Google is finally taking action on one of the banes of academia in this electronic age: refusing advertisements for essay-writing services. Hurray!
Let’s be honest here. No matter what the reps for these companies claim, these businesses are not simply providing “models of a good essay” to students. They’re giving their customers, potentially our students, work that many students submit as their own work. All the disclaimers in the world don’t take away from the fact that these essays are being purchased to be submitted as student work.
It also peeves me that I run Adsense (mostly to play with the technology — I’ve never earned enough for a payment!) on my blog so that I occasionally see these ads when I blog about student writing. I can’t categorically ban these types of ads. I have to laboriously search them out, one by one, and put them on my “competitor’s filter”. (Note to Google: Adsense would be a lot better if users could access some category level blocking and promoting!) I know I could simply scrap the ads, but I’d still be left with the fact that when my entries show up in search engines, they’re occasionally juxtaposed against these kinds of ads. So reducing these advertisements pleases me, but don’t think that I’m resting easy.
In the long-term, educators still have to jump through hoops to ensure that students aren’t taking these short cuts in their course work. It’s easy to find the people who swipe off Wikipedia or anything else on the open internet. It’s not so easy to ferret out the students who pay someone else for a new piece of work. Teachers have to be creative in framing assignments to not only work with specific sources and tasks, but to ask for work in progress and in-class activities that demonstrate the student is actually doing the work. Shutting down these services from advertising on Google is a good start, but don’t let yourself be fooled that it’s actually cutting down on cheating in your classroom. In the words of Mad-Eye Moody, “Constant vigilance!”