When it is not ethical?
It has become a topic of discussion that university students are paying other experts in buying assignments. It is a process that is identified as contract cheating. The article will investigate strategies on how to mitigate the problem of contract cheating.
The topic is a fast developing, low researched area, which has a serious implication for contract cheating. In a way, it can be identified as those people working in various roles in society who did not demonstrate the required learning. These roles include doctors, engineers, midwives, lawyers, nurses, dentists, or judges.
The use of contract cheating is common to bypass any gatekeeping done by the university assignments and undervalues the university degree.
Mainstream media has been actively covering the problem of contract cheating. Some stories highlight how some companies do certain things and the outcome of what they actually do. These companies have been observed to provide catchy eye advertising used in public, bringing legitimacy to their activities.
But it is hard to tell the exact number of students involved in contract cheating. There are various academic tales where students have been known to use the services excessively. There are chat forums that act just like Tripadvisor and hide their real image.
But what is known, any assignment can be purchased easily, and there are hundreds of sites providing the services like Dissertation writing help. Search engine results show that words common in these services are words like essays.
Services that the students get do not cost much and have a fast turnaround time. When students were surveyed to learn about the penalties upon using the service, most of the students resorted to modest penalties.
Does a question arise on how to deal with this problem? There are various ways to address the problem. There are four identified themes: stakeholder education, university regulation, and legal support. The UK has already shown legal support in regulating higher education.
Quality Assurance Agency or QAA has developed UK Fraud Act which can deal with UK-based companies dealing in contract cheating services.
The law and its implication have been researched against contract cheating services. The act, however, is not something that can penalize the company for providing such service. The Disclaimers found that the website clearly states that the answers are not done by students and are considered model answers. Hence, the Fraud Act is still not a sufficient tool to directly charge these companies for the services.
Considering the research, a new law has been proposed which penalizes any offense of selling essays. But since the situation is a fast-moving issue, banning essay mill businesses will still question the aspect of intent. The other approaches to dealing with the case are stakeholder education, assessment design, and university norms.
These tools will need more research. In this context, Australian universities have suggested that a regulation must be included to penalize the situation where a student has commissioned the essay as an academic offense. A regulatory framework must be needed to help the values be reinforced within the students.
A popular tool to support students online is the Skills for Learning, Skills for life project driven by Swansea Academy and Learning Center. The project is run in association with Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand universities. The pilot project feedback indicates that students engaged in the learning process become effective when they are supported by academic writers using timetable sessions.
In this context, Europe has shown a much more coordinated approach. An ENTINED Platform driven by the Council of Europe has taken a stance against educational corruption. It has a separate stream that is focused on contract cheating.
The other side of the coin
On the other side, it must be understood why students avail such services. Students have been researched to be over pressed by the number of assignments. On average, each student has to manage two to three assignments every week. These assignments test various skill sets of the student. It becomes a pressure situation when assignments start piling up. As an individual, it exerts excessive pressure of being penalized for late submission or missing the marks due to lack of quality.
The other most important reason is that cost of education is soaring in the leading countries. On average, a student has to take a loan to fulfill the education expenses. It becomes a challenge for the students to fulfill the loan. It is a reason why students need to find a part-time job. It has become a common aspect in UK, USA, and Australian universities.
Even students studying in these universities from other countries have to indulge in part-time jobs for loan pressure. These students need to free up time for their jobs and balance their studies. It is why students tend to buy the assignment done by the experts. It becomes a matter of survival rather than maintaining ethics. As the job market is shrinking, the chances of earning back the money invested for studies are becoming slender.
There is the situation where students have to save their day to remain prevalent in their major subject. Contract cheating might question the credibility of the learning of the student. But is it valid that an engineering student could not score good grades due to weakness in essay writing?
The same applies to a budding programmer who is weak in inter-personal communication but has exceptional programming skills. It is not always true that whatever assignments are thrown at the students are relevant to their study or prove their subjective mastery quality. It has been observed that students are more interested in hiring the writing services for topics which do not really match with their subject of masters or graduation.
As an outcome of the discussion, it has to be accepted that the educational coursework still needs development. The coursework design, soaring fees of education, and lack of equity in education have created opportunity that students to find way to get their assignment fulfilled, save their day and survive another day to pay off the educational loan.
Demands indeed develop the need for supply, and putting students under challenges has forced them to contract to cheat. Suppose education is for students; why is it so expensive, or do students need to study subjects not relevant to their field of learning. It is a strong question which needs to be addressed by the government, educational policies and stakeholders. Especially, the role of stakeholders in education needs to answer these basic questions.
John Mills has been an education columnist and is connected with various pilot projects in educational development. This article digs up the debate that why students resort to them if contract cheating is wrong. It also identifies various educational system holes that need to be researched and reconsidered. It is an area that needs careful examination. The article is an excellent eye-opener that can counter-question the role of stakeholders in education.