Since there seems to be an app for everything, it’s no surprise that there is an app for cheating. But it’s not just an app. There are hundreds of companies and apps that can be used to complete homework, tests, writing assignments, and even student essays and exams.
But what surprised me most as an educator playing this cat-and-mouse game for decades is that cheating is now spread and outsourced internationally and fueled by investors in venture capitalists, Wall Street investors and billionaire companies. One of the largest companies whose services allow students to cheat, Chegg, faces a lawsuit filed in September by the large textbook company Pearson.
Companies like Chegg and Course Hero offer monthly subscription formats – similar to Netflix – in which students pay $ 10 or $ 15 per month for 24-hour access to resources, including exam questions, textbook solutions and homework help, which means subscribers can upload an issue to their accounts and expect proven answers within minutes or within an hour. They also have on-demand access to numerous experts, often based overseas (Chegg employs over 70,000 experts in India), with advanced degrees in math, science, engineering, technology, business, economics and other subjects. These experts, available online 24/7, are the source of step-by-step answers.
Companies like Grade Bees and EduBirdie will even write your five-page reflective paper or 25-page essay, as original work, at varying prices. English-speaking writers from all over the world are for hire, in some cases within days or even hours. Some sites and guides inform the student that their relationship will be closely watched, and no, the student’s teacher shouldn’t be able to find out, at least not with the right precautions.
Cheating is so prevalent that the Stanford University Graduate Student Council recently announced that it has approved revisions to its Academic Honor Code to allow oversight of tests. If the changes are adopted, they will represent the first revision of the code since 1977, according to the student newspaper. Reported honor code violations have increased 114% in the past two years.
Numerous reports have chronicled widespread cheating in colleges and universities, especially in STEM fields. This year, articles in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and UK publications including Education Technology shed light on the growth and profits of state-owned companies like Chegg.
Chegg said 4.9 million subscribers at the end of June, a 31% year-over-year increase, and $ 198.5 million in quarterly revenue, also a 30% year-over-year increase on the other. Among its many services, there is a way for cheaters to overcome the obstacle of problem-solving questions, in which students are invited to show how they got their answers. On-demand Chegg experts can personally answer the subscriber’s unique test or duty question.
An unintended consequence of technology enabling distance learning and exams, students are increasingly finding sites online where they can get grades and diplomas by cheating.
How do we curb this global supply chain of cheating and its threat to the integrity of our students and our education systems?
The answer depends on the motivation behind the decision to cheat. Some students don’t see this as cheating because they are paying a legitimate company for the service; many feel obliged to obtain the marks and thus justify their means. Other students can use these services to make up for learning lost when in-person instruction was interrupted during the pandemic.
Many students who cheat shy away from the academic consequences, as there are few technological solutions to capture the original answers provided by the experts, and plagiarism detection software cannot detect the original work purchased and paid for by these students.
However, in 2020 Australian lawmakers made it illegal to organize or advertise the sale of certain cheating services such as writing paid essays. Did it have an effect? According to Forbes author Derek Newton, many of the biggest and best-known copywriting factories are going out of business there. But even then, the fear of getting caught is probably not enough motivation to stop all the cheating students.
Another action that should target fraudulent businesses is to get Visa and PayPal to stop acting as payment intermediaries for them. And professors and their universities could join the Pearson trial, although that may be a step too far for most risk-averse higher education institutions.
Countering this cheating requires a coordinated effort on the part of educational institutions and their accreditation bodies, with accreditation agencies possibly modifying online professional entrance exams to prevent cheating. Fields such as engineering, science, and nursing will lose out in the long run if new students cheat to enter professions.
Indeed, it is our society that loses the most from this cheating in plain view. Cheating corrupts the individual who cheats, yes, but it also erodes the trust we have in our education system, its honest graduates, and the people we depend on to build technology that truly serves human interaction, decision making. and success.