Did Online Education Exacerbate Contract Cheating During COVID19 in China? Evidence From Sina Weibo

Yangchun Xiong, Zixuan Pan, Ling Yang
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 22  •  2023  •  pp. 295-309

The purpose of this study is to explore the correlation between contract cheating and online education in China, which has become a major concern due to the extensive promotion of online education worldwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contract cheating, also known as academic ghostwriting, refers to the act of students outsourcing academic assignments to third parties, who complete the work on their behalf. With the development of online education, the incidence of contract cheating is rising progressively. Whilst numerous scholars have conducted extensive research on the causes, prevention, and handling of contract cheating, the issue persists and needs further localized understanding.

This study employs a mixed-methods approach. First, textual data on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform, is collected and analyzed using VOSviewer and NVivo12 software. Field observation methods are also utilized for theme analysis and sentiment analysis. Second, the theoretical framework of organizational theory is applied to explain the impact of different modes of online education implementation on contract cheating. Finally, based on the findings, possible solutions to mitigate contract cheating are proposed.

This study contributes to the literature by providing a theoretical framework to explain the relationship between online education and contract cheating in China. The study’s findings highlight the importance of the mode of online education implementation when addressing contract cheating.

This study finds that online education does exacerbate contract cheating in China, and the extent of this phenomenon varies depending on the mode of online education implementation. This study also identifies the lack of academic integrity education and supervision as a major factor contributing to contract cheating.

Reducing the costs of educational organizations in combating cheating through institutional arrangements, such as establishing effective channels of communication between teachers and schools and controlling teachers’ workload outside of their primary responsibilities, can help curb contract cheating.

Both history and reality have demonstrated that possible solutions cannot rely solely on new technologies or single institutional arrangements. Contract cheating is essentially an unethical means of competing for scarce resources, and as long as resources remain scarce, this phenomenon will persist.

As a social phenomenon, contract cheating cannot be completely eradicated through top-down policy enforcement.

The stringent enforcement against contract cheating also involves the education regulatory and judicial departments, and their relationship is worthy of future research.

contract cheating, online education, textual analysis, organizational approach, field observation
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