• Report: #836902
Complaint Review:

Michael Verdura

  • Submitted: Thu, February 09, 2012
  • Updated: Fri, October 26, 2012

  • Reported By: Dr. M Weinberg — Chonburi Other Thailand
Michael Verdura
Nationwide United States of America

Michael Verdura White Law Office Thailand Brainmass and Professional Ethics Ontario, Nationwide

*UPDATE Employee: Response from the BrainMass Operations team

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Brainmass and Professional Ethics

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

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 02/09/2012 10:51 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/michael-verdura/nationwide/michael-verdura-white-law-office-thailand-brainmass-and-professional-ethics-ontario-natio-836902. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 UPDATE Employee

Response from the BrainMass Operations team

AUTHOR: BrainMass Customer Service - (United States of America)

BrainMass has been a leader in online tutoring and study help since 2003.  We addressed Michael Weinberg's concerns previously in a reply to an email he sent us when he resigned from BrainMass, but we also wish to respond to the false accusations he has posted here. 

Michael was an Expert (OTA) under contract at BrainMass between February 6th and February 9th, 2012.  Three days!  Michael had a very poor grasp of how BrainMass worked or what our rules and policies are because he did not read the training materials he was required to read, and he challenged how our systems worked right from the moment his account was activated despite our ten years of customer service and his own complete ignorance of what the job was and what it required. 

BrainMass does offer help to students in college.  We bring together students who need homework help that they arent getting from their professors or TAs with graduate students and professionals who are interested in earning some extra cash.  We do require that our Experts provide their credentials to BrainMass to ensure that all of our Experts meet the standards required to join our team.  We do not accept tutors who are not enrolled in or graduates of a Masters degree program.  This ensures that students receive only the best, educated, help from our Experts. 

Michael did not carefully review all aspects of his contract, the training manuals and aids provided by our team, and all the other resources available to him during his 3 days career as an Expert at BrainMass.  Had he spent more time with us he would have learned that the 60/40 split he indicates is actually only 60/40 for the Experts first 10 responses and afterwards, Experts receive 70%.  

This was only one of his several areas of purposeful ignorance. Regarding Michaels complaint about emails: We have a notification system that allows Experts to choose how often they would be notified of new questions.  Experts can choose to have as few as two emails per day notifying them of any new questions added to our site in the last 12 hours. Had he reviewed the materials he was given properly he would have known this.

Michael notes: 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.  Later, he says that students would ask for assignments instead.  To clarify, students do not receive completed assignments, tests, exams, or papers from our Experts.  They receive detailed notes, ideas, guidance, research, and all the tools they need to understand the question posed.  For a math question, an explanation of the formula may be involved, for an English question, the historical background of the topic may be needed.  

Students and potential Experts are invited to check some of our samples that are available for free at: http://brainmass.com/content/samples/.  Michael insists that the two questions he addressed were not picked up (paid for) by the students, but this is false.  Both responses were picked up within 48 hours of completion.  Our non-payment policy (http://brainmass.com/content/nonpay_policy.php) covers situations where students do not pick up the responses in an appropriate amount of time.  That did not apply in Michaels case and Michael acknowledges his own untruth in his very next sentence:The second day I received a poor rating of one out of five stars from BOTH students who finally read my posts.  They were certainly paid for by the students because students cannot rate responses that they have not read, and they cannot read responses that they have not paid for.

Students use the rating system to identify any problems or concerns they have.  They can also leave feedback.  When students are not satisfied we require that Experts respond to the complaints.  If the complaint is not valid, our Operations team can remove the rating.  In most cases however, the issue is a misunderstanding, and the student and Expert are able to come to a compromise that ensures the help needed is received.  In Michaels case, no compromise was possible, and so these students were refunded as they had paid for completely unacceptable responses.

Michael claims that we are unethical, but we are happy to point to our almost 10 years in the online tutoring business, as well as the thousands of dollars paid every month to Experts who are hard working, ethical, and caring tutors.  Michael's claims of "assignment completions" most seriously hurts our team of professionals who work hard every day to provide the best help for students every day.

BrainMass is dedicated to helping students with their studies, and provides an excellent source of income for busy graduate students, or a second source of income for graduates and professionals.  We are always happy to address questions or concerns at help@brainmass.com, from both student users, and potential Experts.

The BrainMass Operations Team
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