Essay Mills Ghost Writers and University Students

Academic integrity, copying, plagiarism, collusion, ‘ghost writing’ and essay factories have become a fact of life in university or higher education, internationally.  This article endeavours to explain how or why is it an issue but at same time, short on what are the solutions?

While western democracies, and the developing world, have politicians, business and public leaders openly flouting ethical standards through egregious corruption and related unethical behaviour, is it any wonder?

Some solutions are precluded by universities’ corporate or financial needs e.g. rather than (barely modified) assessments that are more efficient to grade (or worse more multiple choice), there maybe a need for a return to in class open book and variety of assessments?

Academic integrity plagiarism essay factories and ghost writing for university students

Academic Integrity at University (Image copyright Pexels).

From The Guardian, Chris Husbands:

Essay mills prey on vulnerable students – let’s stamp them out

Universities alone can’t stop the rise of essay mills. We need support from the government and tech firms to defeat them

In the 1990s, there was enormous optimism around how the internet would connect people and make knowledge available to all. Fast forward twenty years, and identity theft, cybercrime, online bullying and appalling sexual exploitation have become everyday news stories. Increasingly, it’s the perversions of the internet which dominate our thinking.

The business model is simple. You have an essay to write, you are time poor, you pay a fee for the essay to be written. The fee these crooks charge depends on the length, the standard you are looking for, and the deadline you are facing….

For universities, the digital world’s most concerning development is the spread of essay mills. They’re not new: it’s always been tempting for some students to pay someone to do their work for them. But the internet has vastly eased the relationship between customers and suppliers, fuelling the growth of these essay mills….

….Learning is based on integrity and scholarship: showing that students have read, understood and been influenced by the work of others, and can explain how their thinking is new or different. Education is not about getting grades, it’s about being an active participant in learning opportunities. If some of that is difficult, well, difficulty is the point….

….The Secretary of State for Education’s announcement that tech firms should block payments to essay mills and students should report on their peers is a step in the right direction. We need to work together to preserve the integrity of the UK higher education system from these unscrupulous companies, and the way they prey on vulnerable students who don’t fully understand the implications of their actions.’

Chris Husbands is the vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University

For more articles and blogs about academic integrity, copying and student plagiarism click through.

 

 

 

 

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University Education – Student Teacher Tutors or Professors?

Interesting article from The Conversation regarding university tutorial teaching or tutoring quality, students or academics?  The glib answer would be neither form of pedagogy, in fact ‘andragogy’ for adult learners shows that many should be learning together as students, not through teacher centred direction.

Can students teach as well as professors?

Student Tutorial Teachers or Professors? (Copyright image Pexels)

Research shows students are as good as professors in tutorial teaching

February 19, 2019 5.23pm AEDT

Professors and graduate students are at opposite ends of the university hierarchy in terms of experience, qualifications and pay. But at many universities, both do the same job: they teach tutorials offered in parallel with lectures.

Our research explores whether it makes sense for professors to teach tutorials – and we found it doesn’t. They are no more effective as tutorial instructors than students.

This finding implies that universities can reduce costs or free up professors’ time by asking students to teach more tutorials.

Measuring instructors’ effectiveness

We conducted a survey about tutorial instruction in OECD universities. Our results show that tutorials are used in 63% of OECD universities. At 25% of these institutions, tutorials are taught by students, 29% by professors and 46% by a mixture of the two.

Using professors to teach small groups is expensive, and reducing costs is a central concern given the increases in tuition fees and student debt.

We have studied the costs and benefits of using tutorial instructors with different academic ranks, using data from a Dutch business school that offers four key features. First, tutorials are taught by a wide range of instructors, ranging from bachelor’s students to full professors. Second, the school’s dataset is large enough (we observe more than 12,000 students) to give us enough statistical power to detect even small differences between instructors.

Third, at this business school students are randomly assigned to instructors of different academic ranks, creating a perfect experiment for seeing whether academic rank matters. Finally, we were able to supplement these already excellent data with measures of students’ satisfaction with the course, and students’ earnings and job satisfaction after graduation, for some of these students. This is important since instructors might matter in many ways and we need to cast a wide net to capture a range of student outcomes.

Students just as effective

Overall, our results show that lower-ranked instructors teach tutorials as effectively as higher-ranked ones. The most effective instructors – postdoctoral researchers – increase students grades by less than 0.02 points on a 10-point grade scale compared with student instructors. The differences between all other instructor types, from student instructor and full professor, is smaller than that.

Full professors are also no better than student instructors in improving students’ grades in the next related course or job satisfaction and earnings after graduation. We do, however, find that higher-ranked instructors achieve somewhat better course evaluations, but these differences are small.

These findings are counter-intuitive. Yet they are consistent with the general findings in primary and secondary education that formal education does a poor job at predicting who teaches well.

What could be the reason why all the extra qualification and experience of professors does not translate into better results for their students? The content of tutorials might be adjusted in a way that students can easily teach them. Further, lower-ranked instructors may compensate for their lack of experience by being better able to relate to students and being more motivated.

Key implication

The implications of our findings are obvious. Universities can free up resources by not asking their most expensive staff to do a job that students can do equally well. We show that the business school we study can reduce the overall wages they pay to tutorial instructors by 50% if they only employ student instructors.

There are, of course, reasons why universities might not want to exclusively rely on student instructors. Students might not be able to teach some more technically advanced master’s courses. There might be some research-inactive but tenured professors whose most valuable use of time is tutorial teaching. And, as with other research that rely on data from one institution, future studies need to show whether our results hold in other universities as well.

But even if these studies uncover some benefits to students of being taught by a professor, we would be surprised if these are worth the extra costs.’

 

Unclear what is quality teaching and learning? Higher education or universities put great importance upon narrow and high-level specialised knowledge exemplified by a doctorate, i.e. content or subject matter expert. Further, the vocational Certificate IV of Training & Assessment TAE40116 is included on many job descriptions as a desirable teaching qualification and meanwhile ‘real world’ experience can be ignored by institutions and/or embellished by the beholder (unlike the ID points system, all factors are not taken into account).

Related issues here, theory of teaching and learning, pedagogy (for children) is cited but for adults we should be speaking about andragogy.  Andragogy of adult education focuses upon adults’ need for knowledge, motivation, willingness, experience, self-direction and task-based learning.

Good instructional or learning design for adult centred learning:

  • broad and deep needs analysis based on learners’ knowledge, expertise and real skill gaps
  • motivated when they have input and some control over learning, activities and outcomes
  • participate in learner centred activities, interaction and social learning
  • opportunities to contribute knowledge, expertise and reflect on their business practice
  • contribution to and management of learning activities through tasks and problem solving; post course too.

A more complete qualification is the UK Cambridge RSA CELTA or TEFLA, especially behavioural theories fitting ‘andragogy’, including teaching skills, and dealing with significant numbers of adult students for whom English is not their first language.

Another issue to emerge has been that of ‘ID Instructional Design’ on behalf of university teachers, but not based upon subject matter or teach/learning skills (when ID is implicit for any competent teacher).

Finally, explaining in terms of cost (cutting or savings) may seem mercenary when high fees are now the norm for most students.

 

University Graduate Employment

There is much concern about the employment prospects of school and university graduates and the following article highlights some concerns and points on reasons including high school career counselling, parents, industry, universities and back grounded by ignorance of skills in demand.

One could add that societal attitudes and knowledge about science, maths or data and digital are low in Australian elites, meanwhile working age population aka baby boomers is in transition and meanwhile, many low level positions require university degrees as a minimum requirement.

Are there too many university graduates in the wrong disciplines with few employment opportunities?

Too Many University Graduates? (Image copyright Pexels)

Who’s really to blame for too many unwanted graduates?

By Tony Featherstone

February 7, 2019 — 12.01am

Why do thousands of young Australians enrol in the wrong university degree each year and overlook in-demand professions that are screaming for graduates.

In engineering generally, about 10,000 students graduate at our universities each year and about 16,000 engineers arrive here annually from overseas, according to Engineers Australia analysis. There would be a massive engineering shortfall without skilled migration.

It’s crazy that so few Australian students study software engineering, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and other emerging fields, relative to industry demand, yet there is a growing surplus of graduates in the arts, journalism, law and other fields with fewer jobs.

The obvious culprit is universities. They have fanned a graduate glut – and a generation of students with high debt and diminished job prospects – by accepting more students into fields that already oversupplied….

….Industry, schools and students are part of the problem. Business complains about not enough graduates being developed in a new area, yet runs a mile when it has to fund university research or co-develop teaching courses. It’s easier to outsources graduate training to universities, take no risk and let taxpayers co-fund the learning. Then, whinge about universities.

Schools, too, can do more to encourage students to pursue in-demand occupations. I don’t know enough about career counselling at schools to form an opinion, but something must be wrong if so many students enrol in degrees that have terrible job prospects.

Perhaps school curriculums are not sufficiently aligned with the needs of universities. Industry berates universities for not producing enough graduates in areas with skill shortages, yet schools might not be producing enough students with the skill and passion to do engineering and similar courses at university.

Again, that’s changing as more boys and girls study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at school. But change is slow and off a low base – engineering, for example, has been crying out for more students, particularly women, for years.

Then there’s students and parents. We tell our kids to follow their passion when choosing a career: think with your heart rather than your head about a degree; take a year or two off for travel before university; chop and change degrees if you don’t like them.

That’s reckless advice. I’m not saying students should enrol in degrees they have low aptitude for, or will make them miserable. They must have an inclination, either natural or an ability to develop one, in any field to succeed in the long run.’

 

For more blogs and articles about higher education teaching, work skills, digital technology and science literacy click through.

 

 

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.

 

Importance of International Student Satisfaction in Marketing Communications

IEAA International Education Association of Australia has released a report by Ravichandran Ammigan PhD and Debra Langton looking at four dimensions of the student experience arrival, learning, living and support services; an extract of the report follows below.

In summary, the very useful report finds important to focus upon satisfied students who then spread positive word of mouth to prospective students; this is supported by previous research.

However, the use of the traditional expression ‘marketing materials’ does not seem to match the language of international students who are ‘digital natives’ and would most likely use social media under the umbrella of digital marketing.  Further, related to marketing, and contrary to the report, Australia does have issues in developing diversity outside of PRC and India, for which effective digital marketing system (not a one off strategy) should be a solution.

Nonetheless, it does focus upon the need to have students as central in marketing and one could suggest that in addition to maintaining quality for satisfied students, also involving students in creating customer generated media that can be used in digital marketing.

International student experience in Australia

In today’s increasingly competitive market to recruit and retain international students, it is critical that higher education institutions stay current on student perceptions, preferences and experiences with various aspects of the university environment. Ensuring students have the right level of support and resources can contribute to their academic, social and cultural success. It can also directly influence their overall institutional satisfaction and whether they would recommend their institution to prospective applicants.

This paper investigates the experience of international university students in Australia with respect to arrival, learning, living and support services. It is based on previous research by Ammigan and Jones (2018) and uses data from the International Student Barometer (ISB), to examine the relationship between student satisfaction and institutional recommendation for over 21,000 international students at 34 Australian institutions.

This paper provides guidance for university administrators and support staff on how to adjust and improve resources and services for international students, which can be an important component for enhancing institutional recruitment and retention strategies.

International students in Australia

As with other leading destination countries around the world, the higher education student population in Australia is culturally diverse, which presents opportunities for both international and domestic students to interact with peers from different cultural, social and linguistic backgrounds (Arkoudis et al., 2013).

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training (2017), more than 600,000 international students chose Australia in 2017. This is a record high and represents a 13 per cent increase since 2016. International students now make up more than a quarter of all students at certain universities.

In 2017, the international student sector generated over AUD30 billion, making it the country’s third-largest export (ICEF Monitor, 2017). It is predicted that Australia will overtake the UK to become the world’s second highest destination for international students in 2019 (Marginson, 2018).

International student satisfaction Improving student satisfaction is a major goal for universities – a satisfied student population can be a source of competitive advantage with outcomes such as student retention, recruitment and alumni relations (Arambewela & Hall, 2009). Student satisfaction, which generally results from an evaluation of a student’s educational experience, occurs when actual performance meets or exceeds expectations (Elliott & Healy, 2001). In recent years, there has been a growing interest from international educators to gather and utilise international student satisfaction data as a way to influence campus change and strengthen support services for this community (Yu, Isensee, & Kappler, 2016).
This is not surprising as the international student experience can be a critical recruitment and retention strategy for providing a high-quality education and remaining competitive in the global student market and world rankings (Shah & Richardson, 2016).

The Australian Government’s National Strategy for International Education 2025 recognises the importance of student experience. Goal 2 outlines a number of actions that expressly address the delivery of supports that:

  • meet or exceed student needs
  • build capacity for employment; and
  • encourage a strong international student voice to inform continuous improvement.

A study on the attitudes, goals and decision-making processes of over 67,000 prospective
international students from 193 different countries found that course offerings was the main driver of student decisions on institution and location, with the expectation that the course of study would lead to career prospects (QS Enrolment Solutions, 2018).  Reviews and marketing materials showcasing the quality of teaching and experience of academic staff was the second most influential factor in choosing their institution.

The same study found that prospective students were most concerned about the cost of living and being able to afford their tuition fees. Having a relative or friend in a destination country and receiving information about local culture and customs can help reduce concerns and worries about going to study abroad and impact students’ choice of a particular location. Campus safety and a welcoming environment were also important factors in international students’ institutional and destination choice…..

Satisfied students are strong advocates

For international students, choosing an institution is based on a number of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors, which may influence them to leave their home countries to study abroad (Banjong & Olson, 2016). Such factors include knowledge and awareness of the host country, quality of education, institutional reputation, tuition and living costs, scholarship opportunities, safety and security, university environment, quality of life, visa requirements and post-graduation employment options
(Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002).
Mavondo et al. (2004) suggest that institutional recommendation is closely related to satisfaction, where satisfied students are more likely to recommend their institution to potential or future students.  It is therefore important, especially from a marketing and recruitment perspective, for institutions to understand the factors that impact upon international student satisfaction which in turn drive propensity to recommend.

Reference:

Ammigan, R. & Langton, D (2018). The International student experience in Australia: Implications for administrators and student support staff. International Education Association of Australia (IEAA). Retrieved from www.ieaa.org.au

See original report via https://www.ieaa.org.au/research/student-experience IEAA Student Experience for full list of references.

For further articles and blogs on international education marketing, international students, information seeking journey, WOM word of mouth, student satisfaction and digital marketing click through.