E-news Issue 8
Tuesday, 05 October 2021
Charles Darwin University
New research by CDU academics shows COVID-19 has exacerbated the severity of contract cheating in the global academic community.
New research by CDU academics shows COVID-19 has exacerbated the severity of contract cheating in the global academic community.

COVID-19 creates a new marketplace for contract cheating, new CDU study finds

A new study by Charles Darwin University (CDU) academics explores the far-reaching extent and impact of contract cheating among university students during the global pandemic.

Dr Jon Mason and Dr Guzyal Hill from CDU have recently published their research into the scope and extent of contract cheating, which involves students paying for a third party to complete their assessments.

Adopting a form of action research, one of the researchers went undercover’ as a student and sought a variety of web-based services from global contract cheating providers.

The method allowed them to analyse some of the most popular providers and to identify the scope of contract cheating services made easily accessible to university students.

The researcher also aimed to alert lecturers and universities to the diversification and prominence of this dangerous practice on a global scale.

The results show contract cheating is an increasing challenge for the global academic community, especially during COVID-19, transitioning from ghost-writing to ghost-studying. A Google search of the term ‘assignment help’ returns more than 300 million results in 2021.

The researchers said COVID-19 had exacerbated the problem as more students were tempted to “cheat the online system” while learning digitally.

“COVID has led to a whole lot of new services made available to people. It has been a catalyst for so many changes in formal education, creating new experiences for teaching and learning online at universities and schools,” Dr Mason said.

“But it has also become a trigger for new players in the space. It’s an open frontier and a new marketplace for contract cheating.”

“We are interested in knowing what’s happening in terms of online behaviour and what the online environment allows to happen,” he said.

Co-author Dr Hill said there was no winner in contract cheating, a race to the bottom.

“Once the students get into the profession, they cannot perform tasks because they missed out on learning the knowledge and skills, so the professional community is also suffering,” Dr Hill said.

“There are also many cases where students who were promised a plagiarism-free assignment by ghost writers, but that did not deliver. They could not complain due to fear of being reported to the university.

“The purpose of our study is not to catch particular students, but to identify solutions to the issue.”

Their study suggests contract cheating is a global issue, and multi-level solutions involving academics, universities and the global community are required.

“It’s not a single university’s fault or sole responsibility. Lecturers and academic often rely on plagiarism detection tools such as Turnitin, but research finds there are smarter devices that can outsmart these tools,” Dr Hill said.

“So there needs to be a model of collaboration to address this problem. We all have a responsibility to try to identify and help solve the issue.”

The full journal article can be found here.