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Remote learning is a powerful platform for learning under many circumstances, affording increased flexibility for students with challenging schedules, access anywhere and anytime, and yes, access during a pandemic.
However, when undertaken under emergency circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition to remote learning can be stressful. And when students are stressed, lack connection to learning and to their teachers, and are struggling, they are more tempted to take short cut solutions like cheating (Park et al, 2013).
Contract cheating, specifically, is an increased possibility, because it may be more tempting for students to ask friends or online sites to write their essays for them without detection when they feel isolated and unseen. Additionally, contract cheating companies thrive online and market directly to students via social media; students are often targeted by companies when they tweet out about needing help on their paper. Contract cheating companies position their service as a “help” and a “smart choice” that is “plagiarism-free” to students at their most vulnerable, normalizing their offering and making students feel like they’re not engaging in misconduct.
The recent, unexpected transition from traditional face-to-face classrooms to remote learning in the context of a pandemic is one that triggers factors (a sense of isolation, lack of student support, and increased stress) that influence academic misconduct--and academic integrity offices everywhere, such as UC San Diego, are preparing nimble responses for remote learning.
At Turnitin, we’re hearing the following academic integrity concerns when it comes to remote learning in recent days:
Here are some suggestions to prevent contract cheating in remote learning classrooms:
DEFINE CONTRACT CHEATING FOR REMOTE LEARNERS
ESTABLISH TEACHER-STUDENT RAPPORT TO DISCUSS CHALLENGING ISSUES LIKE CONTRACT CHEATING
If something doesn’t line up in a student’s writing (e.g., if there is a marked shift in student diction), it is time to open a dialogue with your student. If you’ve had prior, positive communication with the student via feedback, you’ve already laid down the groundwork for intervention.
If you have to have a difficult conversation about contract cheating, your availability makes it easier for the two of you to connect.
This approach may also serve as a baseline for student voice and writing style that in-class assignments often serve to detect contract cheating.
Additionally, feedback loops give you more visibility into your students’ authorial voices within a remote learning context.
ADDRESS SPECIFIC LEARNING NEEDS FOR REMOTE LEARNERS
Supported students are less apt to cheat.
If your students know that you have prioritized their needs they are thus less vulnerable to contract cheating companies.
Finally, Turnitin Originality provides tools, reports, and data to help instructors feel more confident in identifying many forms of potential misconduct including contract cheating. Turnitin Originality helps surface data and insights to make identification and mitigation of contract cheating easier to do at-scale and in a positive way. Some authorship features of Turnitin Originality include:
The realm of remote and online classrooms is a new frontier for many educators--and at Turnitin, we hope our suggestions are helpful. Together, we can promote learning and the development of student authorial voices.