Chegg, Cheating and Australian Universities
The note from Radio National background briefing it was gloomy on the morning of July 31st. A student who has not given his real name (he is professionally pseudonymised as Ramesh) talks about services helping him with his studies. Aid is less specific than do — working grueling night shifts in the fast-food industry, he’s unable to attend morning classes at said unnamed university. Flipping burgers in greasy glory takes priority.
The student, along with other participants in the program, talks about accessing a variety of websites that offer “support services” that help the fraudulent industrial complex. He compares whether he is worried about being caught with the consequences of excessive speed: It’s all right if you don’t get caught.
The pressure is enormous, especially for international students or scholarship holders who need to achieve certain grades in order to keep their place or scholarship. The stress of the pandemic on learning has also prompted students to look for other helpers to help them study and maintain their grades.
Just as the global COVID-19 pandemic forced students out of physical classrooms and into their homes and bedrooms, online platforms — in this case, sites like Santa Clara-based Chegg — were there to capitalize. After his websiteHelp is of course promised around the clock – 24/7 no less. “From day one to graduation, you’ll receive homework help, exam preparation & writing support – tailored to your courses.” A number of sub-areas the company mentions try to avoid the idea that plagiarism or cheating is taking place. In fact, there’s a section dedicated to “Writing and Citation” that promises to “enhance your writing with plagiarism checks, expert proofreading, and instant citations.”
This circumstance in particular indicates that the company is less concerned with general plagiarism principles towards the student and more with enabling the student concerned to write a term paper that bypasses the plagiarism monitors. The company is far from that that started offering in 2000 a search function for scholarships, a search function for suitable internships and general information on starting your studies. Money started flowing for the company when it started renting out textbooks.
Then came COVID-19 and the advent of the global virtual classroom. Chegg subscriptions skyrocketed. In the third quarter of 2020, they grew to 3.7 million or 69% from 2019 numbers. 2021 it is Total Net Revenue came in at $776.3 million based on a subscriber base of 4.6 million. The company is now roughly valued at $12 billion.
Statements as to whether use of Chegg’s Services constitutes Internet Fraud. A article
of the college guide is pretty clear: “Chegg is cheating if you use Chegg Study in college to do homework, answer quizzes, or answer exam questions.” (Is it really useful for anything else?)
In Australia, law was passed in August 2020, making it an offense for any person to offer or advertise academic fraud services related to the provision of higher education in Australia, whether that person is in Australia or elsewhere. The act is so serious that it justifies a prison sentence of up to two years. A distinction is also made from the point of view of payment: fraud services provided free of charge are treated differently than paid services.
Australia’s higher education regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), has gone so far 40 websites blocked Received 450,000 monthly visits. in one expression
from Education Secretary Jason Clare: “Illegal fraud services threaten academic integrity and expose students to criminals who often try to extort students into paying large sums of money.” This grand gesture is certainly more symbolic than effective, as such sites are accessible in other ways.
Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig’s tendency is to bring the focus back to who he sees as the prime culprit: the university itself. Traditional colleges, he specified
in 2019 has had to adapt to the on-demand economy and embrace the binge-worthy nature of modern education. To that end, his company offers a service similar to Uber, which has gone out of its way to disrupt the norms of the transportation industry.
He also denies that his company enables fraud as such. Cheggs code of honor notes that “academic integrity is a fundamental part of the learning process and we work to preserve it.” Its services are designed to “support, not replace, learning.” To cover their tracks, the organization warns of “severe consequences” that can result from misusing its services, “including but not limited to being banned from our platforms or having your institution launch an investigation.”
It all sounds great, but policing such boundaries is nearly impossible. Detection has become difficult given the universities’ exploitative rating system. Australia is disproportionate
precarious academic workforce leaves little room or incentive to devote time to identifying such works. The average time spent grading students is one hour, and some Australian universities have been caught up for giving their tutors even less time to grade papers.
In August 2020, the ABC
that tutors at 10 Australian universities were effectively encouraged to ‘skim’ reviews. RMIT University was brought before the Fair Work Commission by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) for its particularly abysmal quotas, which limited the time it took to grade an essay and provide feedback to students to a miserable 10 minutes per essay. In such rich soils of exploitation, Chegging is bound to thrive.
In response, in an academic arms race, universities can do a number of things that they would otherwise inevitably lose. You can reconsider evaluation strategies. You can improve the conditions for tutors and staff responsible for grading. They can ease the absurd burdens imposed on international students whose treatment has been abominable during and before the pandemic.
Where there is hunger and desire there will be a market. Universities have always faced the problem of fraud. But the market of mass, corporatized education has also produced the means of its own subversion. Students who lack financial support and who are constantly faced with programs that put them at a disadvantage will always find a way. Integrity is meaningless in such a case, much like ethics would be to a starving creature. Simply targeting the likes of Chegg won’t solve the problem. A broader institutional approach is needed, and Australian universities have repeatedly shown that they are not up to such challenges.
dr Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He currently teaches at RMIT University. E-mail: [email protected]
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