Sunday, April 28, 2019

Australian draft law prohibiting academic cheating services

Dan Tehan MP,
Minister for Education
The Australian Minister for Education, Dan Tehan MP, released a draft law "Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services", 7 April 2019. This would make it a criminal offense to provide or advertise academic cheating services, with up to two years imprisonment, or more than $100,000 fine. Students who use the services will not be subject to this law, with any academic penalty left to their institution. The law will apply to services provided outside Australia for those in Australia. Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will undertake monitoring, and can ask a court for an order to have web sites providing services blocked. There is a summary overview of the draft Bill available. The Australian Department of Education has asked for comments by 28 June 2019.

It is not clear to me how well this law will work where services are being provided from outside Australia. Also it is not clear if this also applies to students in Australia enrolled in courses outside Australia.

In my view educators need to accept that students do not see cheating as a serious issue. Giving students stern warnings has proved ineffective. Making it something like a crime requires educational institutions to have complex slow processes, which students can use to avoid penalties. Instead I suggest treating cheating as a learning experience.

Students should be trained and tested on study skills, including how to write assignments. Most students will respond to this. Assessment can be designed so the few students who persist with attempting to cheat never graduate.

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