Rentacoder.com is a site where businesses or individuals can solicit bids for programming projects. According to this Wall Street Journal piece, many of the bidders are Indians and Eastern Europeans charging, at maximum, not much more than the cost of a monthly Metrocard.
It is therefore not surprising to find the following posting:
“I need help with 5 homework problems in Visual Basic 6.0. I am capable of doing these on my own, but I work very slowly and I really need time to devote to other classes before finals. So, it would be easier just to pay someone else to do them for me…. I need these done by Thursday May 4th by 5:00 P.M. Central Standard Time at the latest, but I’d be interested to know how much more it would cost to have these completed Wednesday (tomorrow) by 9:00 P.M.”
Of course it has always been possible to hire someone to do your schoolwork. It probably hasn’t been this easy, anonymous, and affordable, though. And why stop with programming projects? Developing countries produce underemployed political science or English PhDs as well; many barely clear $500/month teaching at state universities. Today’s plagiarist may find it quite affordable to hire scholars to write A or B-grade papers that pass plagiarism smell tests.
Should we be then integrating plagiarism education into every course? Aside from hammering in why plagiarism is unethical, teachers might take the time to explain what skills a particular project imparts and what the student therefore loses if he can’t be bothered with it. How have you dealt with this issue in your work? (On another note: some schools have surrendered to technology and have instead begun loosening standards on cheating, as this article describes.)