22 June 2006 | Paul Snell
Cheating students are using outsourcing websites to hold reverse auctions for their assignments.
Academics at Birmingham's University of Central England have discovered students are putting their work out to tender on sites intended for purchasers.
Lecturer Dr Thomas Lancaster and principal lecturer Robert Clarke, who came across the trend by chance during their research, have dubbed it "contract cheating".
Lancaster discovered the site through searching the internet for one of the assignments he had set his own students. Although the number of these sites is relatively low, he is concerned that this form of cheating is becoming "habitual".
On one site, normally used for outsourcing software services, they found more than one in 10 tenders were from students wanting their work done by someone else.
The process being used by the cheats follows the same rules as a reverse auction. Students outline a proposal for the work they want done, and then open the auction and pick the lowest bid, which is often as little as £10.
Lancaster said: "This type of cheating is cost-effective for students because many of the suppliers are based internationally and can complete assignments for just a few dollars."
Clarke and Lancaster identified proposals originating from 46 higher education institutions in the UK, US, Australia and Canada.
Lancaster told SM
that academics need to be increasingly vigilant to spot contract cheats. "Identification of these services is very difficult and labour-intensive," he said. "Tutors must be aware of how students might cheat and think around them."
He said one way was to request an oral presentation to accompany an assignment.
The lecturers were expected to present their findings to the 2nd International Plagiarism Conference, being held in Newcastle this week.