Custom writing services are increasing the prevalence of “contract cheating” and diminishing the value of higher education

One in three college instructors report that their students have submitted papers written by someone else. However, instructors feel they lack the evidence and resources to take action. This survey conducted by Turnitin—a company at the forefront of academic integrity solutions for 20 years—supports the growing concern in academia that custom writing services are increasing the prevalence of “contract cheating” and diminishing the value of higher education. Click to Tweet.

“Contract cheating,” sometimes known as ghostwriting, is the practice of students engaging a third-party individual or service to complete their written assessments. Today, Turnitin announced a partnership with leading educational institutions to take action against contract cheating. With the help of academic integrity researchers, forensic linguists, and machine learning experts, Turnitin is developing a solution to counter the threat contract cheating poses to institutions’ values.

Turnitin’s upcoming solution, Authorship Investigation—available in the second half of 2018—will support institutions in identifying and investigating potential contract cheating incidences. The new capability will use a combination of machine learning algorithms and forensic linguistic best practices to detect major differences in students’ writing style between papers. The following institutions have joined forces with Turnitin to advise the development process: Deakin University, Griffith University, University of California San Diego, University of New South Wales, University of Northampton, University of Queensland, and University of Wollongong.

“Academic integrity is at the foundation of the educational enterprise and contract cheating poses a serious threat to that foundation,” said Tricia Bertram Gallant, UC San Diego’s Director of Academic Integrity. “Ultimately paying attention to pedagogy and assessment design is the best method for preventing contract cheating, but when it happens regardless it would be useful to have a tool to help identify it.”

“Educational institutions around the world stand united in our commitment to academic integrity. We must constantly adapt and adjust our approach to it in the face of new challenges as they emerge such as contract cheating,” said Cath Ellis, Associate Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW. “A new industry is servicing a demand for assessment work to be completed to order for students so it goes unnoticed by existing detection tools. Something that enables institutions to identify when this is happening in a way that is both efficient and effective is going to be a big step forward.”

“Turnitin prides itself on being a leader in academic integrity tools. We’ve addressed copy-paste plagiarism, student collusion, and research misconduct,” said Turnitin CEO Chris Caren. “Taking on emerging threats to academic integrity like contract cheating is a natural extension of our mission. As forms of academic misconduct evolve, so must Turnitin’s offerings. We believe in the value of higher education, and we see our forthcoming solution as playing an essential role in protecting the degrees institutions confer.”

Learn more about the problem of contract cheating and Turnitin’s upcoming solution here

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