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Another Billion Dollar Cheating Site Looks to Go Public
Plus, BBC on Kenyan Essay Mills. Plus, Stanford Moving Toward Exam Proctoring.
Quizlet, Valued at More than One Billion Dollars, Eyes IPO
As a follower of academic integrity, you probably know there are three big cheating providers - Chegg, Course Hero and Quizlet - a dirty trinity if you will.
Chegg is already public, trading on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of more than $11 billion. And according to TechCrunch, Quizlet, already valued at more than a billion, is looking to be a public, shareholder owned company too.
The press blurb does not mention academic misconduct or the cheating incidents the company has been snared in, but instead naively describes Quizlet as “a flashcard tool turned artificial intelligence-powered tutoring platform.”
TechCrunch’s journalistic malpractice aside, the report is helpful in sharing the investment firms that have helped Quizlet sell its illicit services and also no doubt hope to cash in during a stock offer:
Quizlet has raised a majority of its $62 million in venture capital under [the CEO]. Now, investors in the company include General Atlantic, Owl Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Costanoa Ventures and Altos Ventures.
Cheating is profitable and increasingly big, corporate business.
BBC Reports on Paid Essay Writers in Kenya
A good news report by the BBC has highlighted the complex essay mill ecosystem in Kenya - the world’s back office of contract cheating. The BBC story is similar to the story CBS News ran recently (see Issue 43). But it’s nonetheless well worth reading.
The story starts with a Kenyan named Kennedy:
He's part of a truly global online industry, which is booming in Kenya. But what Kennedy and many other Kenyans call "academic writing", the rest of the world calls cheating.
If you're a student or a school pupil who is struggling with an assignment, or you just can't be bothered, then Kennedy and his team of writers will do it for you - for the right fee.
You then hand it in, pretend it's your own work and hope you don't get caught.
Yup, that’s how it works.
But it’s not just writing papers. According to Kennedy:
He says the writers he employs can complete up to 200 essays or online exams a month. "You log on for a student and do the exams for them," he adds.
As the both the CBS and BBC story showed, these writers for hire are logging in to college and other school websites and taking exams for students - activity any school could flag and shut down if they wanted to.
But my favorite part of the article is this quote from John, another paid writer in Kenya, who said,
There are people who do assignments in nursing. I wouldn't really want to go to hospital to be treated by someone who paid someone else to take the exams. You know it's really dangerous. It actually gives you goose bumps.
The BBC also quotes Dr Gladys Nyachieo, a sociology lecturer at Nairobi's Multimedia University, who puts much of the blame for Kenya’s lucrative cheating business on students in “rich countries” doing so much cheating.
She’s not wrong. Cheating is big business. See the story on Quizlet above.
Stanford Inches Toward Exam Proctoring
According to coverage in its student paper, Stanford University is on the verge of a revision to its academic honor code to allow test proctoring. The revision would be the first since 1977, the paper reported.
Stanford’s Honor Code does not allow exam proctoring and the school’s policy on remote instruction requires exams to be open book, open note. Again, without any proctoring. The new proposed revision, though, expressly allows it, saying:
assessments may be proctored to maintain the integrity of the academic process
The reason is simple - too much cheating. Quoting the paper:
The proposal comes at a time of increased scrutiny of the Honor Code at Stanford. Over the past academic year, documented cheating soared across the University.
For background on Stanford’s recent cheating spike - up 114% even without proctoring - see Issue 34.
A student advocate for the policy change said,
not having anybody overseeing in any capacity how these exams have happened — they have been experiences that we’re seeing failing.
The proposal has another process step or two before becoming final but, if the change is approved, it would be significant. A school of Stanford’s reputation expressly citing cheating as the reason to amend its Honor Code to allow proctoring - that’s big.
October 20 - ICAI Day of Action Against Contract Cheating
The International Center for Academic Integrity has announced a “Day of Action Against Contract Cheating” - October 20. The Center is asking institutions to sign on as well as promoting a panel and student contest.
To support the effort and for more details, here’s the link.
In the next, “The Cheat Sheet” - I will get to that update on those lawsuits between a proctoring company and a critic. Plus, that promised look at anti-cheating technology making its way to corporate HR. Plus, as always, more cheating.
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