The Contract Fraud Service takes advantage of the transition to online education by proposing to take the entire module for students, such as attending classes, completing assignments, and taking exams.

An online search reveals a few pages of ads from an essay mill for Chinese students taking courses from overseas universities, offering services tailored to zoom classes and online course work.

A company offers services that cover the entire course of an online course, including discussions, assignments, and exams. At another institution, there are various packages for students to choose from, with options such as one-stop coaching and assistance across online or mixed modules.

A customer service representative at a company was asked about the cost of taking a zoom class for a student. Times Higher Education: “With moderate homework, the cost should be $ 100 (£ 72) to $ 150 per week. This depends on the writer’s quote and the course syllabus.” Another institution is the entire module. He said he charged $ 600 to $ 1,500.

Agencies seek to mitigate concerns about potential clients being caught by providing communication assistance. One service provider claims that the writer drafts an email for students and “just forwards the email” when the instructor asks a question.

Thomas Lancaster, Senior Teaching Fellow and Contract Fraud Expert at Imperial College London, said Essay Mill had offered to complete the entire assessment program for several years, but went to Covid-led online learning. The transition was “an overview of this service was taken up in the discussion.”

According to Chinese media, the masked reporter received 10 orders in a day after joining a coaching company. Journalists were told that the company’s business was “explosive” during the pandemic.

Phillip Dawson, Associate Director of Deakin University’s Center for Evaluation and Digital Learning Research, said that dealing with this type of fraud “needs to combine aggressive academic integrity with the security of hostile evaluation.” Said.

“A proactive approach, such as educating students on these service issues, is essential,” says Professor Dawson. “One approach to ensuring real-time activities such as exams is to verify that the student is who they say they are, such as typing, voice, or face-to-face matching the data collected under controlled conditions. High quality biometrics. “

But he admitted that it was very difficult to prevent people from “intentionally giving them their identity.”

Dr. Lancaster said the university “needs to know that the right people are accessing the system to avoid all the cybersecurity risks that result from granting contract fraud providers access to intellectual property.” Said.

But Professor Dawson added, “If education stays in the zoom, then there will be cheating.”

karen.liu@timeshighereducation.com