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Online classes are big business

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There has been a rise in online courses, which has resulted in a boom in paid services that impersonate students to do their work.

In high school, I cheated quite often. It was all the time. I can recall writing chemical formulas on tiny pieces of paper, which I then sealed with transparent tape to my shoes. The information I needed was right in front of me when I crossed my legs.

This was before online education. It seems that cheating has become a part of online education. Entrepreneurs and freelancers now openly promote services that help students cheat their online educations. These digital cheaters will even pretend to be students and teach entire classes online.

One of these companies, the aptly-named No Need to Study, reached out to me to ask if they could arrange for me to take an online English Literature course at Columbia University. I received an email reply from a member of its customer-relations team. They informed me that not only could they get me a ringer for my online class but it could also guarantee that I would earn a B or higher. The fee for such arrangements was $1,225.15.

It became official because it cost an additional fifteen cents.

I asked for more information in order to make sure I understood the company's services. The reply was clear: "We offer academic tutoring to our clients to complete their course work and take classes."

No Need to Study has reference videos that show clients who are satisfied with the ease of paying someone to teach their classes online. Muhammad, a client who hired No Need to Study to help him with his math lab classes, is my favorite video. These classes were familiar to him, he says, but the quizzes were too difficult so he sought out a solution. He says, "They did it, and they did really really well." They absolutely destroyed my final math and app classes with a 90%, and I can confidently say that I have never received a 90% before on any other subject."

It is impossible to link online cheating and the increase in online education options. Online classes mean more students and more customers for cheating services. The 2014 Online Learning Survey found that nearly a third of higher education enrollments in the U.S. is now online, with almost 7 million students enrolling in at least one online course. Another statistic puts the figure at about a quarter of all student population. Regardless, this is a huge potential market for cheating services providers.

Already, online education is expected to grow to $100 billion worldwide. It could grow even more if online degrees are more popular with employers. Online degrees and certificates could be as prestigious as those earned on campus. This would transform higher education and alter the meaning of college. This is exactly what some online education advocates desire. Kevin Carey is a well-known supporter of online education and wrote in March about the search for online education credibility. He did so in a New York Times Op-Ed entitled, "Here's what will truly change higher education: Online degrees that are seen as official."

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