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Many college instructors have been struggling with a significant rise in cheating in the last year, notably in the context of required distance learning and online testing during the time of the COVID pandemic. Among websites that facilitate such cheating, foremost may be the Chegg website.

In the last month it appears that Chegg have updated their "Honor Code" with a new tool which they are calling the "Honor Shield". In brief, this tool appears to promise the following:

  • Chegg will now create and verify registered accounts for course instructors.
  • A registered instructor can upload a copy of an upcoming exam.
  • Inquiries or answers are blocked for those exam questions in a set timeframe.
  • Chegg will delete information from the uploaded exam one month later.
  • "Presently, there is no charge to use the Tool."

Chegg page for the Honor Shield tool here.

More terms for the tool under the Honor Code page here.

More context in this Forbes article that mentions the Chegg Honor Shield.

Would making make use of this new tool at Chegg be an effective tool for promoting honestly? Are there any drawbacks?

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    What is to stop Chegg from selling your old exam questions to future students? Even if they keep their promise to delete the questions, they can still sell the answers. There will be no legal recourse against that. – Anonymous Physicist Apr 6 at 2:26
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    This also makes it easier for Chegg to gather information about faculty (such as their names) which could be used to market Chegg services. – Anonymous Physicist Apr 6 at 2:27
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    @Wrzlprmft: I think that's in error. The meta question and answer you've linked to are about evaluating an organization in general. (E.g., the examples there are all of the form "Is organization X useful?"). This is a much more narrowly focused question about how an instructor should use one particular tool, which pertains to an issue we already have many recent questions covering. It's a vote on other yes-or-no to use one tool, and I don't think it comes close to the sense of a "shopping" question. Voting to reopen. – Daniel R. Collins Apr 6 at 11:57
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    The problem with the suggestion brought up by the moderator in Meta -- to convert this question into a general "should I give my test to an outside company" -- is that to my knowledge, there is no comparable offering anywhere else. This discussion will inherently be about Chegg's "innovation". – Daniel R. Collins May 1 at 18:20
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I'll make the argument: No, instructors should not use this tool at Chegg.

In general, Chegg is among the worst actors of the online academic community. Their business model is fundamentally predicated on supporting violations of academic integrity, fraud, and malfeasance. In this sense, we should not be supporting them with engagement, mind-share, or test cases for their systems.

In the same vein of general lack-of-trust, Chegg is not an entity that can be trusted with our exam information. Despite the fact that they currently claim no IP rights to uploaded exams, and a promise to delete information after a month, their promises are not reliable, and we should not give them an opportunity to use our exam information in any scurrilous fashion in the future.

There is no transparency to the exact details of how the tool works. Does it look only for exact text matches, or something similar? If we assume so, then it's quite likely that students will learn to slightly modify the text of submitted questions, so that they avoid the blocking tool, but still get the essence of the answer they need. In this sense, the tool will be a waste of time and give a false sense of security to the instructor.

Additionally, the details say that attempts to post such exam questions to Chegg are simply blocked, with no record of such attempts made. (Per website, "We will not be able to provide any information regarding users who attempt to post a blocked Exam question during the Exam Timeframe.") This short-circuits the possibility of detecting students who make such attempts, and giving required corrections to the students in question. Students may also be driven invisibly to some other platform or method of cheating in those cases.

And the instructor-registration process gathers the instructors' .EDU email addresses, which could be used for other profiling, marketing, or spamming purposes (noted by Anonymous Physicist).

Arguably, even in principle, the tool does not prevent academic dishonesty, as going online to search for answers is itself already a violation. The fact that the Chegg Honor Shield turns students away without reporting them is a broken process (noted by Scott Seidman).

The Forbes article on Chegg as of January 2021 assesses:

It’s doubtful that Honor Shield will dent students’ chegging.

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    If anyone can see other reasons to add to this list, I'll be happy to edit and include them. – Daniel R. Collins Apr 6 at 1:48
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    I've marked this answer as accepted after about 20 days, because (a) it continually gets upvotes, and (b) with the question closed by the moderator, no other answer can be added. (I'm still disappointed at the lack of opportunity to get counter-arguments -- if the question were ever re-opened I'd be willing to possibly select a different answer.) – Daniel R. Collins Apr 25 at 13:05
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    The service doesn't prevent academic dishonesty. Searching for exam questions during an exam is academic dishonesty. An honest process wouldn't lock out students, it would turn them in. – Scott Seidman May 6 at 2:18
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Seconding @Daniel R. Collins' answer to his question... and adding a bit:

It is trivial to see conflict-of-interest and/or corrupt motivations in this development. First, Chegg would be happy to improve its PR among college and university instructors, especially if this involved getting instructors to engage with them. At first for free [sic!?!?], and then eventually extort universities to pay Chegg a fee to not help students cheat?!?!

And, as Daniel C. mentioned, they can harvest exam questions and emails of instructors... And the wanna-be cheaters don't actually get reported. And there's no enforcement mechanism from our end. Etc.

Really, when a consistently-bad actor seems to have miraculously turned over a new leaf, there is probably more reason to expect bad faith than a conversion miracle.

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    Loved the last sentence – user758469 May 7 at 15:44
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I think the service is disingenuous, for a number of reasons.

  1. If they could do this, they could allow me to submit my own exam questions, without ceding copyright, and make sure those questions NEVER appear in their collection -- because I've provided them the question and asserted my copyright in advance.

  2. When they create instructor accounts, that should entitle us to see ANSWERS in their database. I've actually paid for membership in order to sleuth questions of honesty before taking them to my Board on Honesty to request info from Chegg (that's the only mechanism there is!)

  3. We should not be promoting a "try to cheat, and we'll stop you if you're doing something wrong" ethos among our students. Students should not cheat because it is dishonest -- not because Chegg doesn't let them. In fact, the act of submitting an exam question during an exam is cheating, regardless of whether they get the answer. (In fact, by my Univ policy, unauthorized sharing of course material is a violation of the honesty policy -- so submitting exam questions after the exam, homework questions, and the like are all violations). Simply locking out answers does not communicate the gravity of the incident to the student, and is not sufficient. When an answer is blocked by this policy, the Chegg policy should be to notify the prof without providing account ID's, so the prof can follow up through school honesty systems if they desire.

I'm not thrilled with the Chegg Model, in general. They make money by using other people's IP, hoping the impacted parties don't notice. They don't do nearly enough to discourage illicit behaviors, because those behaviors are their business model.

So, until I can examine students in the classroom, my policy is to scan Chegg for questions that belong to me, well in advance of the exam, and ask for take down (Chegg is very good about that -- likely because nonaction threatens their whole business model). I watermark my exam pages, every page, with the name of the course and University, and "Unauthorized sharing not permitted". I repeat my Chegg scan after the exam, and if necessary pay for membership so I can see the posted answers to see if my students cheated. If I find they have, I rigorously follow up with Academic Honesty cases.... and yes, despite these precautions, I still find and refer honesty incidents.

I also mention in my syllabus, and discuss on the first day of class, that unauthorized sharing of my material for any reason, is an academic honesty violation, and will be followed through as such, and that I do not authorize sharing.

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  • +1 This is such a great answer, esp. including details on the work-process to deal with Chegg. Thanks for writing this. Nuance on #2: alternatively one can "open an investigation" by web form and in a few days get a text/CSV/raw-html version of the question and answer. But: there's a turnaround delay and it doesn't present in the same format account-holders see it behind the paywall (plus the need to upload a signed letter on school letterhead). – Daniel R. Collins May 7 at 15:57
  • @DanielR.Collins -- yes, but the letter can't be signed by plain old faculty members. It needs to come from the Academic Honesty officers or Dean's office. Once I involve them, I feel the need to follow through officially with any clear findings, as this really swamps them. – Scott Seidman May 7 at 16:00
  • ... and of course, the process to prevent Chegg cheating easily adds at least 4 hours per exam to my work load! – Scott Seidman May 7 at 16:01
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    The investigation protocol was slightly changed back in Sep 2020. Faculty can now attest that they're "working with" the academic integrity officer, and so open and send the letter on their own (which I've done in the last month for the first time)... And yes the extra labor around tests to check Chegg is super aggravating! – Daniel R. Collins May 7 at 19:03

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