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Contract Cheating: All risk no reward

October 17, 2022 — 

Picture the following scenario: The Fall Term is in full swing, and you have multiple assignments due next week. Time is running out, and you’re finding it really difficult to start. Deciding to share your frustrations across your social media platforms, you post a picture of you holding your head and the following caption: “When you have to write two assignments in less than a week! #studentlife #assignments.” Less than 30 minutes later, you receive three messages from different companies offering to “help” with your assignments for a small fee or in exchange for uploaded course materials or assignments.  You can’t afford to get a poor mark or a zero in either of these courses, so you decide to take one of these companies up on their offer.

This scenario is an example of contract cheating, asking an external party or person(s) to complete academic work such as assignments, essays, lab reports, exams and tests on your behalf.

Even though contract cheating is not a recent phenomenon, it has become a serious issue at universities across Canada and the world. Many students do not know that contract cheating is a form of academic misconduct. It is not always clear to students if what is being done counts as contract cheating or not. Many of the companies that pop up on students’ social media accounts look legitimate. These pop ups even assure students that they will only “help” or “tutor” students in their assignments. Students are not always aware of the dangers of contract cheating. And shockingly, more and more of the contract cheating companies have resorted to blackmailing students!

 The situation is further complicated by the increase in popularity of academic file-sharing and “tutoring” websites, such as Chegg, CourseHero and StuDocu. Such websites create platforms where students share their class materials online to gain access to the websites’ vast collections of study aid and sample assignments. Some of these sites also offer 24/7 study help, where students can post questions and get answers from “experts.” Some of these sites are based on a bartering system. Students will gain access to the site’s study material if they upload their own study and lecture notes, class slides, etc. Students should be aware that uploading course material that is not their own is a breach of copyright laws and can lead to serious consequences. Using study notes from these sites to help with assignments may be viewed as contract cheating because the student is using an external party to complete their academic work. Overall, even if a student is not breaking the universities rules, it is best to avoid such sites, as the information might be out of date or misleading.    

Students can fall prey to contract cheating for many reasons, including:

  • pressures from family, instructors, advisors or employers to produce high-quality and/or high quantities of work
  • a high drive to be perfect and succeed at any cost
  • poor time management
  • lack of confidence in writing or research skills

Contract cheating suppliers are aware of these vulnerabilities and will often promote their services to individuals under pressure.

Being aware of the factors that can lead to making poor decisions is an important first step for students to avoid academic misconduct. The university provides excellent services to all students free of charge, such as the one-to-one tutoring services in content, study skills and writing offered by the Academic Learning Centre. Visit our Student Success Month calendar of events and follow @UMStudent on Instagram for information about all the workshops on offer throughout October and beyond.

October 19, 2022 is the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. There will be a booth at the Dafoe Library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where you can learn more about contract cheating and academic integrity. There will be giveaways, prizes and fun games.

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