Learning with Integrity: Contract Cheating and File Sharing

What is file sharing? Academic file sharing is the illegal distribution of copyrighted course materials, assignment documents, and assessments. Commercial academic websites have made it easy for people to share copyrighted materials. Since these websites are common, sharing copyrighted materials has been normalized. Students should avoid sharing course materials online unless they have explicit permission from the copyright holder.

What is contract cheating? Contract cheating is having an external party do your academic work in your place. Examples of contract cheating include purchasing an essay from a person or company and having a friend or family member do your work or assessments for you. Contract cheating is academic misconduct. Providing contract cheating services such as impersonating someone to write an exam for them or allowing someone to use your work for academic credit is a breach of academic integrity. Many of the same sites heavily advertise unethical tutoring services to students which are really contract cheating in disguise. Avoid contract cheating by using official UBC academic supports.

Many commercial companies unethically promote both file sharing and contract cheating. It is important for students and other members of the UBC community to educate themselves on the risks associated with interacting with these types of websites and the harms that come from sharing and obtaining materials.


Academic file-sharing

Why should I avoid file-sharing sites?

Material on commercial file-sharing sites may be out-of-date or misleading. Thus, it is risky to rely on materials from these sites. The most up-to-date resources to use for studying are those provided directly by your instructor.  

Academic websites often require you to pay a fee or upload documents to obtain access to the materials on the site, which constitutes a copyrights violation. 

Do not share your personal information with these companies and do not pay to access the content. 

Unless you have received explicit permission from one of the copyright holders, you should assume that sharing their resources are subjected to copyright laws. Instructional materials are the intellectual property of the instructor who created them (UBC LR12 [PDF]).  

Files that can be subjected to copyright laws include syllabi, notes, slides, worksheets, assessments, and assignments. Sharing course notes with a classmate can be ok, but not if the notes are copied and distributed widely and certainly not if they are distributed for profit.   

Can I share my own work?

Documents containing your own work, such as notes in your personal words or course projects, are your own intellectual property and can be shared if you wish to. However, before you do, consider whether the website is an ethical company. Ensure sharing does not constitute collusion, and think about who is profiting from you sharing these materials. 

Contract cheating

What is contract cheating?

Having someone else do your academic work for you is called contract cheating. Examples of contract cheating include purchasing an essay from a person or company and having a friend or family member do your work for you. Contract cheating is academic misconduct.

Why should I avoid contract cheating?

Contract cheating is academic misconduct under UBC’s regulation. It is a serious offence that can have great consequences on your student and future professional life. Engaging in contract cheating harms your learning and leaves you less prepared for your future career.

Avoiding this can be difficult, as it can be tricky to tell when an academic website is actually selling contract cheating services. Keeping away from online tutoring services not affiliated with UBC is a good practice to adopt, as some of these websites can use deceiving practices. If you find yourself in this situation, please reach out to your academic advising office for advice. 

How can I avoid contract cheating?

The best way to avoid contract cheating is to not take part and reach out for help instead. Official services, such as AMS tutoring (UBCV) or the Student Learning Hub (UBCO) and department-specific help centres can help you. Practice good time management to avoid feeling pressured to cheat. Talk to your instructor if you are unable to complete an assignment. You may be able to work out an arrangement that maintains your integrity and ensures you learn the course concepts.  


Resources

UBC Okanagan

UBC Vancouver


References

  • Contract Cheating website by Dr. Thomas Lancaster
  • Rogerson, A., & Basanta, G. (2016). Peer-to-peer file sharing and academic integrity in the Internet age. In T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of academic integrity (273-285). Springer. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-098-8_55
  • Stoesz, B. M., & Seeland, J. (2020, August). Sharing is caring? Exploring academic integrity and file-sharing behaviours. Presented virtually for the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.