Skip navigation
All Places > Higher Education > Blog > 2019 > June
Wasi Khan

Measuring contract cheating

Posted by Wasi Khan Jun 27, 2019

Measuring contract cheating


"If you can't measure it, you can't improve it"* is the inspiration behind this blog post. In this post, I discuss why a way to measure contract cheating is necessary and propose a measurement metric. 


The motivation behind this (and future) posts is to journal the process of building this cheating measurement tool, collecting feedback and getting some help along the way. So, if anyone has any thoughts or is interested in helping please feel free to comment 


Okay, so, the question is...


Why do we need to measure cheating?


Over the years, we've all seen interventions in the area of contract cheating increase. And interventions come in many forms: technological (software), political (bans) and pedagogical (less writing assignments/raising awareness). While all such news is great, there is a larger question: how do we know the interventions are working? I feel this is a difficult, yet crucial question to ask (and answer!).


A measurement tool is as necessary as the interventions themselves. Why? Because we will eventually need the measurement tool to gauge the efficacy of the detection/prevention tools. How else can we tell if any government policy/technology is really hurting the businesses of essay mills?


The next question then becomes...


How do we measure contract cheating?


Self-reporting seems like a sub-par method to measure contract cheating interventions in my opinion. Since that approach is a bit biased (un-verifiable), my tiny brain proposes the following way: we measure the popularity of contract cheating websites and essay mills. I mean if cheating is decreasing, contract cheating websites will be less popular and vice versa right? 


Since we obviously don't (and never will) have the actual data of students cheating, I think the popularity of contract cheating websites is the ideal proxy/stand-in to measure the cheating market.


The most straight-forward (and reliable) data we can get on a website's popularity is its traffic/analytics data. But then there are hundreds and thousands of essay mill and contract cheating websites. 


The next question then becomes..


How do we monitor all odem websites?


Fortunately, other people have run into the same problem and they do it as such: they create an index. For example, there are 2,400 companies listed on the stock exchange but the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) only pools the data of the 30 largest companies and monitors their prices over-time. This 'average' then becomes a proxy for the entire stock market and the economy (by extension). Much like how how our website traffic data will be the proxy for the entire cheating economy


The next question then becomes... 


What do we call this cheating measurement tool?


I'm going to go out on a limb and call it the 'Contract Cheating Index (CCI)'. But if you have any better names, please feel free to suggest. Anyway, I feel we have something to build upon now. 


Which begs the question...



Where do we start?


The plan of action is:


  1. Analyze the traffic of a sub-set of contract cheating websites over-time
  2. Pick the top 30
  3. Create an 'index' which shows an upward or downward movement (much like the DJIA)
  4. Automate the process
  5. Display it


In the next post I shall do task 1 and task 2 and get a sense of the data. Just a heads-up our traffic data will come from Alexa (not the speaker, the website), so if anyone can find the time to collaborate with me on this that would be fun. Maybe Kona Jones, with your statistics experience? 


For now, this journey has to stop here. I hope you enjoyed reading, as much as I did writing. What is getting me excited is: in the next post I'll actually have some numbers to play with and data to share! Ain't that fun! 













*I think  the quote is attributed to Peter Drucker. 

I realize this is a bit 'meta' but I wanted to highlight the usefulness of the Canvas guides. Each of the guides has a table of contents that makes it really easy to find the topic you are looking for. Below is a Google Doc on using the Canvas guides:


I recommend bookmarking the  Canvas Instructor Guides  -- you'd be surprised how many questions the folks at Instructure have already answered for us! Each of the guides are clearly written and include screenshots with annotations.


Feel free to share with others or make a copy for yourself to distribute at your institution!

This CanvasTip actually came from one of my faculty and I thought it was definitely worth sharing.


In a user's account Notification preferences, there's an option under Alerts called Content Link Error. I never paid much attention to it but if you hover your mouse over it, it explains this preference will notify an instructor the location and content of a broken link that a student has interacted with inside a course. The default setting for this preferences is Daily, which may be fine but I suggest changing it to Right away ✅instead.


Content link error notification preference

Think about it: if you're teaching a course and a student tries to access something and is presented with an error, how do you think that student will feel? My guess is probably annoyed . If you were notified right away about this and could potentially fix it in a matter of minutes, you could help avoid any further headaches for your students. 


Below is a link to the help guide in Google Doc form:


Get Notified Right Away About a Course 'Content Link Error'



How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as an instructor?

How do I add contact methods to receive Canvas notifications as an instructor?


Please share if this is helpful!

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: