Markets in Procrastination–Corrupted Term Papers
I love the variety of niches found in free markets, except when I don’t. A professorial friend recently had the not terribly uncommon experience of having a student submit a paper electronically, only to be unable to open it because it was corrupted. He asked my thoughts, and I wondered out loud if there were ways to intentionally corrupt files and if our students would know how to do it.
The market was way ahead of us. Corrupted-Files.com offers pre-corrupted Word, Excel and PowerPoint files for only $4.95. After buying and downloading the file, you just rename it (Hanley_PSCI101_Paper) and email it to your prof. You can even do custom orders in a variety of other file formats, too, including some extensions I’ve never heard of (.swf? does that really mean what I think?). And naturally in their FAQs they pretend to have some integrity.
Q: Is this cheating?
A: It’s a fine line… It’s basically just a good excuse vs. outright cheating but even though you are handing in your own work, you are getting an unfair advantage so by that definition, yes you are cheating. Please ask your professors for an extension before you use a corrupted file. This is meant to be used as a last resort, a one time thing, not a crutch! Everyone is entitled to a second chance, but not a third.
But why pay $4.95 for a “fake” corrupt paper, when you can corrupt your real paper for free? Here at makeuseof.com you simply upload your paper and then retrieve it in its corrupted version (nicely, they warn you to save it under another file name, so you don’t overwrite your original document with the corrupted one). Not surprisingly, they want to reassure students that this provides a “legitimate” excuse for needing more time to finish a paper.
If you are a student you should know that there is absolutely no excuse for submitting a late or unfinished term paper. But submitting a corrupted paper is another story.
Document Corrupter is a clever web app that intentionally corrupts Word documents so that they cannot be opened. This gives you a legitimate excuse for your professor while buying you more time to finish your paper.
In reality, the logic of the first sentence is internally contradictory. If you are intentionally corrupting your own late or unfinished paper, then you are submitting a late or unfinished paper, for which they admit there is no excuse. You’re also falsifying evidence, of course.
I don’t want to stoke up my moral outrage too high. In every endeavor in life there is an arms race between those who try to enforce standards and those who try to cheat. Why would it be any different in education?