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Monday, February 19, 2018

Taking Aim at Higher-Ed Ghostwriters

A survey of 1,000 higher-education instructors found that 32% said they suspected students of turning in work that was done by someone else. The study also noted that two of three instructors said they didn’t act on their suspicion because of “insufficient evidence.”

Plagiarism-detection services are available to combat ghostwriting services. One online firm, Turnitin, is launching a new product later this year, called Authorship Investigation, that uses machine-learning algorithms to alert instructors to assignments potentially written by someone other than students in their class.

Just having such detection technology could deter students from hiring others to do their homework, according to Derek Newton, in his eCampus News report on combating contract cheating. However, he also pointed out other ways to stop cheating that don’t require an investment.

Assigning students to do at least one writing assignment during class makes it easier to spot cheating on writing done outside the classroom. For online courses, instructors should consider assignments that can only be completed with the student logged in and with a set time limit to finish.

While there’s nothing illegal about ghostwriters advertising their services on websites such as craigslist, school inquiries could make content providers leery about adding new customers. College leaders might also consider penalties if it’s proven that students are employing a ghostwriting service that’s been used in the past by others.

“While it’s a fool’s errand to try to eradicate cheating entirely, contracted work production remains among the last, wholly untouched fields of fraud and, because it is, every turn of the vise to squeeze it is both necessary and helpful,” Newton wrote.

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