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This Week in Cheating: Outsource that Online Essay!    

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In the past week we’ve heard of two web-based services (Here and here; and honestly researching this blog we found a few more) that will write your online essay for you, take your online test, and whatever else you want them to do in your online class.

The big focus, and most popular buy across these services, is outsourcing your online essay.

The business model here is pretty simple:

  1. The student is assigned an online essay.
  2. The student sends the online essay prompt with all the specifications to one of these sites. This includes minimum words, deadlines, source requirements, etc…
  3. The web service charges a fee for pages and turnaround time.
  4. The web service “has experts craft your essay, guaranteeing you an A.”
  5. Student receives essay and turns it in as their own original work.

Yes, this violates every honor code. It is cheating, it is dishonest, it is unethical, it is making the service providers lots and lots of money. Some will charge upwards of $1000 for a quick turn around on an essay.

I know what you are asking yourself, “What can I do to stop this madness?!” Well friend, I have good news for you. ProctorFree uses keystroke analysis as one of our data points in authenticating a student. The dwell time (holding down a key) and flight time (time between pressing keys) is as unique and reliable as handwriting analysis, if not more reliable because everything in keystroke analysis is performed via machines. So there is simply no room for error or bias.

By this point you have probably asked yourself something akin to, “But what does it matter if the person writing the online essay is doing the keystroke – you never verfiy the identity of the user.” And you are correct, my wise and insightful friend. The fact is keystroke analysis is just one ingredient in our academic integrity pie.

There are a host of options and possibilities that we can create for our partners who want to go the online essay route. First of all, we recommend having the students authenticate themselves before they begin writing the essay. This includes the audio and visual identity verification, with matching up to a school ID or government issued ID. Then throughout the whole writing process we would use our continuous facial recognition to monitor the student. The student could be writing in a word processor or in the LMS and in any environment. Unlike a closed book test, here we are just authenticating the student and doing facial tracking. We don’t have to use the other parts of the ProctorFree suite of offerings like our secure browser or anomaly tracking.

As for the student, this doesn’t change anything about the online essay writing experience. Well except for cheating and having someone else write their essay. I guess it does change that. 😉

Check out this quick 38 second video from one of these companies. My favorite line is:

“Get that A you deserve…as if you did all the work yourself.”

 

Until the next development in academic dishonesty, this has been

“This Week in Cheating.”

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