International Opportunities for Action to Reduce Contract Cheating

Topics: Blog, Spotlight

The International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating is due to run for the fourth time on Wednesday 16 October 2019. It’s an event that I feel is needed now as much as ever.

The International Day of Action, an International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) initiative, brings together universities, educational establishments, staff and students from around the world to discuss contract cheating and the benefits of working with integrity. I’ve been involved with the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating since it first ran in 2016. Back then, I was working at Coventry University with Dr Irene Glendinning. We ran a successful event alongside the Coventry University Students’ Union. Irene was instrumental in making sure that the event was effective, the information provided to students was helpful and the entire endeavour gained the right type of media publicity.

Although we’re no longer based at the same institution, Irene and I have continued to collaborative to promote academic integrity. We came together online in August 2019 to present a webinar discussing the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, why it continues to be so important and how institutions and individuals can get involved on 16 October 2019. The webinar was supported by the International Center for Academic Integrity and by Turnitin. You can watch the webinar recording here.

On the webinar, we discussed why contract cheating is such a problem today, probably more so than when I first published on this area in 2006, or when the first International Day of Action took place in 2016. Contract cheating has become a sophisticated industry. Essay writing firms are doing everything they can to make sure that students know about the services they offer. It is so important for us to warn students the danger the industry poses and to work with students as partners for integrity. Many students themselves feel just as strongly about contract cheating as we do.

The International Day of Action lets individual institutions generate a buzz around their own campus, but also to tie into all the activity going on internationally. Whiteboard declarations, where students and staff declare on a whiteboard why they do not contract cheat, then share the results on social media, have been an incredibly powerful tool to help people to think about academic integrity. You can see the results posted under the student selected hashtags #defeatthecheat and #excelwithintegrity. It’s fascinating to watch the collection of social media posts build up as the day rolls on in time zones around the world. The fantastic ideas for activities to use with students are too many to list, but many of my favourites involve games and puzzles. Anything to get students engaged and talking about integrity. Dare I add, it’s often useful to get staff engaged and talking about integrity too?

One of the webinar attendees shared a great idea for a contract cheating escape room, which I really hope comes off. We’ve seen institutions creating videos, asking for the International Day of Action to be discussed during teaching sessions, getting students to act out performances, bringing in guest speakers (last year I remotely delivered a keynote from London, United Kingdom to Calgary, Canada) and many places involving the local TV, radio and print media to get positive publicity about their day. A lot of the most powerful activities have been ones generated by students themselves.

There is still time to get involved with the fourth International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating on 16 October 2019. You can find out more and sign up with ICAI. If you have any questions about the day, or thoughts to share, Irene and I will be running an updated version of the webinar on 16 September 2019. Do virtually come along even if you attended the first webinar or watched the recording. We will be using some different examples and the discussion during the first webinar was one of the most useful parts.

You can register for the webinar at Turnitin or ICAI.

About the Author
Dr Thomas Lancaster is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Computing at Imperial College London, UK, with responsibility for student support. He is an experienced academic integrity researcher and international speaker, with publications dating back to 2000. He completed his PhD in 2003, where he developed plagiarism detection technology intended to be more intuitive for users. Thomas collaborated with international colleagues for the Council of Europe South East European Project on Academic Integrity (SEEPPAI) research. With Robert Clarke, he published the first research on contract cheating, an area he continues to discuss regularly in the media. His recent work has focused on the writers and providers behind contract cheating, the reasons students commit contract cheating and the opportunities to work with student partners to reduce contract cheating (http://thomaslancaster.co.uk).
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