Contract cheating refers to the outsourcing of assessment tasks to third parties. This form of cheating is increasingly commercialized and global but may also occur as an informal exchange of favours among peers or family members. The term covers any instance where a student submits work for an assessment that they have not completed themselves. On this resource page, we explore strategies to help subject coordinators minimise and deter cases of contract cheating.
Steps and strategies to deter cheating
- Never wholesale recycle assessment tasks from previous teaching sessions – this is the single most important intervention you can make. Small changes to scenarios or case studies can be very effective.
- Ensure you design or redesign your assessments to limit the opportunities for cheating.
- Open and effective staff-student communication plays an important part in minimizing cheating. Talk to students across your subject about academic integrity and why it matters. Engage students in sharing their ideas around integrity and keep the conversation going as the subject progresses.
- Be clear about what your expectations are for your students in completing their assessment tasks, including which behaviours are sanctioned and which are not. Clarify where individual versus group work is required – make sure students need to know when they can collaborate and when they can’t.
- Make sure your students know that you are aware of contract cheating and will be actively checking submitted assessment tasks including exams in your subject for evidence of contract cheating. Explain the specific detection strategies that will be applied in your subject (e.g. Turnitin, manual checking of submitted formulae, comparing writing with previously submitted tasks etc). Alert students to the fact that you may use follow up oral testing to confirm that they completed the exam answers themselves.
- Be explicit with your students about what forms of academic support are legitimate (Library, HELPS, UPass) and what forms are not.
- Help students to know what’s expected in assessment. Provide good support such as practice quizzes, practice exam questions (ideally with model answers and comments), provide assessment FAQs on your subject site, offer short videos or optional Zoom exam Q and A sessions. Providing support resources may take time, but they can equally reduce the time spent responding to misconduct incidents.
Talking to your students about academic integrity and cheating
- Talk to your students about academic honesty, about why you value it and how it relates to the reputation of their degree.
- Highlight the links between the integrity of their university assessment and their futures as ethical professionals who can operate with confidence in their chosen fields.
- Show how gaps in their knowledge may put themselves and others at risk in the future. Where appropriate, clarify how specific skills and knowledge from your subject will be needed to make progress in future subjects.
- Students who are stressed and feel unsupported academically are at risk of resorting to cheating. Make students aware that they can talk to you about challenges they’re experiencing with their studies. Highlight our Special Consideration provisions.
- Stress that students should confirm with their teaching staff whether advertised tutoring services – including those claiming affiliations with UTS or using UTS logos – are legitimate UTS services. If a ‘help’ site doesn’t have ‘uts.edu.au’ in its URL, it’s not a real UTS site! Ask them not to respond to unsolicited offers of ‘study help’ that come via email or social median, and to report possible cheating services to their teaching staff.
- Make sure students are aware that using paid cheating services can lead to those same individuals or companies using their knowledge of students’ cheating histories to blackmail them for increasingly large sums of money.
- Warn students that they should never give their university login details to a third party. Individuals and companies with login access can download any material they like from students’ accounts and can also potentially lock them out by changing passwords and other personal details.
- Make sure students know the possible penalties for cheating, ranging from zero marks to expulsion, and that cheating may have long term consequences for their future studies and their career.
To help get the message across to your students, you can adapt and share the following Powerpoint slides in class:
Collusion between students
Working with a longer timed window for your exam may cause concern about cheating in the form of collusion among students. To mitigate this, we recommend you
- Follow the recommended steps above about talking to students. Be clear with them that collusion is cheating and constitutes academic misconduct (Student Rules Section 16.2). Make sure they know that unauthorised giving of help and getting help are both misconduct.
- Use randomization of questions and answers in the set-up of your online test. This ensures different students see different questions. If you’re using MCQs, use some free text questions and ask students to elaborate on specific concepts or explain their answers.
- Design exam questions that don’t rely on simple recall of facts but are more about the analysis or application of ideas and concepts. This way, any inappropriate sharing of questions will not greatly advantage those students.
- Consider using questions that include elements of self-reflection, reflections on specific class activities and/or the demonstration of critical thinking.
- Fine other mitigation strategies here.
If you suspect cheating
Cheating is a form of academic misconduct for which students can be penalised as per the Rules relating to student misconduct and appeals (Student Rules Section 16.2). Cheating includes but is not limited to:
- Copying work, such as all or part of an assignment, from other students and submitting it as their own work;
- Purchasing an assignment from an online site and submitting it as their own work;
- Requesting or paying someone else to write original work for them, such as an assignment, essay or computer program, and submitting it as their own work; and
- Unauthorised collusion with students or others and submitting it as their own work.
Where you suspect a student has cheated you should follow the UTS student misconduct process.