Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Chegg, Inc. (SPEB17)

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill Committee

Re: Part 4, Chapter 1 (clauses 29-33)


Executive Summary

· Chegg welcomes legislation to tackle cheating in higher education and we support legislation against services that undermine the quality of higher education. 

· Chegg has instituted a wholesale academic integrity safeguarding strategy to prevent our services from being used for cheating. We, too, are having to adapt our products and services to changes in teaching and learning and greater use of online assessment, which has been used much more during the pandemic.  

· Chegg has deep expertise in the online education space and can help the government to design effective policies. Managing academic misconduct issues can be time- and resource-intensive for faculty and administrators, which is why Chegg is committed to partnering with educators to ease the process.   

· Chegg is concerned that there may be unintended consequences in the broad definition of "relevant services". 

· Chegg is concerned by the application of strict liability in the legislation.


About Chegg

1. Chegg is the leading student-first interconnected learning platform, which is on-demand, adaptive, personalized, and backed up by a network of human help. Chegg has been a publicly held education technology company since 2013, with a mission to help students save time, save money, and get smarter in order to improve the overall return on educational investment.

2. Chegg strives to make academic support affordable and accessible to students of all economic means.  We aim to support and accelerate the path students take from learning to earning. This includes online tools for today’s higher education students and extends beyond the classroom into their professional careers. We help students each step of the way to improve academic outcomes. To do this, we focus on listening to their needs, elevating and amplifying their voice, and taking action to provide real life solutions.

3. Chegg consistently updates its products to reflect academic best practices. We want students to learn on their own and therefore do not write student essays, offer peer-to-peer file sharing services, or sit-in for exams on behalf of students. Rather, our pedagogical approach to learning is steeped in instructional and personalized teaching to deepen student understanding of subject matter.

4. Chegg supports over 6.6 million students with diverse background across 190 countries, delivering positive learner outcomes. 92% of our users say Chegg helps them better understand the concepts they are studying in school; 95% of our users say they work more efficiently when they use Chegg to understand their coursework; and 96% of our users say Chegg helps them figure out a concept that they are stuck on.

Concerns about the draft bill  

Part 4, Chapter 1, Clause 29

5. There are multiple ambiguities that result from the tension in trying to continue to allow "tutors, proof reading and ordinary teaching practices" which the Bill appears to treat as old/traditional and therefore acceptable and allowed to continue unrestricted and overlapping educational services which are provided by online and technology companies which the Bill appears to want to significantly limit. The Bill needs to clearly articulate why certain (human-led, and often-times higher cost) educational services would continue to be allowed while other more modern and cost-effective educational services may not be allowed. Particularly when the services we provide are an update of ordinary teaching practices. As part of this further explanation, Chegg seeks clarity on what it means for a student to "use" the material in completing the assignment or part  in s.29(3).

6. The explanatory note is limited in its view of accepted study support that would not be covered by the offence. Chegg recommends the list be expanded to include "online academic expert support". Successfully blended teaching and learning require a focus on what may best be done on university campuses and what may best be done online, such as providing flexibility and wide access to resources and experts. Teaching models for both classroom and online delivery must be reconsidered in response to new technological capacities. In our framework of asynchronous learning, the more time students spend engaged with the content, the more they will learn. To this end, "online academic expert support" is an always available, online resource that students can utilize beyond traditional university office hours to bolster their mastery of course content.

Part 4, Chapter 1, Clause 30

7. The Bill can be interpreted to impose strict liability, which would ultimately have the consequence of criminalizing the simple availability of any relevant study material online with the provider possibly becoming liable should the work they host become used by a student to complete any part of their assignment. Imposing strict liability here could result in serious injustices and appears targeted an any educational platform that is not deemed traditional and restricted in availability by the masses.  Additionally, as there is not one single uniform definition of ‘contract cheating’, the offenses and ability to commit an offense are highly subjective.  

8. A person/company should not be considered as committing an offense without proof of intent. This is a fundamental requirement of fairness. In fact, it is not only unfair to censure people who are not culpable, but also unfair to punish them for the offence.  The government should show that it is legitimate and trustworthy in its efforts to limit express contract cheating by only penalizing behavior that is clearly outside the norm of academic integrity, and should not be attempting to chill or quell an entire marketplace of online learning support.

Part 4, Chapter 1, Clause 33

9. Chegg seeks clarity on the definition of "assignment". By including "and any piece of work" to the definition, on its face it broadens the scope of the offence to work that is not assessed. This appears inconsistent with the other provisions of the legislation and the explanatory notes, and we assume that it was an oversight which will be corrected.


10. Another ambiguity, resulting from the same tension in trying to continue to allow the traditional while disallowing the modern and technological, appears in what "published generally" means for the second part of the definition of when "material is published generally" in s.29(4)(b)(ii). This time the tension rests in the desire to allow things such as "material that is published widely for purchase and educational use, and which includes other educational or training material, such as revision guides" while appearing to not allow those same type of guides or teaching materials if they are not "published generally" in the traditional sense.

11. The explanatory note is overly broad in its application of "relevant services". As written, a body is liable if "completing all or part of an assignment". The legislation, if improperly enforced, could penalize an online platform that offered academic guidance for which a student replicated just 1% in a piece of work or assignment. By providing a student with a step-by-step solution to an exemplar diagram or formula, as is often done in textbook and human based 1:1 sessions, our product may commit an offence if the student then uses any part of that diagram or formula in the application of subsequent problem sets. This language effectively penalizes incidental or inconsequential assistance, advice, or example answers that might be offered to a student during their academic engagement with our platform. This may have the effect of criminalizing available, relevant student material online, with the platform provider possibly becoming liable should the work become assessable and used at any point by a student.

12. Due to the vagueness of some of the legislative language and explanatory note, Chegg fears the law will create significant legal uncertainty and administrative burden for the whole academic sector and some outside the bounds of academia. For example, the legislation does not make mention of how technology-enabled math engines or grammar models can operate within the bounds of the law. These technologies provide students with citation, spell-check, graphing formulas, and diagrams to help students understand any course of study. This legislation would effectively penalize these services.

13. The legislation is vague on how an offense would be initiated, processed, and prosecuted. Should universities be required to initiate a claim, universities could face higher administrative burden in having to potentially investigate issues or collect data, as well as add additional burdens on university professors having to identify, investigate, and prove a breach academic code.

14. Non-academic actors could be impacted as well. For example, large global technology companies such as Microsoft, Facebook and Dropbox that provide services and products on their platforms that may assist a student with "completing…part of an assignment" could run afoul of the law. Likewise, other platforms that build community, such as Discord, WhatsApp, and Reddit could run afoul of the law if students discuss, share, and evaluate assignment questions and exams. In these instances, it may be argued that a student using any relevant online material for guidance regarding an assignment, would mean that the provider of such online material would be captured under the legislation as having provided a "part of an assignment".

Importance of Chegg services  

Blended Learning is Shifting the Learning Experience

15. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, 1.5 billon students around the world, according to UNESCO, were affected by school closures. Over the last 12 months, Chegg has supported more than 45,000 students in the UK continue reinforcing the content they learned in the classroom at home.

16. Although some students continue to return to campus, a new pedagogy of learning and teaching is being developed in real time. Faculty are exploring what online teaching really means for them, while students have fully transitioned to an on-demand, online education experience. The pivot to online teaching is not only about adopting new technology; rather, it is also about changing human behavior. Universities and providers must rethink and re-evaluate their teaching to accommodate a new modality.


17. From the early days of online learning, there was an emphasis on enabling students to construct knowledge through questioning, discussion, sharing of perspectives and sources, analysis of resources from multiple sources, and instructor feedback. The long-term impact of this sharing of power between student and instructor is that the instructor is no longer responsible for delivering all of the knowledge or even providing all of the sources for learning – but rather maintains a critical role as guide, facilitator, and assessor of the learning. 

18. The constant evolution of digital technologies, social media, and hardware devices give students an unprecedent control over access to and the creation and sharing of knowledge. Students can now access a variety of content, some free of charge and others via subscription, from multiple sources on the internet. 

19. To that end, Chegg offers students on-demand, low-cost educational support to supplement and complement traditional, in-classroom learning. Chegg supports students with tools designed to help them learn course materials, succeed in their classes, save money on required materials, and realize the value of the courses for which they pay. Because Chegg’s products are available anytime online, Chegg’s products also assist students when they are in a remote environment without access to many traditional educational resources.  

20. The legislation as written could cripple the ability of students to who need assistance beyond regular university hours. A student accessing Chegg’s products learns by using them, just as a student learns when a teacher or tutor guides the student through the steps of solving a problem. Chegg’s expert solutions walk students through the process of solving problems incrementally, through structured analysis. Chegg Study teaches students how to solve not only individual end-of-chapter questions, but also how to approach solving other problems of the same type.

Transition to a Knowledge Based Society

21. According to McKinsey Global Institute, up to 375 million workers-or 14 percent of the global workforce-may have to switch occupations and acquire new skills by 2030. Automation will disproportionately impact non-digital workers because they will be unable to upskill at the rapid pace of change. Global economies are placing an increased emphasis on applying knowledge to meet the demands of 21st century society, using skills such as critical thinking, independent learning, the use of relevant information technology, software, and data within a discipline, and entrepreneurialism.

22. For students who want a rewarding career at the cutting edge of technological and scientific advancement, STEM is an essential foundation. But a thorough STEM education is demanding even under the best circumstances, and it's normal for students who want to go down this path to require focused help. Chegg offers support for the students studying subjects across high school and higher education curricula related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business. Chegg STEM experts offer support that allows students to learn at their own pace and spend extra time working through difficult course material.

23. The legislation as written, if improperly enforced, may penalize Chegg from offering students the ability to gain mastery of STEM related subjects through a critical element of learning: repetition. In STEM related courses, repetition improves student mastery of lab techniques, increases student confidence in science abilities, better’s student understanding of conceptual science, and gives opportunities for students to self-design their learning and gain extra practice beyond the designed curriculum. Using Chegg services enables students to make multiple attempts at the same technique, skill, or concept as a practice of uncovering their errors and iteratively improving.

Technology Facilitated, Collaborative Learning Environments

24. For online distance learning to be successful it must create learning communities where students feel connected to the curriculum and instructor. Effective online learning platforms provide students with a supportive community where direct, immediate feedback on assessments improves student confidence and mastery.

25. It is widely known that students all over the world struggle with writing and often struggle to understand key concepts associated with citation and bibliography references. Another Chegg product, Writing Tools, helps student outcomes by assisting the writer with intuitive, scalable tools. Students visit and use Writing Tools after they have completed the majority of their assignment to understand if they have correctly followed the style, guidelines, and requirements set forth by their instructor. Our tools help students improve their writing assignments by acting as a comprehensive online tool providing a second pair of eyes to students who may lack confidence in their writing skills, are non-native English learners, or want to double-check for plagiarism mistakes.  

26. The legislation as written, if improperly enforced, may make it a crime to offer students a valuable mid-assignment opportunity to assess and improve their work before submission. If penalized, this critical part of the learning journey would leave some students behind, limiting their ability to learn everything from syntax and vocabulary assistance to guidance on presenting stronger academic arguments.


Chegg supports strong academic integrity standards 

27. Chegg is committed to helping every student achieve their best in school and beyond, and we believe that maintaining academic integrity is fundamental to this commitment. We are not naïve to the fact that misuse of online platforms happens. We take these matters very seriously and work hard to prevent attempts to cheat or otherwise misuse Chegg services. 

28. Chegg invests significant time and resources into tools that aid in detecting potential improper use of our services and when we learn about potential violations of our honor code or terms of use, we take swift action to investigate and address the matter. We also go to great lengths to protect our users’ privacy first and foremost, while also ensuring that Chegg is used appropriately.

29. We believe that educators are key to preventing misuse which is why we work with them to tackle cheating as a collective challenge. In the event misuse is flagged to Chegg by a university official, we follow a formal investigation process in line with our Terms of Use and Honor Code.

30. With input from faculty and academic integrity administrators, Chegg built Honor Shield, a proctoring support tool that helps to prevent students from receiving answers to exam questions from Chegg experts during the period that an exam is underway.  The extra layer of protection provided by Honor Shield will further support the learning process and serve the continued move to online learning. By working in partnership with educators, institutions, and students, we believe we are building systems to support student learning in the most effective ways.


For Students:  

31. We remind students of our Honor Code every time a student submits a question on Chegg. We leverage keyword detection systems to help identify exams and content that is identified by the keyword detection system is flagged and removed from the system. Chegg also implements daily and manual support processes to search and remove exam content.


For Academia:

32. We engage with academia regularly to understand their issues and concerns, cooperate with university investigations, and we have an Academic Advisory Board that advises us on key initiatives and direction on issues related to working with academia.

For Chegg Experts:

33. All of our experts are trained on our Honor Code during their onboarding process and we mandate that experts identify and flag abusive content. Experts that violate our Honor Code are removed from the Chegg platform.


34. Chegg fully supports the aims of the proposed legislation to promote academic integrity, while penalizing and eradicating contract cheating services. Cheating services exploit students who are often under high stress and pressure, and compromise the integrity of the entire education system, threatening the futures of students. Legislation on its own, however, cannot completely disrupt the supply of contract cheating services. It must be a partnership between government, academic, and private industry to work together towards a model that enables students to advance their studies with new tools, while safeguarding the integrity of the sector. For the legislation to be effective as a deterrent, it is essential that students, universities and stakeholders fully understand its scope.

35. The above concerns highlight specific sections of the legislation that would extend the scope beyond the cheating services it is designed to stamp out and go impermissibly further by criminalizing commonly-used collaborative learning and study techniques, which in no way should be considered cheating, simply because they are being made available on a commercial basis, by a corporation, or online.  

36. Chegg would welcome the opportunity to work with government to tackle cheating more widely. We have substantial expertise and experience in how to combat cheating and awareness of ever more sophisticated technologies that are being used by some students to cheat.

December 2021


Prepared 8th December 2021