Help or Hindrance: The Tense Relationship Between Colleges and Third Party Tutoring Services

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting transition to online classes, exam integrity and course design has become a hotly debated topic. Many platforms offer training, webinars, and articles to assist faculty, but what has not become easier is dealing with third party study services such as Chegg, CourseHero, Socratic. Online testing may be driving academic dishonesty to unprecedented levels. Complicating this issue includes how difficult it is for faculty members to remove exam or course content and have those vendors initiate honor investigations. 

For example, in order to remove a question from Chegg and initiate an honor investigation, faculty must have their institutional office responsible for academic integrity send a letter on university letterhead with all of the links relevant to the case to Chegg’s Honor Code e-mail. This does not necessarily include copyrighted material, which they may have to remove in accordance with copyright law. CourseHero also has an Honor Code. However, there is no easy way for instructors to request the removal of content unless it is a Copyright Infringement. Similarly, Socratic by Google does not list a way to remove content or the existence of an Honor Code in its Terms & Services.

There are many other services for students to use that allow for students to request tutors to provide answers. On the surface level, tutoring services are often beneficial for student, yet there is rarely a verification process to check that the posted material/course content is shareable. Further, the process for removing content is at times unnecessarily complex. Finally, honor investigations do not always result in finding the student(s) that have cheated. A student could use an alternate e-mail address that does not correspond to their name, and the site may be unable to provide a complete list of which users have accessed the answers.

Some of these issues could be reconciled with third party tutoring services. A good start includes requiring students to register their accounts with their university e-mail, with verification of that e-mail necessary to maintain an account. This would enable services to provide the contact information needed to identify students violating the honor policies. Additionally, sites could work with faculty to remove and initiate honor investigations without requiring institutional intervention.

While these two suggestions could signal the beginning of better relationships and the pseudo-legitimization of third party tutoring services, there is a long way to go before faculty may trust that their students are not using these sites to cheat in their courses.

About the Author
Courtney Cullen is the Program Coordinator in the Office of Academic Honesty at the University of Georgia. Cullen processes appeals for the Petitions Subcommittee and works to support the initiatives of the Office of Academic Honesty. Cullen is working towards a Ph.D. in Higher Education, and received both master’s and bachelor’s degrees in International Affairs from UGA.
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