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Don’t pay others to do your assignments: Education ministry
December 29, 2018 | 8:57 PM
by Sheikha Al Maqhousi/[email protected]
If caught, students can be suspended from the university they attend, or even expelled
 
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Muscat: Students who engage in the practice of paying others to do their academic assignments for them will face severe penalties, which could include suspension from the university they attend, or even expulsion, Oman’s Ministry of Higher Education has warned.

Known as contract cheating, the concept has grown in popularity with the arrival of social media, which gives these contract cheaters the anonymity they would not get if they approached students in person. Those who offer to do these students’ assignments for them, in exchange for a fee, post their services on social media platforms, where they can be easily approached by students.

“Colleges and universities in Oman apply a number of accountability procedures for plagiarism because this action affects the students’ true achievements in education,” said Moza Ahmed Al Weshahi, Director of the Academic Programmes Department at the Ministry of Higher Education.

“Academic impersonations are referred to the Student Accountability Committee, which may result in the sentencing of any of the penalties referred to in the student accountability law, such as students being punished by suspension for a semester from their studies, if the charges are proven.”



Educational bodies in Oman have been organising awareness campaigns to inform people about the dangers of contract cheating. One such institution, Majan University College, recently held an awareness campaign as part of the International Day of Action against Contract Cheating.

“They try to use online platforms so that they cannot get caught, because when they come to you in person, you can easily catch them,” said Mohammad Yassen, Director of e-learning at Majan University College. “Firstly, you must know that contract cheating is an offence, and it is bad for you and no one else. Secondly, if you are approached by such people, you must block them and not deal with them. Report them to your college and academic advisor. Block their accounts.”



“Contract cheating is when a student gives money to a third party, such as another student, another person or a company to write his or her assignment, and he/she then submits the assignment as his/her own work,” he added.

“This is different from cheating in an exam, because here all you are doing is giving the money and other resources to another person for them to write the assignment for you and then submitting it as your own assignment.”

The Ministry of Higher Education added that colleges and universities in the country had employed several measures to detect contract cheating, including running checks for plagiarism, and detecting the similarities in content between assignment submissions.

Students’ assignments that have been done using a service often have repetitive patterns that plagiarism detection software can find.

“Colleges use an electronic system to verify the efficiency of students’ work,” said Al Weshahi. “Students have to submit their quarterly work (research, study, and reports) through the SafeAssign programme within the Blackboard e-learning system, which is applied to the colleges. This reveals the rates of plagiarism, if any. The ministry has implemented a number of awareness-raising measures to reduce the phenomenon of plagiarism.”

“Colleges and universities have introduced the concept of informing students about academic plagiarism in their induction programme for new students. The academic staff also have to clarify with them the policy of detecting academic plagiarism in colleges, which shows the similarity ratio allowed, and the consequences that will apply to those who impersonate or duplicate previous work.”

Yassen added, “There are different kinds of penalties, but such activities are considered as academic offences, and they could get you expelled from college; it all depends on the severity of what you have done. Many people expressed the same kind of concern, and wondered why people should find the need to cheat. You are basically hired or employed based on the certificate that you have, but when you are employed in the workplace, you will not have the necessary knowledge or skills to do what is required if you take part in contract cheating.”

Academic integrity is, after all, a crucial part of any academic education, which is highly valued by educational bodies across the world.

“Here, in the college, we really value academic integrity and we always value the integrity of the students and the staff, and we spread the value of integrity as part of our overall education,” said Yassen. “The International Day against Contract Cheating has come around for the third time, and we plan on doing this in the future as well. We have been participating every year since it began.”

“We always educate students about this so we always try to spread awareness and conduct different activities to help them learn about this concept,” he added. “We need to tell people that this is wrong and there is no value in getting your degree through this sort of approach. If you are a graduate, and you get your degree with no knowledge, then you will not be employed anywhere.”

During the event, Majan University College also shared signs of what to look out for when it came to contract cheating.

“If there is a big change in the students’ level, this is one of the signs,” Yassen said. “If the overall grades of a student are low, and he/she does not participate in class, but his/her assignments get full marks, then you know what to look for. Contract cheating is a global issue.”



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