Individual students are being targeted by online services offering to write assessments for them while “promoters” are suspected to have been hired within colleges to gather inside information on assignments.
Students have even been contacted individually on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram about specific essays they had to do as part of their college work.
A memo from Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) said it was suspected details of the assignments were either being provided by other students in exchange for discounts, or where students had been hired as “promoters” on college campuses.
The background memo said certain types of students were particularly at risk of using so-called ‘essay mills’ for cheating on assignments including postgraduate students and international students.
The briefing note explained: “Certain cohorts of learners appear to be more vulnerable to use of assignment writing services. In particular: international students where the pressure to succeed is very high and high levels of shame are associated with failing.
“[Also] postgraduate students where again there is a high level of investment in succeeding and learners may have additional financial and other pressures to deal with; and students on business and computer science (and related subject area) programmes.”