Page 21 - Campus Technology, October/November 2018
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just do a search for “research paper” on Twitter and follow the responses students get when they tweet complaints about their latest assignments.)
By posing as help services, many of the companies operating in this space tap into the desperation students feel when they’re overwhelmed. As Mays observed, schools have to get at “the heart of why students cheat. In many cases it’s because they’re stressed out. It’s not because they don’t necessarily know what plagiarism is.”
And sometimes, the cheating happens accidentally. “The thing is, you can tell students not to do something, but if they don’t understand what it is they’re not meant to do, then it makes no difference,” said Sutherland-Smith. “There’s been quite a bit of research about [telling students] in the unit guide or in the syllabus, ‘Don’t engage in plagiarism [and] reference your stuff properly.’ But if students don’t know what that looks like or they think they’re already doing that, you get into a situation where students are very fearful. So you’ll get a citation at the end of every sentence because they don’t want to be caught for plagiarism, which, of course, is not what you want either.” Her remedy: to show students examples and have them practice.
But that’s not all. Like many institutions, both Deakin and Miami have specific ongoing educational strategies to help students understand the rules of academic integrity. At Miami, instructors are encouraged to use a “module zero” approach
— a pre-work module that might include course basics, but also includes an academic integrity sub-module laying out the guidelines, created by the teaching community, that can be imported into the course with a couple of mouse clicks. And early in the semester each year, Deakin’s student association hosts a “contract cheating awareness week” on each of the university’s three campuses to educate students about academic integrity, citing resources and references and how to spot unethical providers.
Awareness efforts also need to cover the “serious long-term ramifications of this,” said Sutherland-Smith. Students may not get caught right away; they may even believe they’ve gotten away with cheating once their degree is in hand. “But what happens if all of a sudden you’re found out five years down the track and your degree is revoked and you can no longer work in that profession? Students need to understand that the quick fix of getting something contract cheated could cost them dearly in the end.”
The Good and Bad of Tech Solutions
Both institutions also turn to technology to help out. For example, Miami currently uses Proctorio, one of myriad online proctoring services. According to a faculty explanation, the software is useful for locking down the browser for face-to-face class exams and recording student activities and geographic location for online
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | October/November 2018
Authorship Investigation is a new service announced (but not yet released) by Turnitin specifically to combat contract cheating by comparing aspects of the file’s authorship, such as readability, punctuation, vocabulary, file naming and changes in layout. According to the company’s public statements, the application will use “a combination of machine learning algorithms and forensic linguistic best practices to detect major differences in students’ writing style between papers.” Wendy Sutherland-Smith, director of teaching and learning in Deakin University’s School of Psychology, has tested the technology and found it to be “impressive” in terms of the “breadth of the forensic linguistics and what the software is doing in terms of looking for writing style.”
Specifically, Deakin has run a trial of the software against historical cases — situations where instances of contract cheating were proven. The technology could be invaluable in large-enrollment courses where faculty don’t have the time to get familiar with every student’s writing style. “We don’t have the time and we don’t have the resources to be able to do that kind of metadata comparison. We just don’t have the staff to do it,” Sutherland-Smith explained. “That’s where something like this tool is really useful. It can check a number of files. It can do it quickly.”
Her concern, however, is that the results will be misunderstood in the same way they are for those who use the text-matching program.“Thetoolwillnotdetectcontractcheating,”shesaid.“The tool will only supply data that warrants further investigation by people like me.”

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