Thomas Lancaster’s new article, “Commercial contract cheating provision through micro-outsourcing websites,” was published on August 26 by the International Journal for Educational Integrity. This article reviews micro-outsourcing and it’s methodology allows for a comparative look at one particular company that provides contract cheating services over time. 

This article brings up several issues that may have been on the periphery of academic honesty as many institutions transition to online or distance learning. Immediate academic honesty issues have typically been centered on online proctoring services and plagiarism, but practitioners should be concerned about the anonymity provided by online learning and the potential pitfalls that would allow contract cheating services to flourish. 

A new survey released by Visual Objects shows that 52% of students now believe that cheating will increase, with 31% of students predicting no change in cheating with an increased online presence. This new data requires further analysis to see if there is a distinct change in cheating in online learning due to COVID-19, and what causal factors lead to these changes.

What if these changes are occurring because students registered for online courses are not the ones participating in an online course? How do educators and institutions effectively ensure that students are the ones logging in to the e-learning platforms? Sure, there are some expanded technology services that may search the metadata and keystrokes to determine authentic authorship, but how will these stack up to a student that outsources their entire course? Is it reasonable to expect faculty or staff to deep dive into IP addresses when a VPN may be used to circumvent investigations?

Students may be tempted to engage in contract cheating, especially if they are strapped for time, as relayed in this article from the South Florida Times. This issue needs to be addressed institutionally and by instructors. Comment below to show how you are addressing contract cheating at your institution.