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A STUDY IN ACCURACY AND USE OF INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET


Two years ago, we were part of a grant study under the Department of Education, to determine the (1) accuracy, integrity and validity of information that is dissimulated on the internet; and 2) if individuals do in-depth research on this information to determine whether the data is true or false or if the individuals take the information at face value without further research. 

The study was to be used particularly for higher educational research in colleges and universities, where the use of academic writing websites and plagiarism in social science, science, and business areas were becoming an epidemic of proportion with Millennials (the current age grouping) and the corporate world in order to get subcontractors for contracts and RFPs. 

All parameter data tracking and follow-up was accomplished with proprietary computer generated software for this project and the results were also used to accomplish several investigative journalistic pieces for publication.

We created a “false” business website with a “kernel of truth” and expounded on its informational value with plagiarism, untruths and creativity on a weekly basis to see how long it would take at least one individual to question the information provided within the website. It took sixteen (16) months before someone “spoke up.”

This was sixteen months of this website being used as resource for term papers, research papers, business reports, and case studies by individuals in the corporate world and in the academic world. 

During this time period, we also “joined” several academic writing websites as writers and contributors to determine exactly how this information was being utilized and the process by which “this information” was being purchased by clients of these sites. 

We were astonished at the results we were finding.  What is actually amusing to our researchers was the fact that we were “validated” by watchdog groups and academic sites without their conducting any investigation into the information provided on our “website.”

We were asked to write term papers and homework assignments for high school students with averaging payment between $20.00 to $60.00 depending on complexity. 

We were asked to take online tests at colleges and universities who utilize the Blackboard or similar allegedly secure sites that only students should be able to access with login and password – we were given these at the time of assignment. 

We were asked to write term papers, research papers, homework assignments, pop quizzes for freshman through senior level college students, particularly in the medical, nursing, and business curriculum. 

The really amazing fact was that we were asked to write 100 to 500 pages of thesis or dissertations for Master level or PhD level clients, who wanted the degree to obtain the next rung on their professional ladder without having to do the hard work of research and writing and were paid between $500 – 2,000 per paper depending on subject matter, complexity and length.  These included social science, criminal justice, medical, nursing, and hard-core science fields.

The young adults, who are entering college or have been in college within the past ten years, utilize the internet extensively as a research and resource tool – why not?  It is very simple to plug in a search list and get a tremendous amount of “fluff” pieces or inaccurate information in which to base their academic papers in order to get their degree without the sweat and tears of having to validate the information the old fashion way – in libraries with books. 

The bygone years of taking quizzes, tests and finals in class, doing homework assignments, research and term papers and turning them into the teacher in class and having to make multiple trips to the libraries, going through books, microfiche and tomes have become obsolete with the “instant technology era” in today’s society.

Educational facilities are finding that the onslaught of plagiarized papers and purchased works by students and corporations and businesses losing contracts by misinformation is discouraging in the least.

Colleges and universities are being hit the hardest.  With the prevalence of pursuing degrees through  coursework at online  “higher and technical “ schools and the high percentage of dependency of brick & mortar schools utilizing academic work submission through online programs, teachers and professors have to become “watchdogs” over each and every student in their classes – which range from 30 to 600 at a time. 

Clickers, a portable handheld device, are used for attendance or answering questions on a special background in the classroom settings.  Students that attend classes are being paid to take a non-attending student’s clicker and “forge” their classroom attendance on a daily basis. 

Online tests and exams are being taken as a “group” by telephoning or texting answers over the phones or getting together and working on laptops.

Others are being paid to write responses to classroom topic discussions, write 600 word essays to full-blown research papers and anything else that one can think of instead of doing the work themselves.

When individuals and groups were asked during follow-up of findings, why they cheated and failed to perform research to validate their information, we were given responses: 1) “I don’t have time to research and write papers with all I have to do in my life”, 2) “it’s not hurting anyone”, 3) “I am working full time and going to school, I don’t have time to be in the library doing research”; 4) “I need my degree to get a promotion and I have a family to take care of too”, 5) “We need the contract to keep afloat and just don’t have the personnel and time to check every little thing” and so on, in this same vain.

What is appalling is that these are the future of America and the leaders of tomorrow in their chosen fields!

As use of the internet as a sole research tool and purchase of “degrees” has become an epidemic, we truly need to look at our primary, secondary and higher educational systems and fix them before it is too late.
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