Academic Professionals selling their souls to the Devil, for pennies on the dollar or students looking to get others to do their work for them with an online for profit organization.
I heard about Brainmass offering help to college students, and employing academic professionals through professional associates of mine. So in between my Doctoral Studies I thought I would conduct my own research into the ethics of this type of online help and the student paid for answer business model.
I applied to Brainmass as an OTA teaching aid. After furnishing them with my professional educational credentials, typed in online and a copy photo, made with a cell phone, of my Masters Degree Certificate. I received, after some weeks an email that I had been accepted as an OTA by Brainmass.
As I worked my way through their site I read the OTA policies on how to work with students, freelance answering their questions and then how I would receive credits for payment to me with a split of 60/40 to us the OTA's. Brainmass was quite specific that I was to help students with the questions give them the tools they needed to do their work but not to actually do their assigned home work and not to write their essay papers for them.
Right from the start I saw the ethical dilemma in this work situation as a freelance agent for Brainmass. Why would a student send a online company a question like, "I don't understand" a school work problem, instead of just contacting their professor or their school help center (all schools have them) for help? The only answer I could come up with was in order to pay someone else to do their actual home work or test work for them.
So as I began my OTA job, I received so many emails from Brainmass, on students needing help through their posting pool, 50 to 100 a day I had to block Brainmass operations emails to me as they were drowning my inbox with their posting pool links. This effectively made all future communication impossible to Brainmass support staff.
Working my way through Brainmass's posting pool I read student question postings one after another which all were basically cut and paste questions directly from their school work, not questions the student came up on their own, for a problem in any lack of understanding they may have. Exactly what I had expected, a student looking for paid others to do their work for them.
I responded to two students in Brainmass's Posting Pool, carefully avoiding answering these cut and pasted questions and doing the students work for them. I spent one to two hours researching and writing an effective answer that would give the student tools and a understanding of exactly what the schoolwork question was asking.
The first day I replied to the students (2) posting pool work no one ever picked up my postings. The second day I received a poor rating of one out of five stars from BOTH students who finally read my posts. It seems I did not (unethically) just answer, as they posted, their cut and pasted homework questions. In other word just do their homework for them. None liked my help which was structured to allow them to understand the problems and do the work themselves.
I explained to one student that my answer to their questions , which was suppose to be a questions on lack of understanding, coming directly from them and not verbatim school work questions, would help them in doing the work themselves and for me to do the actual work, as they quite obviously wanted from me was professionally unethical.
Both student responded angrily and said I avoided answering "their own written questions", which one of them then admitted was not their own but from their school book. They said I defrauded them out of their money, (what money?) which actually turned out to be a mere $5.00 OTA payment I may later recieve, for 2 hours of my time and many more hours in corresponding to them. In the final analysis my BM credit readings were in the toilet for just not doing these unethical Students homework for them, as they paid me near nothing to do.
It seems even though Brainmass policy specifically states to not actually do the students work for them, which is correct, as this would be unethical and does not help the student, in the end an OTA is forced by the Brainmass's Posting Pool system to do just that. If OTAS like I did refuse to be unethical and try instead to really just help the student, they won't get paid or their scant earnings which will be returned to the student (my work then was for free) and their credit rating will plummet with expulsion from working at Brainmass.
I resigned immediately from Brainmass after I found out the true nature of this type of online student professional business model. I hope this helps establish some perspective on the business at Brainmass, the students using the site and the professional ethics involved.
Internet Business Analyst and Legal Aid, Thailand