Teachers in our country have a lot on their plate. Whether you are a college professor or kindergarten teacher, the pressure to instill values and knowledge in students is not a task to be taken lightly.
As an educator, I understand the importance of integrity in the classroom, and I work hard to ensure my students know the same. That is why it disheartens me when I learn of companies out in Silicon Valley that seek to profit off of this vulnerability.
The pandemic tested the education world more than ever before and made students and teachers more vulnerable to this exploitation. One company, Chegg, has made some particularly egregious decisions that are threatening the foundation of the education system.
This for-profit, Silicon Valley education company was first known as a publisher of textbooks that saw opportunity in tutoring services. As schools moved classes online during the pandemic, Chegg saw a logical line-extension into instructional services. But this new ed-business took a dark turn.
Many in the education community are increasingly seeing Chegg’s online tutoring service as a tool for cheating. In her recent op-ed, Karen Gallagher, former dean of USC Rossier School of Education, said “Among its many services is a way for cheaters to leap over the hurdle of problem-solving questions, in which students are asked to show how they got their answers. Chegg’s experts on demand can personally answer the subscriber’s unique test or homework question.”
As Timothy Powers, director of the Texas A&M Aggie Honor System Office, said, “There’s a difference between students using online tools to prepare themselves and learn about things. It’s completely different for a student to walk into an exam and have seen the identical questions with the identical multiple-choice answers before.”
And that is what Chegg is giving students – and more. This “Contract Cheating” is a full-service provider selling textbooks and “assistance” — with a bonus offering of test answers. In fact, textbook publisher Pearson Education sued Chegg for that exact problem. But they continue to try to chip away at the foundation of our education system and future graduates.
Even with educators calling Chegg out for these actions, the company continues to create more troubling offerings for students – except now, they are preying on teachers to do their dirty work.
Through the company’s new program, dubbed “Uversity,” Chegg encourages teachers to submit their materials, including exam questions, which will then be used by other students to short cut their way through class. As if that isn’t enough, Chegg is offering teachers compensation for these materials, and according to their earnings, they have “already paid over $4 million to educators” through the program.
It is a teacher’s job to ensure cheating stays out of a classroom, but how can they do that if they are receiving financial benefits to do the exact opposite?
Shortcuts do not help a student learn in the long term. Rather than pulling direct questions and answers from an online service, students should be encouraged to use study partners and resources such as writing centers and math tutors to collaborate on assignments. In fact, it is rare that an academic institution does not already offer their students legitimate services for which Chegg charges $180 annually. To put it simply: Chegg is not worth the risk.
Business ethics Professor Max Torres at The Catholic University of America speaks to teaching good habits. “Our business students are made aware of the personal and social consequences of virtuous, and alternatively vicious, behavior.”
This is not always popular in our troubled times. Torres continues, “Virtues and vices are habits developed and reinforced through decision-making in business and throughout life.”
Chegg is a problem. Not only should educators look into institutionalized cheating before the problem gets worse, but they should absolutely not be playing into the hands of this company by selling their hard work that will be used by another student to cut corners.
Teachers must make it their mission to help students take life-long virtuous action and shun companies that circumvent education.