Professors at the University of Oregon (UO) are pressured to find ways to minimize the chances of students using online learning services such as Chegg to cheat on their exams. Shannon Boettcher, a UO chemistry professor, has observed an alarming trend in student scores since the onset of remote learning.

Boettcher’s exam questions were largely derived from a general chemistry test bank, which helps instructors save time and avoid mistakes that can take place when creating original test questions. 

While he believed that his methods were “quite successful,” he learned towards the end of the course that Chegg contains “every single question from every single test bank that I have ever seen.”

Boettcher also observed that some students’ scores increased from 50 percent to nearly 100 percent between the first and second exam. However, when he modified the test bank questions so that the students could not run it through Chegg, their scores plummeted. 

Academic Dishonesty

Alan Kelly, a senior instructor of biology at UO, mused over how cheating using online learning services and traditional cheating appear to be different.

“It’s readily accessible, it doesn’t take any effort, it’s not hugely expensive, so what a temptation,” he explained UO student newspaper the Daily Emerald.

Several UO professors have used the platform’s honor code investigation request form to try identifying students that are using their services to cheat on their exams. Kelly also submitted a request for user information after compiling a list of posts to his original exam questions, in an effort to identify the students involved.

Chegg responded by giving user IDs, personal email addresses, and IP addresses; however, Kelly found this information unhelpful in identifying the students and believes that the platform is “covering the tracks of the students who misuse this service.”

Copyright Infringement

Launched in 2014, Chegg is an education technology company where students can access digital and physical textbook rentals, online tutoring, and other student services. The service also allows students to type or upload photos of questions and receive solutions from Chegg’s network in under an hour

However, Chegg also warns users to avoid using the platform for academic misconduct, and its honor code states that users “should only upload content to our website that you have made, or that you are otherwise authorized to post.”

The questions given in the university’s course materials are copyrighted. This puts Chegg at risk of copyright infringement, particularly because students upload their test questions to the platform. 

This is not the first time that the service has been the subject of controversy. Throughout 2020, when remote learning became the norm amidst the pandemic, several universities such as Texas A&M, Boston University, and Georgia Tech launched online probes into students who have cheated during at-home online exams.

Chegg has also been sued twice in federal court for claims of copyright infringement. The company has denied the allegations in both instances.