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Concerns about Unethical Course Taking Services

Paying for an A?

In her article “Paying for an A,” Alexandra Tilsley of Insider Higher Ed reported on the up-cropping of unscrupulous businesses offering to take your online course for you. Though one such business,, bowed out of the black market after scrutinous publicity, fears of similar services abound in academia. As educators, how can we combat these issues?

Take a page from the newly updated ‘Cheaters Never Prosper’ booklet produced by ASU Online. Among many solutions to promoting academic integrity, the Cheaters booklet addresses several options that can answer issues posed by course-taking services. front page

Partner Pedagogy and Technology

When combined, effective pedagogy and technology are a winning combination. Start by designing pedagogically sound assessments that use question pooling or drafting. For example, a question pool will randomize question selection within an exam so students cannot compare test questions as easily. A written assignment that requires successive drafts and incorporates instructor and peer feedback can reduce the likelihood that a student will submit another’s work as their own.

Next, layer in a technology solution such as a proctoring or plagiarism checking software. The Turnitin Originality Checker identifies plagiarized content and its source and can be combined with the PeerMark and GradeMark tool for drafting and revision support. Concerning exams, ASU Online works with a variety of proctoring vendors that offer live and recorded proctoring. Certain providers use visual and biometric identity verification like facial capture recognition and keystroke analytics. When partnered with strong pedagogy, these technologies can limit the lure of course-taking services. And deterrence is an effective technique in and of itself.

Deterrence Does Prosper

Informing students in advance about any technology solutions you will be using to promote integrity can fend off flirtations with cheating. Emphasize academic integrity throughout the semester, not just at the start. Be sure to relay a clear policy on situations when collaboration is and is not appropriate. See the Community building solutions section of the Cheaters booklet for more ideas.

The Honest Battle

Dodgy course taking services probably will continue to tempt students. But why make the work of those companies any easier? By implementing solutions that deter cheating and leverage the latest technologies, you will build a strong armor against potential breaches in academic integrity.

Where to find out more


Renee Pilbeam contributed to this article