Boston University professors in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Physics professors are working with Chegg, an online student services platform where users can rent textbooks and get tutoring help, to crack down on students using the site to cheat on quizzes after evidence surfaced last week.
General Chemistry 2 students who contact their professor and admit to cheating will have their semester grade marked down by one letter grade. Students who do not admit to cheating, but are discovered to have cheated, will receive an F in the course, according to an email sent to chemistry students.
Binyomin Abrams, one of three professors teaching General Chemistry 2 this semester, wrote in an email to The Daily Free Press that students were able to use notes and the textbook to complete quizzes remotely, but were prohibited from using other extraneous resources.
Abrams wrote that despite this rule, students were found to be using a specific Chegg feature to obtain answers to quiz questions.
“They used the Chegg Tutors feature,” he wrote. “It seems that this is designed for students to pose questions that a ‘tutor’ from Chegg then answers. They uploaded the questions from the exams — the PDF.”
Abrams also wrote that his team discovered that students were cheating through an investigation, but feels it is inappropriate to discuss the specifics of how the investigation took place while the situation is ongoing.
“A faculty member in our department shared the experiences of a colleague,” Abrams wrote. “We then investigated whether this was happening in our course as well.”
Chegg’s honor code prohibits using the site to cheat, and says that universities can contact Chegg to investigate cheating, according to their website. However, it does not specify how Chegg conducts these investigations with the universities.
General Chemistry 2 professors are not the only ones with cheating concerns during remote learning. In an email to his Organic Chemistry 2 students, Pinghua Liu, a professor of chemistry, wrote that he received emails from students who were concerned about others cheating on the class’s third exam.
“For some of the cheating behaviors (reports we received in the weekend), Prof. [John] Porco, [Arturo] Vegas and I will discuss with the Dean’s office and the Chair,” Liu wrote, “so that we can protect these hard working students.”
Ayla Celik, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, is enrolled in a General Chemistry 2 class taught by Tom Tullius, a professor of Chemistry, Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in the BU’s School of Medicine. Celik said she thinks that remote learning makes it easier for students to cheat.
“I’m not surprised that people used Chegg,” Celik said. “I didn’t use Chegg, but it seems like such an easy way to cheat, whereas in a classroom you’d have to put in so much more effort to try to cheat.”
Tessa Sharma, a sophomore in CAS, said she thinks the one letter grade penalty for cheating is fair given the coronavirus-related challenges students are facing. She herself is a student in Abrams’ General Chemistry 2 class.
“I think [the General Chemistry 2 professors] recognize that this kind of cheating is probably a result of people’s extenuating circumstances and all the craziness that’s going on right now,” Sharma said. “I think the professors are being fair about the punishment.”