How To Solve The Ghastly Problem Of Essay Mills

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An essay mill is where some student with more money than motivation pays someone like me to write their homework for them. I have actually done this too – I did a whole one essay for one of the companies just to see what it was like. And seriously, if you’ve got me writing your economics homework for you then more motivation, more effort on your part, is a necessary part of your gaining an education.

So, given the new existence of online, where it’s now easy to put the moneyed student in contact with the impecunious intellectual – or, often enough, the less moneyed student – essay mills thrive:

Essay mills have become a “public safety” issue, a higher education watchdog has said as it warns that the practise is now spreading to school children.

The number of students paying companies to write essays and coursework for them has increased “dramatically” in recent years and now includes sixthformers, according to the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), which monitors standards in universities.

The agency admits that attempts to bring the phenomenon under control have so far failed, and now believes that new legislation is the only way to stamp it out.

“What has become increasingly clear to us and to others in the sector, is that the scope and scale of contract cheating and the use of essay mills has increased dramatically in recent years,” said Gareth Crossman, the QAA’s head of policy and public affairs. “This is not a higher education issue, its affecting all of society, it is a public health and public safety issue.”…

Don’t be stupid man. It’s nowt whatever to do with public health and safety. It’s to do with your teaching methods. You’re going to have to change them.

As Brad Delong has been pointing out for years the very method of university teaching arose from a technological issue. Books were expensive. No, expensive. A scholar might amass a library of 50 volumes in a lifetime if they were assiduous at the game. Hundreds indicated an active collector spending significant sums. At which point, to educate the impecunious – students have never been known as the rich – it makes sense for education to be one person with a book reading it to a room full of others. The lecture that is.

Books are now cheap. That education method no longer needs to be.

So too with this idea of essays. Sure, it’s s good thing to be able to research, write down an argument and all these things. But that world out there has changed. Getting someone else to do it for you is now cheap. Less than the money you could earn pulling pints in the time it might take to do it. Well, -ish, -ish, around and about.

This is also all global. Changing UK law to ban the mills isn’t going to change matters a jot. Nor tittle in fact.

What needs to be changed is the method of education which leads to students being asked to produce essays unsupervised.

What’s so odd is that the educational establishment is near entirely Marxist. The state of technology determines the mode of social relations of whatever it is. OK, technology has changed, the mode of educational relations needs to change.

Essays – just as an example here – must be produced under exam conditions. Done, problem solved.

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Spike
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Spike

If the pupil reads rather than just submitting an essay ghost-written by Tim, that might further his education or even boost his curiosity.

Despite technology, learning to write an essay is useful: You learn to write (to marshal those grammar/spelling lessons into practical use) and to build an argument that hangs together.

Short of buying a work, there is always copypaste for those who excel through fakery. Yes, essays-under-exam-conditions (or merely, exams) is the solution.

jgh
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jgh

Assessment by essays were invented in the 1700s? because of technological advances and increased student numbers meant that the previous method of lecturers assessing students in one-to-one discussions took too much time. Another techological/sociological change requires another teaching and assessment change.

Sam Vara
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Sam Vara

The main reason why essays under exam conditions won’t happen is that more students would fail. And that means fewer students, and in a couple of years, fewer jobs in academia.

Every change has to be towards everyone succeeding at everything.

Barks
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Barks

An alternative might be to have the student defend the paper in a shortened one-on-one discussion without the paper being in front of the student. Could be some delightful discussions (from the examiner’s side, that is).

ANNRQ
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ANNRQ

That assumes the examiner understands the subject. From the evidence of Mr Potato Head, that’s not guaranteed.

Perhaps he got someone to do his coursework.