Contract Cheating by STEM Students Through a File Sharing Website: A COVID-19 Pandemic Perspective

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The Bottom Line

Contract cheating has always existed, yet there is evidence that the transition to online teaching due to Covid-19, coincides with a dramatic increase in contract cheating through file-sharing websites.

Research Summary

File sharing websites provide a platform where students can upload and gain access to proprietary course material. Access to such information gives cheaters an unfair advantage. File sharing websites incentivize students to upload information (i.e., class notes, lecture material, quizzes, and exams) in order to gain access to other posted material. These websites can also be used for contract cheating.

This study examines whether the use of contract cheating at one prominent website, Chegg, has increased as universities transitioned to online teaching due to Covid-19. Specifically, the study considers the number of posted requests for solutions and the number of questions posted and answered on Chegg across pre- (April 2019 to August 2019) and post-Covid (April 2020 to August 2020) time periods. The study was limited to five STEM subjects, namely Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, and Chemistry.

Results indicate that contract cheating requests increased by 196.25% over the time periods under consideration. Furthermore the growth of questions posted to Chegg across the five subjects increased by 74.9%. These findings suggest that not only are students leveraging file sharing websites to engage in cheating behavior but that the number of students using such websites is also increasing.

At EXAMIND, we have identified the best practices that will help instructors avoid the challenges associated with file sharing websites. Check out our post on how to build dynamic questions.

Key Takeaways

1. Contract Cheating Requests Are Increasing

The number of requests by students for specific help within a short time window suggests that more students are seeking to use contract cheating.

2. The Amount of Content on File Sharing Websites Is Increasing

Students are posting more proprietary material online than before Covid.

3. The Number of Students Using File Sharing Websites Is Increasing

Not only is there more content available, it appears that the number of students using file sharing websites is also increasing.

4. File Sharing Websites Are Not Supportive of Academic Integrity

File sharing websites make it difficult for instructors to have their compromised material removed from the website.

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