Student Copying, Plagiarism, Essay Factories and Ghost Writers

A recent article from The Conversation analyses issues with plagiarism or cheating, especially amongst international students, although a little light on insight and innovative solutions e.g. why or why not use essays in assessment?

Essay factories and ghost writers have become an issue in international education especially.

Cheating Amongst University Students (Image copyright Pexels)

Doing away with essays won’t necessarily stop students cheating

December 20, 2018 6.06am AEDT

Julie Hare Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne

It’s never been easier for university students to cheat. We just need look to the scandal in 2015 that revealed up to 1,000 students from 16 Australian universities had hired the Sydney-based MyMaster company to ghost-write their assignments and sit online tests.

It’s known as contract cheating – when a student pays a third party to undertake their assignments which they then pass off as their own. Contract cheating isn’t new – the term was coined in 2006. But it’s becoming more commonplace because new technologies, such as the smart phone, are enablers.

Cheating is taken seriously by universities and the national regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Much of the focus has been on changing assessment tasks to ones deemed to be harder for a third party to undertake. This is called “authentic assessment”.

This type of assessment has been widely adopted at universities. They are comprised of tasks that evaluate knowledge and skills by presenting students with real-world scenarios or problems relevant to the kinds of challenges they would face following graduation. But new research found authentic assessment may be as vulnerable to cheating as other more obvious examples, such as essays.

What the research shows…

….They found, for both students and teachers, assessments with a short turnaround time and heavily weighted in the final mark were perceived as the tasks which were the most likely to attract contract cheating.

Assessments perceived as the least likely to attract contract cheating were in-class tasks, personalised and unique tasks, vivas (oral explanations of a written task) and reflections on practical placements. But these tasks were the least likely to be set by educators, presumably because they’re resource and time intensive….

…So what do we do about it?

This research provides yet more compelling evidence that curriculum and changes to teaching strategies and early intervention must be employed to support students’ academic endeavours…

…The data demonstrates assessment tasks designed to develop relevant professional skills, which teachers are highly likely to set, were perceived by students as tasks that can easily be cheated on. These might include asking accounting students to memorandums, reports or other communication groups to stakeholders, such as shareholders. In fact, among students from a non-English speaking background, the risks of cheating might actually increase for these tasks. This means authentic assessment might run the increasing risk of being outsourced.’

Solutions?

Related strategies could also include educating (international) students about ‘learning how to learn’ as used in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) sector, discouraging rote learning and regurgitation, management supporting teaching and learning with appropriate funding and systems.  Related, less pressure on enrolment and retention rates, then more innovative ongoing assessments including shorter open book exams and in class assignments with focus upon higher level skills according to Bloom’s taxonomy i.e. analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

For more related articles and blog posts about academic integrity, assessment, copying, learning, pedagogy and student plagiarism click through.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Student Evaluations in Higher Education and Universities

While student evaluations or ‘happy sheets’ become routine in higher education and universities, some question both effectiveness and efficiency in using such instruments to assess quality. Further, what is quality in teaching, learning, assessment, technology, administration and student well-being, then how and when should it be applied?

Student feedback and evaluations in higher education

Student Experience Feedback (Image copyright Pexels)

From the AIM Network Australia:

Mutual Decline: The Failings of Student Evaluation

November 30, 2018 Written by: Dr Binoy Kampmark

That time of the year. Student evaluations are being gathered by the data crunchers. Participation rates are being noted. Attitudes and responses are mapped. The vulnerable, insecure instructor, fearing an execution squad via email, looks apprehensively at comments in the attached folder that will, in all likelihood, devastate rather than reward. “Too much teaching matter”; “Too heavy in content”; “Too many books.” Then come the other comments from those who seem challenged rather than worn down; excited rather than dulled. These are few and far between: the modern student is estranged from instructor and teaching. Not a brave new world, this, but an ignorant, cowardly one.

The student evaluation, ostensibly designed to gather opinions of students about a taught course, is a surprisingly old device. Some specialists in the field of education, rather bravely, identify instances of this in Antioch during the time of Socrates and instances during the medieval period. But it took modern mass education to transform the exercise into a feast of administrative joy.

Student evaluations, the non-teaching bureaucrat’s response to teaching and learning, create a mutually complicit distortion. A false economy of expectations is generated even as they degrade the institution of learning, which should not be confused with the learning institution. (Institutions actually have no interest, as such, in teaching, merely happy customers.) It turns the student into commodity and paying consumer, units of measurement rather than sentient beings interested in learning. The instructor is also given the impression that these matter, adjusting method, approach and content. Decline is assured…

…Education specialists, administrators and those who staff that fairly meaningless body known as Learning and Teaching, cannot leave the instructing process alone. For them, some form of evaluation exercise must exist to placate the gods of funding and quality assurance pen pushers.

What then, to be done? Geoff Schneider, in a study considering the links between student evaluations, grade inflation and teaching, puts it this way, though he does so with a kind of blinkered optimism. “In order to improve the quality of teaching, it is important for universities to develop a system for evaluating teaching that emphasises (and rewards) the degree of challenge and learning that occurs in courses.” Snow balls suffering an unenviable fate in hell comes to mind.

Student feedback or evaluations are an essential part of assessing, maintaining and improving quality in education and training.  However, much research and expertise is required for such instruments to be used optimally for positive outcomes.

For more articles and blogs about higher education teaching, CPD continuing professional development, enrolled student feedback, evaluation, student satisfaction and university teaching skills, click through.

 

Australian Business Challenges 2019 KPMG

Following is an excerpt from KPMG blog on top 5 concerns for Australian business leaders which include digital transformation, innovation and disruption, regulation, political paralysis and customer centricity.

Australian business leaders describe the coming challenges.

Challenges According to Business Leaders (Image copyright Pexels).

What’s really top of mind and keeping our business leaders up at night (when there’s no axe to grind)

What are Australian business leaders really concerned about when they look forward to 2019?

So our research practice, KPMG Acuity, engaged a broad spectrum of C-level leaders from a diversity of industries to think about the main issues exercising them when they consider 2019.

220 leaders – some with fewer than 50 employees, some running companies with revenues of over $1 billion a year – took time out to respond. Most were from the private sector, but the public sector is represented as well.

In order of importance the top 5 issues are.

  1. Digital Transformation

Just about every CEO has ‘digital transformation’ at top of mind. In 2018, the term ‘digital transformation’ means so many things there is a very real risk that this lack of clarity is causing confusion, leading to diverse agendas and ultimately missed opportunities.

Digital transformation includes investments in digital technologies, but also spans the modification of an organisation’s functions, its ways of working, its back office technologies, and occasionally forging a completely new business model. True transformation should also include culture – often the poor cousin behind the more visible technology investment.”

  1. Innovation and disruption

The fear of disruption, on its most elemental level, is straightforward: the constant worry that your competition will use new tech and methods to do what you are not. But as we look toward 2019, we see the dilemma is actually more immediate, more tangible, and more complex.”

One reason for this is the current global marketplace has made it abundantly clear that the network effects of the innovation race tend toward winner-takes-all. There are spectacularly outsized growth opportunities for the lucky few – and the potential to get left in the dust for everyone else. This raises the stakes enormously.

  1. Regulation

This included both the sector-specific regulations facing the financial services industry and the broader challenges of harmonising business regulation; cutting red tape; and concerns over the capacity/capability of Australia’s regulators.

While we don’t wish to see needlessly bureaucratic demands on business, there is a danger of seeing new regulation as purely negative. Reporting can be a strong discipline to get things done, so we would urge businesses not to take their eyes off the ball and get into a defensive mindset if additional regulations are introduced in their sectors, or generally in 2019.

  1. Political paralysis

Fourth on the list of issues worrying business leaders was the ongoing political log jam at Canberra. There was uncertainty over the prospect of significant reforms or necessary changes, and a lack of belief that Australia’s major parties can work cohesively on national agenda items.

Many CEOs referred to energy policy as an indicia of political paralysis. The problem was a trilemma – price, stability, environment – but political discourse could not deal with the three issues and it drifted to one of the three depending on the political perspective. As a country we have to overcome this problem and start relying on evidence-based policy.

  1. Customer centricity

Customer not only came fifth in our list – but was the issue that permeated almost every other answer. It came up in responses ranging from regulation – where it needs to be seen through a lens of driving a closer connection of trust with your customers – to big data, where the real issue, said respondents, was ensuring every sector in the business has a plan to collect and deploy its data to create real value for customers.

The companies that truly get it are those who understand there is no silver bullet. These companies understand they need to have engaged, helpful people delivering outstanding service. That these people need to be working in alignment with a great digital experience. And that it is this combination that drives loyalty, advocacy, and commercial performance.

Read our full analysis of the top 10

For more articles and blogs related to consumer behaviourdigital technology, management & leadership, and business strategy click through.