October is Student Success Month at the University of Manitoba and this year the month features a variety of workshops on career preparation, stress management, academic writing, research skills and cultural adaptation and identity.
Oct. 19 will also mark the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, and will feature workshops educating students on the problems and risks associated with contract cheating.
Contract cheating refers to students outsourcing their schoolwork to homework websites, essay mills or personal acquaintances.
“This is often the time of term where things become a little bit overwhelming sometimes,” Stephanie Young said, student transitions co-ordinator at the University of Manitoba.
“There’s a lot of successes that students have by October, but also a lot of stressful situations, so what we like to do is offer a range of events by support units across campus.”
Young highlighted a series of academic workshops that will be available online, enabling students to participate virtually.
“They have topics ranging from creating a study schedule, to preparing for midterms, to preventing procrastination, and so students of all levels would benefit from those workshops,” she said.
The next upcoming workshop will be held on Oct. 13, and will focus on academic writing and the use of academic sources.
There will also be career-oriented workshops on topics ranging from job searching to using LinkedIn, as well as workshops from the English Language Centre such as “Small Talk Strategies for the Classroom,” which will help students for whom English is a second language to connect with their fellow classmates.
The International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating occurs during the third week of Student Success Month.
Francois Jordaan, academic integrity specialist at the U of M, said that workshops on the subject are not only intended to inform students of the rules surrounding contract cheating, but to warn them of the potential risks involved.
“These sites that get involved in contract cheating, that help students to write their essays,” he said, “in many instances, they’re predatory sites that will eventually blackmail students.”
Jordaan said that the switch to online learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the number of these predatory sites.
“In many instances, what we’ve seen is that students who just express frustration about writing an assignment, that they would put [that] on Instagram or Twitter,” he said.
“All of a sudden these bot messages will just come in from these different sites saying ‘oh you need help, I can write your assignment, send me a DM and we can work out a price.’”
Jordaan said that in some cases, after paying hundreds of dollars for these sites to complete their coursework for them, many students would then receive messages threatening to inform their school that they cheated unless they were paid more money.
He said that students who are struggling should seek help from their instructors or the Academic Learning Centre.
“That’s kind of what we want students to know about this International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating,” he said.
“We don’t want to scare them, but we want students to be aware that it’s just not worth it.
“All that stress and anxiety of maybe being blackmailed, all that money that you’re putting in, it’s not worth it.”