Ethics poser in outsourcing student assignments

PETALING JAYA: The rise of online assignment helpers has sparked a contentious debate within the education community.

These assignment helpers, sometimes called “essay mills,” offer services to assist students struggling with tight deadlines or complex assignments.

While some argue that the service provides much-needed support to overwhelmed students, others fear it may promote academic dishonesty and undermine the integrity of the education system.

But many postgraduate students and working professionals have benefitted from the services of assignment helpers. With demanding schedules and multiple commitments, these individuals often struggle to meet the rigorous demands of their academic courses.

A 28-year-old postgraduate student in his second year in bioinformatics at Universiti Selangor, who asked to be known only as Melvin, said: “Assignment helpers have provided invaluable assistance in managing my coursework while balancing my work responsibilities.

“They have helped me stay on track and maintain a good academic record, ensuring my success in both areas. Their services include customised assistance, enabling students like me to get clarification, guidance and support to complete our assignments effectively.”

Nur Amiliana Nazri, a former assignment helper and current secondary school Malay language teacher, said not all assignment helpers operate unethically.

“While some students may misuse the services of assignment helpers, we cannot disregard the fact that many genuinely require assistance due to various reasons, such as language barriers, mental health issues or personal emergencies.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, I began assisting undergraduate and postgraduate students with their assignments.

“Online learning presents numerous challenges and tasks for students, making it difficult for them to complete their work within the given time.

“I stopped providing the service after face-to-face classes resumed. However, I will accept assignments upon request by my regular clients. Although financial compensation was a factor, the most rewarding aspect was the opportunity to assist many students to complete and pass their subjects on schedule.”

Private university business school senior lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Hindumathie Panirselvam said such services thwart the principles of academic integrity.

“It encourages plagiarism and intellectual laziness and promotes a culture of ‘paying for success’, which does not align with the principles of genuine learning and knowledge acquisition.

“The availability of assignment helper services has granted students an easy escape from the challenges of critical thinking and independent learning.

“As a result, there are concerns that students may over-rely on such services, compromising their ability to develop the essential skills required for their careers.”

To address such concerns, Hindumathie said many universities have established strict policies and guidelines on academic conduct, stressing the importance of originality and individual effort.

“These policies include educating students about the ethical implications of using assignment helpers and the potential consequences they may face. The universities are encouraging students to seek support from on-campus resources instead.”

She added that while seeking assistance and guidance is not inherently wrong, it is crucial for students to recognise the importance of academic integrity.

“Professors and teaching assistants are becoming more accessible to students, providing guidance and feedback to help them navigate the complexities of challenging assignments.

“By developing time management skills, seeking appropriate academic support when needed and embracing a growth mindset toward their studies, students can achieve success without compromising integrity.”

While some argue that the service provides much needed support to overwhelmed students, others fear it may promote academic dishonesty and undermine the integrity of the education system (unrelated filepic). - SUNPIX

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