Cheating is not unusual but a proliferation of new players here and overseas is making it harder to catch those university students breaking the rules.
Professor Cath Ellis, Associate Dean Education at the University of New South Wales, said while there was no evidence to suggest a spike in contract cheating, there was no hiding the fact that students were finding new ways to deceive institutions.
Prof Ellis said finding ways to detect and deter students from cheating was the university sector’s new battlefront.
“It is definitely something across the whole university sector we are not detecting well. We are not detecting nearly as well as we are cut and paste plagiarism, which is a different form of plagiarism,” she said.
Prof Ellis said contract cheating occurs when a student gets somebody else to do the work for them and then submits it to an institution as if it’s their own.
It doesn’t necessarily involve payment of money.
It’s an arms race. Students figure out new ways to cheat and we’ve got to figure out new ways to catch them.Professor Cath Ellis
“In some cases it does and students are using professional services, but in the majority of cases it is actually people using someone they know,” she said.
“But because it is so covert and hidden, it's by its nature designed not to be detected. Therefor it is really hard for us to put a finger on how much has ever happened and how much is going on.
“So it is hard to say whether it is increasing, decreasing or staying the same.”
Dr Ann Rogerson, the chair of the Academic Integrity Advisory Group at the University of Wollongong, added the proliferation of websites hosting paid or shared sites didn’t help matters.
Dr Rogerson said because there was money to be made out of cheating people were trying to jump on the bandwagon.
“This tends to spread the market that is already there across a large number of players. So there is more people involved in it, but whether it is spiking on the student end, it is really hard to say,” she said.
Prof Ellis, who was in Wollongong on Wednesday to launch UOW’s new Office of Academic Integrity, said how students were cheating was changing.
“It’s not only the websites mentioned. There is PayPal, e-commerce, apps...there is a whole industry now, and it is a global industry,” she said.
“It is operating out of Kenya, the Philippines, India, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka as well as the UK and US. There are also sites operating in New Zealand and Australia.
“And with PayPal, you can pay somebody anywhere in this world to do this work for you.
“It’s an arms race. Students figure out new ways to cheat and we’ve got to figure out new ways to catch them.
“At the moment this is the new battlefront.
“This is the ground that we are fighting...but universities are good at this kind of thing and we also care about it very much.”
Dr Rogerson added that students needed to develop more ethical judgement skills to resist temptation and not be seduced by quick gains and quick fixes.
Prof Ellis said everybody was responsible for academic integrity at universities.
This view was supported by UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Joe Chicharo.
He said the establishment of the centralised Office of Academic Integrity signalled UOW’s dedication to enforcing the highest of academic standards across all research, teaching and learning activities.
The office was launched on October 17 to coincide with International Day of Action Against Cheating.