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anytime.” As a result, “naïve, gullible, desperate students just get sucked in,” said Sutherland-Smith. (One site,, suggests to potential customers that it provides the only reasonable alternative to intractable professors who won’t give extensions due to active military missions, accidents that put students in the hospital or English learners struggling to keep up in class.)
Thomas Mays, an associate professor at the Middletown Campus of Miami University in Ohio, would likely agree with Sutherland-Smith’s assessment. In “Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Courses,” a recent Online Learning Consortium session, he told attendees, “[Contract cheating is] very difficult to catch. It takes faculty members who have academic dishonesty on mind and are actually looking for these things rather consistently. It’s easy to gloss over it and totally miss it.”
More broadly, Miami U has seen the cases of academic dishonesty increasing year over year. While there were 460 cases identified during 2015-2016, that grew to more than 500 cases in 2016-2017, Mays reported. And, the institution is “on track to go beyond that this year,” he said.
What May can’t say for certain is whether the growth is because “students have less integrity or that we’re just better at reporting it.”
The Nature of the Beast
Contract cheating takes place when a student has somebody else do all or part of the work and then hands it in as his or her own. It could be a specific paper or some other assessment task, or it could involve getting somebody else to take an entire course on behalf of the student (more easily accomplished in an online class). The cheating could be for pay or it could be performed by a supportive friend or family member. Standard plagiarism checkers don’t catch these incidents because, frequently, the providers promise “all original work” with “0 percent plagiarism.” (For proof, suggested Mays,
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | October/November 2018
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