Cheating or outsourcing: at what point does buying assessment become authentic professional practice?

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Curriculum Transformation Vol. 40

June, 2017, 455 pages
Published by
Ruth Walker & Simon Bedford
ISBN
978-0-9945546-6-6
Abstract 

The rise of contract cheating sites and the consequent ease with which students can purchase assessment items are the new scourge of universities. Despite our exhortations to students that they should behave honestly and complete all of their assessement items themselves, students are purchasing work and submitting it for credit. The sad reality is, universities are often powerless to stop or even to detect this activity. We must face the idea that purchased work is everywhere, and that a significant portion of course credit is being given for material that has been sourced from third parties.

One could argue that purchasing assessment items is actually a sophisticated form of outsourcing that reflects the behaviour of time-poor professionals. This is a provocative perspective, but in this paper I will support it using the hypothetical case study of a scientific research laboratory (an authentic work place for me) that purchases items for an experimental program. Purchasing goods and services is considered a legitimate and authentic professional approach to solving a problem in research, and this practice is much like the approach that students are taking when they purchase assignments.

In this paper I pose and address two questions that are designed to stimulate conversation in the scholarly assessment community: Is the purchase of assessment material by students reflective of authentic professional practice? And, If purchasing assessment reflects authentic professional work practice, when is it appropriate to allow the submission of purchased assessment components?

Keywords: authentic assessment, authenticity, assessment integrity

Cheating or outsourcing: at what point does buying assessment become authentic professional practice?

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Rowland, S.