Every student knows about Chegg, the website promising the solutions to homeworks and tests at a monthly subscription. Whether it is AP Calculus BC, essay prompts, or even college level biology, Chegg has all the answers to all the problems anyone can ever want. Offering a variety of academic support, including but not limited to tutoring, textbook answer keys, and handwritten solutions to any problem pasted into the Google search bar, having a Chegg subscription could make the difference between passing a class or paying tuition for another semester to retake it. The key to access this overwhelming database of answers is available to anyone, at a price of course.
One could say the textbook service has its business model based on the restriction of data. Paired with the lack of a real competitor, students have little choice but to turn to Chegg during those final hours before an assignment is due. Furthermore, textbook answers are not readily available online, meaning the first results to appear when copying a problem into the search bar is almost guaranteed to be a Chegg solution. Unknowing students may click the link, relieved that an answer has already been written only to be confronted with a blurred document and a prompt to subscribe to the answer service. At some point in a student’s academic career, they are faced with a decision: pay the $15 monthly rate to unblur the answer screen, or risk spending hours that could be better spent sleeping at a measly attempt towards the answer. Paired with the procrastination that college students inherently possess, this makes for an easy profit for the company.
So how does Chegg gain access to these documents and how does it have the right to charge for its data? The service employs tutors for its tutoring services, and pays a small rate for every homework answer uploaded by its users. In the long run, this expense pales in comparison to the large profit from all the college students that fork over their parents’ money to cheat. This kind of premium service seems infallible, but there are key issues inherent in its model as well. For one, the users uploading their answers are not required to have credentials, meaning the correctness of the answers themselves is dubious. Can a stranger on the Internet really be trusted to pass your class for you? Moreover, Chegg is known to partner with professors at academic institutions to expose students for cheating. Stories of professors posting false answers to bait their students come a dime a dozen. With cheating being considered a serious crime, especially in higher education where research and work are prided to be original, the risk of getting caught is astronomical, possibly resulting in a writeup or expulsion. Yet despite this risk, Chegg is still highly profitable, meaning students still gamble their academic careers just to get the grade and spend less time stressing.
A major controversy in this business model of collecting data and restricting it behind a paywall is the legal action taken by Pearson against Chegg. The textbook retailer Pearson claims that Chegg has stolen many copyrighted documents from Pearson textbook, raking in a revenue of $644 million in the year 2020 as a result. Going back to the step where Chegg collects its information, it is clear that this process is not always done legally. From the case of Chegg, it is clear that regulation of data can have consequences, especially when the ownership of copyright is unclear.
From a broad point of view, restrictions on data can prove to be a profitable venture, as shown by the example of Chegg. But sourcing the information from random Internet users as well as established and copyrighted textbooks introduces a large factor of unreliability. As a result, it is difficult to say whether Chegg is beneficial or malevolent, but to those who win, such as the higher ups who rake in the cash or the students who get away with the answers, Chegg may represent a positive impact on their lives. Likewise, the students punished for using Chegg as well as the parents who pay for the subscription on top of their child’s tuition view the service as a leech.
Andrew Albanese |. n.d. “Pearson Education Sues Chegg, Alleging ‘Massive’ Copyright Infringement.” PublishersWeekly.com. Accessed October 29, 2021. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/87352-pearson-education-sues-chegg-alleging-massive-copyright-infringement.html.
J, Justin B. 2021. “Get Chegg Answers for Free! Unblur Chegg Answer Links Online 2021.” PremiumInfo. October 7, 2021. https://www.premiuminfo.org/chegg-answers-for-free/.
Leather, Ariel. 2017. “Chegg Coupon Codes January 2020 – Working Promo Codes.” Gazette Review. April 1, 2017. https://gazettereview.com/2017/04/chegg-coupon-code-updated-working-promo-codes/.