Detection of Student Plagiarism Ghost Writing Contract Cheating

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Recent media news stories and documentaries have highlighted perceived issues of international student plagiarism, collusion, ghost writing and contract cheating.

Most institutions have systems and processes in place to deal with, or at least ameliorate the impact of sub-optimal academic integrity, including higher language requirements (and level testing at enrolment), Turnitin and other duplication detection software, in class assessments, assignment workshops, feedback and monitoring.

Issues of plagiarism, collusion, ghost writing and contract cheating at university by students.

How to stop or limit ghost writing and contract cheating (image copyright Pexels)

However, like other sectors, education is prone to only lip service being paid by some commissioners, owners, shareholders, management, academia and related; rather than enforcement of minimum regulatory compliance it’s viewed as a voluntary code by some.

The following is summary of an article about the issue and how to deal with it, in an American context which has recently seen SAT and related corruption for entry to top universities.

Detecting and Deterring Ghostwritten Papers: A Guide to Best Practices (from The Best Schools website)

By David A. Tomar

1 Introduction For ten years, I made my living helping students cheat. I worked as a professional ghost writer, completing homework assignments, producing essays, and composing senior theses for alternately desperate, lazy, or disengaged college and graduate students.

I worked as an independent contractor affiliated with various online paper mills and, between 2000 and 2010, spent nearly every day of my life immersed in academic research and compositional writing. Writing as many as 5,000 typewritten pages a year, I earned as much as many professors.

In November of 2010, I announced my retirement in a tell-all article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Using the pseudonym Ed Dante, I covered what was, for many, a first glimpse into the shadowy underworld of academic ghostwriting.

 

2 The Ghostwriting Business. Before it is possible to prevent and police ghostwriting, one must understand the industry. Though many educators are well aware of ghostwriting, how it happens and that it most likely has occurred in their own classrooms, just as many others have a limited or non-existent sense of its impact.

Quite to the point, of the many reactions that greeted my original article in The Chronicle, doubt and skepticism were among the most common. Some truly dedicated, earnest, and otherwise astute educators refused to accept not only that wholesale cheating of this sort could be perpetrated but that it could be done so consistently and effectively without detection right under their noses.

 

2.1 Prevalence….. Still, we may be able to deduce a great deal just from the accessibility and ease-of-use of ghostwriting services. According to an article in the New York Times regarding rising rates of student cheating, “research has shown that a major factor in unethical behavior is simply how easy or hard it is.”

We can say with great certainty that it is easier than ever to employ an academic ghostwriting service. If a student has the money, he or she has the means.

The vast majority of students locate these services simply by doing a Google search for “Custom Paper Writing,” “essay help,” “term papers,” “homework services,” “essay writing services,’” or any number of other pertinent word combinations. Each of these terms will ultimately return dozens of pages of relevant search results.

From what is immediately apparent though, we can conclude two things about the prevalence of ghostwriting:

  1. The inquiring student will find it easy to locate a desired service and begin using it; and
  2. The enterprising freelancer will find it easy to locate an employment opportunity and begin earning income from it.

 

2.2 Pricing and Structure Most companies operate using a similar pricing spectrum, charging between $10 and $50 per page depending on proximity of the deadline. For instance, Mypaperwriter.com prices its custom writing services between $17.55 and $45.85 per page. This is in line with the pricing spectrum and structure of the industry’s more lucrative companies.

The variance is usually determined by deadline. This is the measure used most frequently to dene an assignment’s price. Papers due in a week or more are typically bound to the low end of the pricing spectrum. For anything due in less than a week, the cost per page will go up as the number of days goes down. A paper due in less than 24 hours will fall on the highest end of the cost-per-page spectrum.

 

2.3 Clientele The ghostwriting industry enjoys a customer base comprised of three primary demographics. These are the likeliest perpetrators of ghostwritten plagiarism:

2.3.1 English Language Learners: International students often arrive at American universities without a background or meaningful support in English composition.

2.3.2 Composition/Research deficient students: A startling number American students—for whom English is a native language—will actually suffer from many of these exact same deceits

2.3.3 Lazy students: Some ghostwriting clients simply lack the motivation and interest to complete their own work, a condition that Farnese et al. (2011) call “academic moral disengagement.”[7] In many cases, a perfectly capable student will utilize an academic ghostwriting service as a way to cut down effort or improve his or her chances of receiving a better grade.

 

3 The Ghostwriting Conundrum…… However, the web has proliferated and simplified cheating, dramatically expanding the accessibility, visibility, and ease with which students can lift, recycle or otherwise claim authorship of work that is not their own. Consequently, the growth of this industry helped to provoke the growth of the plagiarism-detection industry of which Turnitin is a leading example.

Other notable sites include Viper, Plagscan, Plagtracker, Grammarly, Small SEO Tools, and Plagiarism Checker.

Turnitin represents the gold standard in plagiarism detection. Even so, given the limitations inherent in plagiarism detection, even Turnitin has no way to bring its extensive empirical data to bear on ghostwriting.

With these conditions in mind, we point to a handful of detection and deterrence challenges that are unique to ghostwriting:

3.1 Original, non-plagiarized content: Most ghostwriting companies are faithful to this service guarantee and will terminate independent contractors for failure to comply.

3.2 Low likelihood of raising suspicion: Ghostwriting places the onus on the educator to have initial cause for suspicion. This requires the individual grading a written assignment to sense a disconnect between the student and the assignment, which of course requires some initial familiarity with the student in question.

3.3 Difficulty of translating suspicion into proof: Cheating is, of course, a serious allegation and students have a lot riding on the completion of their education. So obviously, the average student will go to great lengths to deny any such allegations. Students are not afraid to get litigious if need be. The point is, as an educator, one must be very careful about levying the accusation without hard evidence.

 

4 The Four D’s of Ghostbusting

4.1 Design Design refers to the way a professor constructs assignments, course materials, tests, classroom time and the semester-long curriculum. This is an area in education where quality control runs the gamut from excellence to criminal incompetence. There are plenty of professors who work tirelessly to tailor assignments, materials and examinations to remain in-step with constantly evolving subject matter, student culture and best practices. But there are also plenty of professors who recycle old materials without scrutiny and who depend wholly on text-based content which most students could acquire without professor mediation.

4.2 Deterrence Deterrence refers to ways of diminishing the inclination, motive, or desire to purchase a ghostwritten paper…..That is, students at least believe that they are cheating out of ease, normalcy, or necessity. The study finds that the onus falls on instructors to live up to certain student expectations regarding clarity and engagement of course content. The study identities this as the best route to deterring the rationalized impulse to use a ghostwriting service.

Practical Strategies

4.2.1 Individualization: Individualization of the educational experience can instill in the student a greater sense of commitment to course materials and to the knowledge and career opportunities thereby implied. Large lecture halls and online courses can create a sense of anonymity for the would-be cheater.

4.2.2 Conferencing: One thing that large universities and online courses have in common is that, if one desires, one can go an entire semester without ever once personally meeting a professor. There is comfort in this anonymity. Removing this comfort creates a deterrent that does not otherwise exist.

4.2.3 Emphasis on in-class participation: Mandatory class participation heightens the imperative for students to become familiar with course content. Mandating contributions to class discussions gives students a strong incentive to establish a consistent voice and perspective on course subjects.

4.2.4 Student engagement: This one is really and truly up to each individual educator. It is within every educator’s power to be as creative, energetic, inspiring, original, unpredictable, and engaging as he or she wants to be….Many students feel no remorse about cheating in a course from which there is a feeling of disengagement. Uninspired lectures, standard texts, and generic assignments serve as great ammunition for a student who wishes to rationalize his or her detachment.

4.2.5 Miscellaneous strategies of deterrence: Course discussions where students are invited to share research experience and knowledge Professor lectures based on and attributed to content drawn from student assignments A requirement for students to occasionally present research findings or other written work to the class or professor.

 

4.3 Detection Detection is both a manual process driven by professorial experience and a technology driven process with continued room for growth and improvement.

Practical Strategies

4.3.1 Assignment exit interviews: Standardizing one-on-one conferencing with each student following assignment submission requires each student to defend his or her writing.

4.3.2 Manual literary fingerprinting: Of the many strategies outlined in this account, this may well be the most readily adaptable to any context where writing forms a portion of the coursework. Here, the orientation process for any writing intensive course will begin with an in-class writing assignment.

4.3.3 File properties: One way to improve the chances of detecting ghostwritten work is to simply be a savvier user of technology than the average cheating student. It’s easier than one might think.

4.3.4 Computational literary fingerprinting: Based on the effectiveness and value of Turnitin.com as a strategy for plagiarism detection of the non-ghostwritten variety, this strategy may best predict the future of ghostwriting detection.

 

4.4 Dedication Detection is all well and good, but let’s face it, people good at detection are more likely to join a police force than a teachers union. Teachers are in the classroom to teach. This is where the fourth “D” comes into play. The instructor must be dedicated to the education of his or her students, not just to punching an academic time card.

Practical Strategy

4.4.1 Identify struggling students and see that they get help: These are the students who are by far the most likely to employ a ghostwriter. In order to reduce the presence of the ghostwriter in the classroom, educators must take pre-emptive steps to identify those who are most likely to need his services.

 

For more blogs and articles about international students, academic integrity and international education click through.

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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.

 

Digital Technology Readiness or Disruption – Australia

Following is a precis of an article from Business Insider Australia based upon presentation by former New Corp Australia Head Mr. Kim Williams about digital technology, disruption, literacy, innovation and opportunities.

KIM WILLIAMS: Why Australia still isn’t ready for the digital era

Digital technology will impact society, organisations, government, business and people.

Ready for Digital Technology Disruption? (Image copyright Pexels)

SARAH KIMMORLEY MAY 18, 2015, 1:11 PM

‘Former News Corp Australia chief executive Kim Williams says Australia “is not managing the change at all well” as digital disruption upends the global economy.

Speaking today at digital disruption conference, Daze of Disruption, Williams, now the commissioner of the Australian Football League, spoke about how companies must understand digital technologies in order to navigate their way through the era successfully.

“The opportunities will be infinitely larger and more interesting… [but] the journey is still in its infancy,” Williams said.

“[New digital technologies] will result in reductions of cost, new-found wonders in efficiencies of operations and a wealth of new possibilities for the quality of life.

“We’re up for a fascinating ride.”

 

Here are some of his predictions for businesses can expect:

 

  • Those who don’t innovate will fail.
  • The transfer of power from business to consumers will accelerate.
  • Technology is going to become a genetic extension of our beings.
  • Mobile is the future.
  • A dark age is coming (for those locked out).
  • Life will consist of a series of interconnected, virtual systems.
  • Social media is the key to engaging the next generation.
  • We’re all going to live longer and better.
  • Roads will become redundant.’

 

Much of the above is already apparent in media, entertainment, education, digital marketing, social networking, e-commerce, business, government and many services.

For more articles and blogs about digital technology related click through.

 

Soft or Work Skills Development of Students for Employment

Soft or Work Skill Development

We often hear talk about generic work skills, soft skills or digital related, but what are they and why are they important?

Hard skills may shortlist you for a job interview, but soft skills will have you selected, and may include the following which could also be described as personal attributes or selection criteria:

 

Communication, Organization, Teamwork, Punctuality, Critical Thinking, Social Skills, Creativity, Interpersonal Communication, Adaptability and Friendliness (Berger 2016).

 

According to Harvard Business Review article ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’:

 

Smart organizations have recognized that introducing new technology into the workplace isn’t about hardware or software: it’s about wetware, also known as human beings. If you want to be the kind of nimble business that can make the most of successive waves of tech innovation, you need human beings who can adapt to change. That means equipping each person in your enterprise with the skills and mindset that will help them successfully adapt whenever you introduce new tools like Slack, Basecamp, or even Google Drive into your workplace. But what exactly are these digital skills? They may be more familiar and low-tech than you think (Samuel 2016).

 

These could include goal focus, collaboration, communication, learning, troubleshooting and enjoyment.

 

Another view from traditional work of soft skills would designate planning workload, communication, reports, presentations, collecting/using information, note taking, data literacy, projects, ethics, problem solving, decision making, team work, meetings, negotiation, stress management and reviewing one’s own personal skills and development (Bingham and Drew 1999).

 

How does one develop these soft or work skills for work, community and life?

 

According to Open Colleges Australia the following tips are needed to teach students soft skills:

30 Tips to Teach Soft Skills

  1. Give students authentic choices about how they’re going to learn and be assessed.
  2. Provide a learning environment where trust, initiative, and taking risks are encouraged.
  3. Hold all students to the same high standards.
  4. Model perseverance by not giving up on students.
  5. Support students by helping them find their own way.
  6. Demonstrate alternate paths to content mastery.
  7. Teach to the whole person (not just the “student”).
  8. Treat your students as mature individuals, even when they aren’t following instructions.
  9. Talk about tailoring communication styles for different audiences.
  10. 1Build students’ interpersonal skills through an environment of humility and respect.
  11. Help students practise taking on different roles in different situations.
  12. Differentiate opportunities for personal growth and opportunities for team growth.
  13. Cultivate a sense of responsibility through meaningful and unique contribution.
  14. Assign group exercises that give people the opportunity to speak, listen, write, organise, and lead.
  15. Assess learning through interactive evaluations that demand real-world demonstrations of learning.
  16. Challenge students’ reactions to new obstacles and situations.
  17. Emphasise that the same solution doesn’t necessarily work every time, even in the same situation.
  18. Incorporate exercises in delayed gratification in order to build persistence and grit.
  19. Start grading students on how well they listen to their peers.
  20. Discuss the importance of social-emotional intelligence in the real world.
  21. Design opportunities for students to build and demonstrate resilience.
  22. Make learning a personal experience, highlighting the way education shapes personality.
  23. Create opportunities for students to innovate, both on their own and in groups.
  24. Draw attention to the differences between online and in-person social etiquette.
  25. Reward students who are willing to admit they’re wrong.
  26. Recognise students who are committed to communicating ideas to others.
  27. Hold brainstorm sessions in which students list the possible uses for various soft skills.
  28. Help build motivation through principles of self-reliance (read: Emerson, Thoreau).
  29. Keep an open ear and encourage students to develop new thoughts and ideas they may have.
  30. Develop learning ability through greater awareness of individual learning processes (Briggs 2015).

 

Teaching, training or tutoring approaches to learning need to be centred upon student centred andragogy for adults not teacher centred pedagogy for children, see related article blog FLIPPED Model – Pedagogy or Andragogy in Higher Education Teaching Learning.

 

 

References:

 

Berger, G 2016, Data Reveals The Most In-demand Soft Skills Among Candidates, LinkedIn Talent Blog, 30 August, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/most-indemand-soft-skills >

 

Bingham, R & Drew, S 1999, Key Work Skills, 1st edn, Gower Publishing Ltd., Aldershot.

 

Briggs, S 2015, 30 Tips to Cultivate Soft Skills in Your Students, Inform Ed – Open Colleges, 1 May, viewed 30 March 2018, < https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/30-ways-to-cultivate-soft-skills-in-your-students >

 

Samuel, A 2016, ‘DEVELOPING EMPLOYEES: The Soft Skills of Great Digital Organizations’, Harvard Business Review, 5 February, viewed 21 March 2018,
< https://hbr.org/2016/02/the-soft-skills-of-great-digital-organizations >

VET Vocational Education Training TAFE TAE and Related Issues

Following is an excerpt from a news article and an Education Minister’s press release proposing new source of school teachers while the vocational system is in a state of flux with the sub-optimal TAE Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and quality.

Workplace Training in Australia and the TAE Certificate IV in Training and Assessment

Workplace Training in Australia and the TAE Photo by Mikes Photos from Pexels

From tradies to teachers: The plan to ‘shake up Australia’s schools‘.  The Turnbull government wants to encourage tradies to become teachers, and nurses to swap the clinic for the classroom, under a plan to “shake up” the country’s schools.

A national review of teacher registration – to be announced Saturday – will look to streamline the process for becoming a teacher around Australia……

At present, most states require teachers to attain at least a diploma of education, if not an undergraduate teaching degree……..

….Education Minister Simon Birmingham said it should be easier for people with experience in specialist areas to teach those trades at schools and vocational colleges…

…Australia’s falling position on global literacy and numeracy rankings, as well as disappointing NAPLAN results, have worried education ministers around the country.

 

The article does not offer any context or reason for the Minister’s or the government’s ‘plan’?

The Australian Education Council has not made any related public statements, let alone conducted research?

For the government, the Minister and the Education Department’s interest, there TAE40116 – Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is already a pathway for trades and healthcare personnel to teach or train:

Qualification Description

This qualification reflects the roles of individuals delivering training and assessment services in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This qualification (or the skill sets derived from units of competency within it) is also suitable preparation for those engaged in the delivery of training and assessment of competence in a workplace context, as a component of a structured VET program.

The volume of learning of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is typically six months to two years.

Licensing/Regulatory Information

Achievement of this qualification by trainers is a requirement of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015

 

Further, in a relate article from Jim Munro, CEO of the Resources Training Council ‘The TAE debacle – a resources sector view’:

It is this writer’s opinion, that since BSZ, this program has been slowly hi-jacked by those who have no idea of what happens in the real world of workplace training. It has become a qualification for the training industry, not industry that trains.

 

One has observed in the past generation or two, several significant changes including removal of many technical streams and sometimes active ‘dumbing down’ of high school or matriculation education curricula (lower competency for entry to STEM or university, lack of skills in language, literacy and numeracy LLN, and removal of explicit teaching of ‘critical thinking’), teaching becoming too academic and pedagogic (teacher directed) based, versus andragogic (student centred); overseen by teacher unions, the (hollowed out) bureaucracy, resurgence in old conservative ideas of education and looking down at VET or TAFE.

Appears to be following the US conservative and/or nativist strategy of supporting elite schools and compromising the rest, leading to sub-optimal education and training outcomes in society and employment, exemplified by dumbing down, anti-science sentiment, leveraging or compromising sympathetic paid academia or research for political purposes etc.; leading to or maintaining more compliant, observant and respectful (to authority) society?

Ten years ago, we had John Howard promoting the anti ‘black arm band’ version of history, school chaplain program (outsourced to some dubious US influenced charities), last week the Liberal Opposition in Victoria mooted the idea of police permanently based in schools and now federally the government is planning that ‘tradies’ and ‘nurses’ can transfer into high schools, why do they want this disruption?

It may also follow the nostalgia of work and need to have influence, not just for conservatives of the right, but old ‘culturally specific’ white working-class conservatives in the important upper age median vote, who used to vote Labor?

They could do better by improving the Cert IV qualification or TAE which is seriously flawed due to focus upon narrow training package inputs, and assessment outputs with administration of related process and document management, or Taylor’s ‘Scientific Management’ as used on assembly lines.

However, the TAE ignores or is not fit for purpose when it does not equip trainers with practical skills to deliver quality training and learning, more about leading learners to become robots (workers following instructions) in a system of processes made easier to administer and audit; maybe the intention?

Rather than reinvent the wheel just fix up the existing wheel to offer training or teaching opportunities to ‘tradies’ and nurses, maybe review and improve the career or further study counselling youth receive from teachers, parents and peers, while repairing TAE and VET sector’s reputation?