“Contract cheating occurs when a student procures a third party (who knows about and benefits from the transaction) to produce academic work (that is usually, but not always assessable work) that the student then submits to an educational institution as if it were their own” (Ellis, Zucker & Randall (2018) p. 1).
There is no silver bullet solution for the problem of contract cheating. It is multi-faceted, and calls for multiple mitigation strategies.
No assessment is “cheat-proof” but assessment design is widely regarded as an important strategy. What makes sense or is possible in one course, may not fit for another course. Instructors considering assessment options can:
- Find comprehensive advice on this Australian website on contract cheating and assessment design. For example, see this 1-pager on assessment to foster academic integrity.
- A UK higher education sector resource on How to Address Essay Mills and Contract Cheating, 2nd Ed.
- Consult with GMCTL staff to discuss ideas and consider joining an upcoming Assessment Short Course.
Appropriate help for students
Students may find sites because they are legitimately looking for help with their learning. Some sites known for enabling contract cheating can be used in appropriate ways. Refer students to appropriate help available at our University. For example:
- Student Learning Services offers workshops and resources already attuned to academic integrity and good learning practices.
- Help, tutorial, and study sessions are offered by some courses or programs. If yours is one of them, promote this kind of help actively, including pointing out that this is better than third party assistance for both quality and academic integrity.
- Offer instructor office hours. It can be more comfortable for students to meet with you in pairs or small groups, including during remote instruction.
- Warn students about problems in addition to academic misconduct penalties that they risk with contract cheating sites. See this post for more about how Contract Cheating is Riskier Than Students Think.
- Dr. Sarah Elaine Eaton, a Canadian and leading researcher in academic integrity at the University of Calgary, made this resource available in 202: 15 Strategies to Detect Contract Cheating.
Some Canadian research
- Of note is recent Canadian research that points out a lack of specificity regarding contract cheating in institutional academic misconduct policies and regulations (see Stoesz & Eaton, 2020; and Stoesz et al, 2019).
- Blocking access to known contract cheating sites on institutional networks (Seeland, Stoesz, & Vogt, 2020).
See What is Contract Cheating? for more on contract cheating as a phenomenon in higher education.