Online Cheating and Chegg
The Office of Student Conduct has seen an increase in reported cases concerning the use of online coursework warehouses such as Chegg, StudyBlue, Course Hero, and Quizlet. This information is intended to provide ideas that could be helpful in understanding academic misconduct in the online environment and ways to deter the behavior in your courses.
The information on this page has been adapted from outside resources and many suggestions and ideas are grounded in research*.
Concerning the use of online coursework warehouses, there are a number of campus policies that address the use of these sites. Faculty are encouraged to share this information with their students via their syllabus and during course discussions. More information about submitting referrals of academic misconduct can be found here.
If faculty believe their content has been posted to Chegg, the faculty member can reach out the Office of Student Conduct to request an honor code investigation. Faculty will need to provide the Office of Student Conduct with a link to each posting. The Honor Code Investigation with Chegg works to remove the content and provide information back to the faculty and Office of Student Conduct with credentials and details about the posting and any views.
Once faculty receive the information from Chegg, they will have to identify their students where possible (by name, contact info, randomized exam association, etc.), and provide information related to any infringing course content that pertains to academic misconduct, along with applicable date/time stamps, and student name/net ID, in order for Student Conduct to review and address through the student disciplinary process. Student Conduct will follow up with faculty for clarification or additional information where needed.
In order to appropriately address cheating and deter if from occurring, it can be helpful to understand why students report making the decision to cheat.
- Poor time management. Often, students cite poor time management as a key factor that led to their decision to cheat, and research supports this. Time management has been reported to be particularly difficult during this period of online learning where students may be managing a number of demands including the new dynamics of COVID, caring for child or adult dependents, and work.
- Prioritization. Students may report taking shortcuts that include use of online academic warehouses or contacting a friend for work or assignments that they see to be less important for the course, particularly where they reporting having other more significant projects, exams or coursework due simultaneously.
- Only path to success. Students often articulate believing that they cannot pass if they don’t cheat. This can certainly be related to insufficient academic preparation, time management, prioritization, completing demands, and organization.
- Impression they will not get caught. Students may be aware of other students using online academic warehouses or interacting with peers that are not caught or reported to Student Conduct. This may contribute to their decision to engage in similar behavior. When faculty share that they are using tools and processes to identify academic misconduct, and discuss the possible serious penalties, this can help to dissuade or impact student decision-making, and may encourage reporting where students find infringing content posted, or are aware of others engaging in dishonest behavior.
- Indifference. Research shows that students cheat because they are indifferent to it or they perceive that instructors or institutions are indifferent to it. This can occur when students see others cheat without consequences or when they see instructors giving minimal information about academic integrity or when students perceive that instructors seem indifferent to student learning.
- Lack of understanding. There is some evidence that students cheat because they don’t understand what constitutes cheating. This can be for a variety of reasons including academic preparation issues, cultural views on attribution and collaboration, and academic vs professional expectations. Addressing academic misconduct in your course through syllabus statements, reminders, and open conversations with your students can be helpful in making expectations clear.
Promoting Academic Integrity
- Discuss the importance of academic integrity early in the semester and connect it with ethical practices in the student’s field of study.
- Share with students that you plan to hold students accountable for academic misconduct and the steps you are taking to address misconduct in your course.
- Add reminders to the beginning of exams and assignments with clear instructions on what is and isn’t permissible. Common points of confusion can include working with others, group projects, and permissible resources.
- Example: Can students utilize outside resources? If they can, consider creating a list of preferred sources and/or prohibited external resources.
- Example: Can students work together? If so, what does effective and appropriate collaboration look like? It is important to clearly define collaboration.
- Require students to show their work on problems/solutions and to submit any personal note sheets allowed for exams.
- Ensure your syllabus contains a statement of academic misconduct. Example statements can be found here.
- Consider implementing an Academic Integrity Pledge for the course. Example integrity pledges can be found online.
- Share the “Using Online Resources” infographic with your students to help clarify the acceptable use of outside resources.
Coursework Design Considerations
Faculty have shared the following ideas with our office to deter cheating and/or make identifying misconduct easier.
- Use an expanded and scrambled bank of questions, particularly for multiple choice questions.
- Use a randomization feature; this can be particularly helpful for questions involving numbers and can allow you to uniquely identify a student based on a question or set of questions.
- For essay-based exams, consider fewer questions with longer answers and allow students to choose from a bank of questions to answer.
- Water-mark exams and lock-down the PDF to eliminate copy and pasting; any screenshots or photos of the exam would be water marked with the student’s user ID.
- Research shows that ongoing small assignments, including those that build over time like multiple drafts to a final paper, promote academic integrity.
- Design assignments that require students to apply their knowledge to “real world” problems or situations; this requires original and creative thinking and gives more purpose to the assignment.
- Consider alternative ways to assess knowledge such as projects in lieu of an exam, video-recorded reports or exams, etc.
For more resources on teaching including course delivery, strategies, and assessment and evaluation, please visit CELT.
* Content adapted with permission from The George Washington University, Student Rights and Responsibilities; Research referenced includes: Baker, Berry, & Thornton, 2008; Beasley, 2014; Burrus, Jones, Sackley, & Walker, 2015; Lee-Post & Hapke, 2017; Macleod & Easton 2020; McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 1999; Perkins, Gezgin, & Roe, 2020; MacLeod & Easton, 2020; Smith, Burnett & Wessell, 2017; Tatum & Schwartz, 2017