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Academic Integrity and Academic Labour: One Faculty Association’s Position

Learning, Teaching and Leadership

by Sarah Elaine Eaton

The Alberta Colleges and Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA) (Alberta, Canada) has released a brand new report on academic integrity. ACIFA’s Position on Academic Integrity, was prepared by Brooklin Schnieder, ACIFA Vice President, Professional Affairs.

Front cover of the report, ACIFA position on Academic Integrity. The title of the report is written in white text on a grey banner. There is a photo graph of a woman leaning over a desk to help a student who is sitting down. The student is holding a pen and has paper and binders in front of her.

This report covers important topics for faculty associations and academic unions and their members, related to academic integrity:

  • Faculty members’ role in promoting academic integrity
  • Academic integrity and workload
  • Emotional labour and burnout
  • Institutional policies and practices
  • Curriculum and assessment practices
  • Text-matching software and other technology solutions
  • Academic file-sharing and copyright
  • Contract cheating
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Decolonization and Indigenization

The report concludes with a dozen recommendations, framed through the lens of social justice and advocacy, “Faculty are deeply committed to these values, but such a commitment should not come with a corresponding cost of additional unremunerated hours, emotional labour, and burnout. And with technological change, the opportunities for…

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Call for Steering Committee Members

The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity seeks Steering Committee Members

The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) is a regional academic integrity network founded in 2019. We aim to uphold and elevate academic integrity in our province. The terms of the inaugural steering committee members are ending in 2023, and we are seeking committed individuals to take their place and continue leading ACAI’s initiatives. Steering committee members can work in post-secondary institutions and in K-12 schools across Alberta, and can be from any area within those systems including library, student support, code of conduct, faculty, teaching and learning, and administration. Steering committee members are passionate about academic integrity and about collaborating across the province on all matters related to academic integrity. The steering committee meets about 8 times per year virtually, hosts at least one in-person provincial meeting per year, and champions Alberta Academic Integrity Week every October. Steering committee member terms are 2 years..

Are you interested in joining this steering committee? Please provide an email with an expression of interest to Margaret Toye ( by February 24, 2023. Please share the role you fulfill at your institution and the reasons why you would like to take part in this steering committee.

ACAI also has three working groups on the following topic areas: contract cheating, EDI, and professional (educational) development. If you are interested in joining one of these working groups please also email Margaret Toye and she will connect you to the committee chair.

Margaret Toye, PhD

Associate Dean, Extended Education


Academic Innovation and Extended Education

May 2023 – Academic Integrity Provincial Meeting

The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) is pleased to host the ACAI 2023 Provincial Meeting on May 2, 2023 at Red Deer College.

Join us and meet with people from all over Alberta to talk about academic integrity. This meeting is open to educators, students, librarians, student affairs professionals, educational leaders and administrations, and everyone whose work involves academic integrity. Those from both the K-12 systems and post-secondary institutions—including members of Student Unions and Associations–are welcome to attend.  

The meeting will include the following presentations and discussions (agenda to be confirmed):

Artificial Intelligence: An Interactive Discussion

Smoke, Mirrors, and Cash: Profiteering on the Backs of Punjabi Youth

One Academic Program’s Academic Integrity Journey

ACAI: Reflections on Our First Four Years

Time: 9:30-4:00 (subject to change and to be confirmed in April, 2023)

Location: Red Deer College downtown campus

If you would like more information or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Margaret Toye, ACAI Steering Committee member at

To register for the event, please click here by April 21, 2023.

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May 2023 – Academic Integrity Provincial Meeting

Understanding Student Experiences with Commercial Contract Cheating and Other Outsourcing Behaviours

This research project involved a collaboration between the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) and Bow Valley College. The research explored post-secondary student experiences of contract cheating and stress students encounter while completing their programs.


Purpose: The primary goal of the project was to better understand post-secondary student experiences of contract cheating and the stress students encounter while completing their programs.

Methods: Survey research methodology, using well-established measures from contract cheating research and research on the stress process were used to collect closed and open-ended responses from career program learners in a community college in Alberta. Responses were collected in Survey Monkey, an online survey tool, from 916 participants in October 2021.

Results: Survey results overall indicated student involvement in contract cheating. Differences between commercial contract cheating and sharing behaviour were revealed. High levels of stress were reported, and type of stress varied across contract cheating behaviour.

Implications: The results of this study add to the continually growing body of knowledge of academic integrity in Canada. They will also expand on knowledge of the stress students experience and the personal and social resources they have access to while completing their programs and how this may relate to contract cheating.

Key Words: contract cheating, academic integrity, academic dishonesty, plagiarism, stress

This resource is available as a free downloadable resource:

PDF – Ferguson et al. 2022-compressed.pdf

Authors: Ferguson, Corrine; Toye, Margaret; Carver, Christina; Pictin, Tonisha; Eaton, Sarah Elaine; Boisvert, Sheryl

Cite this resource as:

Ferguson, C. D., Toye, M. A., Carver, C., Pictin, T., Eaton, S. E., & Boisvert, S. (2022). Understanding Student Experiences of Commercial Contract Cheating and Other Outsourcing Behaviours – Research Report. Calgary: Bow Valley College.

Academic Integrity Week 2022: October 17-21

Join us for Academic Integrity Week, October 17-21, 2022

AB AcInt Week 2022The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity is pleased to announce Academic Integrity Week: October 17-21, 2022.

Here are some ways for educational institutions across the province to get involved:

  • Offer events at your school to promote academic integrity
  • Engage students in conversations about academic integrity
  • Offer skill-building workshops such as citing and referencing workshops
  • Distribute academic integrity swag to students and staff
  • Hold workshops for faculty on topics such as academic misconduct case management
  • Build awareness about the predatory contract cheating industry
  • Connect with your student leaders to plan events and raise awareness
  • Cross-promote workshops and events with other Alberta institutions
  • Join the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating on October 19, 2022

Share this post: Academic Integrity Week 2022: October 17-21

ACAI 2022 Provincial Meeting

Join us for our 2022 Spring #AcademicIntegrity provincial meeting May 26, 2022 at Bow Valley College

Registration is open for the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) Spring 2022 provincial meeting.

Please join us for the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) Spring 2022 provincial meeting, a hybrid event to be hosted virtually by Bow Valley college. Anyone keen to support academic integrity in post-secondary institutions as well as in K-12 in Alberta is welcome – students, staff, faculty, administrators, and any other interested party. You can join in person at the Bow Valley College campus in downtown Calgary, or join virtually through MS Teams.


  • Presentation on the Bow Valley College research project: Understanding Student Experiences with Contract Cheating and other Outsourcing Behaviours – The research team includes an administrator, a faculty member, and two student researchers from Bow Valley College with ACAI as the community partner
  • A panel discussion by English Language Learning students sharing experiences regarding academic integrity
  • Faculty sharing UDL interventions to prevent cheating
  • Reports from the EDI, Contract Cheating, and Educational Development working groups
  • Updates on Alberta Academic Integrity Week (Oct. 18-22, 2022) activities
  • Thursday, May 26, 2022

8:30am – 3:00pm

Location: Bow Valley College – 345 6 Ave SE Calgary AB

Online through MS Teams (meeting link will be provided closer to the event date)

Register here

If you have any questions, please direct them to Margaret Toye, Steering Committee Member, Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI):

We look forward to connecting with you at the meeting!

The ACAI’s Fall 2021 provincial meeting

The ACAI’s Fall 2021 provincial meeting hosted by Mount Royal University (MRU) on September 8, 2021, was an opportunity for the Alberta academic integrity community to come together. Here, participants were able to learn about different student’s perspectives and experiences related to academic integrity and academic misconduct prevention. Moreover, the provincial meeting attendees received news about all three ACAI’s working groups’ purposes and activities and became engaged with the ACAI’s steering committee membership process and the plans for the upcoming Alberta Integrity Week.

With over 50 participants from different institutions across the province of Alberta, Dr. Elizabeth Evans (MRU Provost) opened the meeting and underscored the significance of ACAI’s work and its commitment to academic integrity. Moreover, Dr. Evans recognized academic integrity as a “foundational point in postsecondary education.”

After Dr. Evans’ welcome, the student panel called “What I wish I had known” provided invaluable information and deep insights. In this informal interactive discussion, five students shared their engaging and resonating university experiences of learning with integrity. Some of the top recommendations for other students were to become engaged in APA and MLA workshops early, keep a close relationship with academic advisors, interact with Faculty and peers frequently, avoid self-plagiarism, seek support to develop planning skills, include references immediately when writing papers, and practice active self-care. Drawing from their experiences, students recognized that stress could lead to academic misconduct; therefore, it was vital to identify different supports and strategies in their learning process. The students also shared a critical message aligned to Dr. Evans’s opening, which was that “the best type of learning is from failure.”

ACAI’s working groups presentations followed the student panel. Here, the working groups shared their progress during 2021. For instance, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) group has been working on defining EDI in the context of academic integrity. This group’s members are currently seeking to find a definition that represents different institutions across Alberta. Moreover, they are currently developing an annotated bibliography as a reference resource for the community. The Contract Cheating working group has developed materials (see more on resources) and planned activities for the Alberta Academic Integrity week to advance understanding and advocacy about Contract Cheating. This group is also developing evidence-based strategies using a collaborative approach to build capacity through and across institutions. The most crucial goal of this working group is to push for legislation in Canada concerning Contract Cheating. The third working group, Educational Development, is currently creating practical strategies to build institutional academic integrity cultures. This group has also planned activities for the Alberta Academic Integrity Week this year.

Concerning the steering committee membership process, ACAI also shared information about their current state, goals and offered opportunities to become involved. Here, the steering committee members explained the particularities of ACAI and the opportunities it has opened for them to connect with others. Moreover, an essential ACAI distinction is that all steering committee members are actively involved in the working groups’ leadership.

The last section of the meeting promoted the upcoming Alberta Integrity Week (October 18-22). The Steering committee members shared their enthusiasm and invited the meeting’s participants to stay tuned for more information. Alberta Integrity week’s primary purpose is to promote awareness of academic integrity, and it will be implemented in collaboration with the European Academic Integrity Week, which will elevate this event to become a multi-country initiative (see resources).


Contract Cheating in Alberta: Quick Facts

Quick facts about contract cheating in Alberta, Canada – 1 page downloadable resource

  • Other terms used to refer to this industry have been “term paper mills”, “essay mills”, “academic consultation services”, or “academic research services”. It is an illicit industry whose main business is providing the means for students to engage in academic misconduct by doing school work on behalf of the student. “Contract cheating” is now the preferred term worldwide.
  • Contract cheating services have been operating for decades. The first known media coverage about term paper mills in Alberta appeared in the Calgary Herald on February 24, 1972.
  • The contract cheating industry is valued at over $15 Billion USD.
  • This is a predatory industry. In 2021 the Better Business Bureau issued a scam alert about contract cheating companies that engage in extortion and blackmail of students who use their services. The industry shares some parallels with organized crime.
  • The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity estimates that over 7,000 Alberta post-secondary students are lured in by contract cheating companies every year. These companies advertise to students as homework help. Their websites look legitimate which can be both confusing and tempting for students.
  • Nearly all textbook answer keys and exam bank solutions can be found on these websites. Most instructor-created assignments and suggested solutions can be found within a week of the assignment being released.
  • Currently no data exist about the number of students in Alberta who are subjected to extortion or blackmail by contract cheating companies. We have anecdotal reports that students at many of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions have been subjected to extortion.
  • Contract cheating is not currently illegal in Canada. It is illegal in several US states, Australia, and New Zealand. It is illegal for contract cheating companies to advertise their services in Ireland. Legislation has been tabled in the UK to make contract cheating illegal there.
  • Although contract cheating companies face no consequences for providing these services, students who are caught often face severe sanctions.
  • The Alberta Council on Academic Integrity provides education and advocacy around contract cheating in our province.


Better Business Bureau. (2021, April 2). BBB Scam Alert: Cheating on homework leads to extortion scam.

Eaton, S. E. (2021, June 22). Contract Cheating in Canada: How it Started and How it’s Going. Paper presented at the Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity (CSAI) 2021 (Online), Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, BC, Canada.

Grue, D., Eaton, S. E., & Boisvert, S. (2021). Parallels Between the Contract Cheating Industry and Organized Crime.

Download this resource as a 1-page handout:ACAI Contract Cheating in Alberta- Quick Facts (2021-09)

Cite this resource as:

Eaton, S. E., & Boisvert, S. (2021, September). Contract Cheating in Alberta: Quick Facts. Alberta Council on Academic Integrity: Contract Cheating Working Group.

Re-Cap of the 2021 Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity

by Margaret Toye, Bow Valley College, ACAI Steering Committee Member

The Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity was hosted by Thompson Rivers University on July 22-23, 2021. The conference was held virtually, and there was no cost to participants. There were 8 sets of concurrent sessions, with 45 sessions overall offered by 107 presenters. Presenters were from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and there were presenters from United Arab Emirates, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic. The conference was attended by 745 people from those same provinces and countries as well as Ukraine.

Contract cheating was a major topic at the conference, with four presentations on the topic as well as with the closing session on Day 1 being a fascinating presentation by Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary) on  the history and development of contract cheating in Canada over the last 50 or so years, and the closing session Day 2 being a panel on contract cheating, featuring Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary), Brenda M. Stoesz (University of Manitoba), Amanda McKenzie (University of Waterloo), Sean Zwagerman (Simon Fraser University), and Dustin Grue (NorQuest College). Discussion of contract cheating throughout the conference showed that it is not just students’ use of essay mills; it includes the use of commercial contract cheating and unethical file-sharing companies that encourage students to share course material, assessment questions and instructions, and notes, often in real-time as students complete exams and other assessments (c.f. Nancy Chibry and Ebba Kurz [University of Calgary]).

Given that the COVID-19 pandemic moved education online around the world in 2020-2021, e-proctoring was a major topic at the conference as well. Discussion of e-proctoring focused on surveillance technology and related student privacy concerns, as well as the technology’s potential for causing students anxiety and for discriminatory flagging of students (c.f. Sarah Elaine Eaton [University of Calgary]) and Ceceilia Parnther [St. John’s University]).

The opening keynote presentation was by Thomas Lancaster (Imperial College London UK) on the power of academic integrity communities, and there were three presentations on cultures of academic integrity. There were 5 presentations on academic integrity policy, 4 on restorative practices, 6 on empowering learners to successfully engage in academic integrity, 3 on assessment design to support academic integrity, 3 on academic integrity in language learning contexts, and 4 that shared specific cases of academic misconduct and 2 that described trends at specific institutions. Among other interesting topics, there was one presentation on decolonizing academic integrity, and one on mental well-being in relation to academic integrity. 

Recordings of the conference presentations are available here:

Alberta Council for Academic Integrity Fall 2021 Provincial Meeting

Registration is open for the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) Fall 2021 provincial meeting.

Please join us for the Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI) Fall 2021 provincial meeting, to be hosted virtually by Mount Royal University. Anyone keen to support academic integrity in post secondary institutions in Alberta is welcome – students, staff, faculty, administrators, and any other interested party.


  • Panel of students answering the question, “What do you wish you had known?”
  • Reports from the EDI, Contract Cheating, and Educational Development working groups
  • Discussion of changes to Council and Steering Committee membership
  • Updates on Alberta Academic Integrity Week (Oct. 18-22, 2021) activities

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Online (The Google Meet link will be emailed to registrants closer to the date.)

Register here

If you have any questions, please direct them to Marg Olfert, Steering Committee Member, Alberta Council on Academic Integrity (ACAI): 

We look forward to connecting with you at the meeting!