Ghosting Inside the Machine: Student Cheating, Online Education and the Omertà of Institutional Liars

In Alison MacKenzie, Jennifer Rose & Ibrar Bhatt (eds.), The Epistemology of Deceit in the Postdigital Era: Dupery by Design. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. pp. 251-264 (2021)
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'Ghosting' or the unethical practice of having someone other than the student registered in the course take the student's exams, complete their assignments and write their essays has become a common method of cheating in today's online higher education learning environment. Internet-based teaching technology and deceit go hand-in-hand because the technology establishes a set of perverse incentives for students to cheat and institutions to either tolerate or encourage this highly unethical form of behavior. For students, cheating becomes an increasingly attractive option as pre-digital safeguards-for instance, in-person exam proctoring requirements and face-to-face mentoring-are quietly phased out and eventually eliminated altogether. Also, as the punishments for violating academic integrity policies are relaxed, the temptation to cheat increases accordingly. For institutions, tolerating, normalizing and encouraging one type of student cheating, ghosting, improves the profitability of their online divisions by bolstering student enrolments and retention. In universities and colleges across the globe, online divisions and programs have become thriving profit centers, not because of the commonly attributed reasons (student ease, safety during health crises and convenience of taking courses online), but due to a single strategic insight: Ubiquitous opportunities for ghosting improve profit margins and maximize revenue.

Author's Profile

Shane Ralston
University of Ottawa (PhD)


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