or purchasing (or otherwise acquiring) a copy of exam questions, tests, or assignments.

This page aims to educate students on contract cheating, grow awareness around its the risks, and provide resources to support students develop their knowledge and positively impact academic experience for a successful future. Let's get started!

What does contract cheating look like?

Also known as academic outsourcing, essay mills, paper mills, theses-on-demand, and homework help services, among others, contract cheating occurs when a student arranges for someone else to complete their academic work and then submits the work for assessment/credit. This occurs on a scale.

  • At the lower end, it could include having a friend or family member complete some of your work or help answer some of your assignment questions.
  • Contract cheating can escalate to taking someone else’s work and submitting it as your own (with or without changing their original content).
  • And, on the more serious end, it can involve having someone else complete all of your academic work for you.  

What does it mean to me? 

Contract cheating is a form of academic misconduct that comes with its own consequences.

As a student at Langara you are bound by the Student Code of Conduct which prohibits certain behaviour on campus or concerning college activities. Prohibited conduct includes fraud, misrepresentation, or false information. 

Langara College may impose sanctions for conduct violations. The sanction, or penalty, will depend upon the nature and seriousness of the offence, and whether the student has engaged in previous misconduct. These penalties can include suspension, probation, or even expulsion from the College.

According to recent stats, around 31 million students admitted to buying a previously completed university assessment. This represents 15% of university students who potentially cheated in one area or another. – eLearning Industry

What are the risks?

By participating in any form of contract cheating, you are shortchanging your potential and putting your promising future at risk. Consider the following risks and what they mean to you:

Risking the reputation of the certificate, diploma, or degree you earn. How will cheating impact the reputation of your college degree, diploma, or certificate?

If you cheat, will you be prepared, knowledgable, and experienced  to produce good work at your job? And what happens if large numbers of students are cheating and entering the workforce unknowledgeable? This impacts the reputation of the institution, too.

Losing the trust of your instructors. If your knowledge and your efforts are not trustworthy, then what does that say about you?

Trust is a key component of a good teacher–student relationship and of a good learning environment. Trust is established over time and is based on your actions. It also ensures that you are seen as a trustworthy person – by your friends, classmates, and entire community – positively impacting all of your relationships.

Being detected by the college. Are you prepared to be denied the credential you are working so hard to achieve?

Instructors are well-versed on identifying contract cheating and have tools and resources to detect it. What would be the result of receiving zero on that assignment? What would happen if you failed the course by being caught? 

Paying for the service and receiving low-quality work or work after the deadline. Are you ready for high stress when you receive disappointing results that you paid for?

As the saying goes, if you want a thing done well, do it yourself. And if you truly want to reap the reward of a job well-done (and the knowledge, experience, and skills that will come with it), do it yourself.

Research shows that of 54 individual orders placed, 83% of those orders encountered issues.

  • Many sites do not deliver assignments on time, or at all,
  • 30% contained poor quality work, missing sections, failed to meet user specifications or were late,
  • 52% of purchased work failed to reach the requisite pass mark.
Negatively impacting your fellow students. What does that mean for your fellow students and the sacrifices made by them? 

When cheating is suspected in a class, course, program, or institution, measures must be put in place to help combat cheating and reduce its prevalence. This can adversely impact the learning environment by putting additional strain on students' work load, reducing the amount of available time for an instructor to provide constructive feedback and support, and take away from other learning opportunities in the classroom. So, by engaging with contract cheating services, you are contributing to this burden.

Distributing your personal information far and wide. Are you prepared to risk your identity and safety in exchange for these services? 

Many sites require photo identification (including driver’s licences, visas, names, addresses, phone numbers, and other contact details). These sites often share or disclose users' identity with other third-party sites placing students in vulnerable situations. Some sites also repeatedly contact users to pressure them to purchase further assignments or upgrade their orders in various forms of aggressive marketing.

Being extorted. How would you feel knowing the service you used was taking advantage of you?

Students who buy work will find that companies will demand payment with the threat of informing the student’s institution. Oftentimes once these companies receive money, they will say that the payment did not go through and demand additional funds from the student. 

Sometimes disgruntled writers at essay mills may not even inform the student, and instead contact the school directly with information that a student did not complete their own work.

One study in Australia found that all students who purchased work had either experienced or know someone who experienced being extorted by a contract cheating company for additional money. 

Studies in Higher Education

Losing access to your student accounts . What will you do when you can't access the student systems critical to study? 

Unethical tutors, who wish to extort money from students, will often begin by saying they need access your D2L, Brightspace, or student email to “review your coursework and help you study”. However, once logged in they will change the password to your student accounts and demand money before they will give you access back. Some will even threaten to inform your institution that they have been completing work on your behalf.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Your best defense is a good offence. To avoid risking your reputation, your high-quality education, and your money, start by saying no. Then, follow these steps to safeguard yourself against contract cheating.

  • Avoid essay mills and essay writing companies. Period. 
  • Protect access to your student accounts – do not share passwords to your D2L and student email, and do not allow others to access your online accounts on your behalf. 
  • Talk to your instructor
    • Ask for help 
    • Ask to review work 
    • Attend office hours 
    • Review syllabus about extension policies – if not there, ask your instructor 
  • Find a tutor – if you would like additional help, ask for recommendations from friends or your instructors. There are also free tutoring services available at Langara College.
  • Educate yourself and warn other students of these risks – know the difference between help and contract cheating.
  • Review the academic integrity policy to understand what contract cheating and unauthorized collaboration looks like – read through the examples to avoid unintentionally violating college policy.
  • Access academic supports available to you on campus:
  • Take care of your mental health – make sure you look after yourself throughout the semester, not just when you are feeling overwhelmed and overstressed.

What should you do if you've been a victim of contract cheating?

There are steps you should take if you’ve been a victim of contract cheating.

  • Do not pay the individual or company attempting to demand money. 
  • Contact Langara IT immediately if you have been locked out of your student accounts.
  • Seek specialist help – contact legal representation, your LSU Ombudsperson, etc. 
  • Contact the Office of Student Conduct & Academic Integrity if you did not participate in contract cheating.
  • Take care of yourself – seek out mental health support available for students:
  • Report the incident to the Government of Canada. Anyone can report suspected cheating and can do so anonymously.

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