Blackboard partners with tutoring service Chegg

Blackboard learning management system will soon include homework and textbook service

Dal student Connor Wentzell is one of the one million students Chegg says its services have helped. Photo: Matt Jamieson

Changes are on the way for Blackboard Learn, the learning management service (LMS) used by Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s and several other Atlantic Canadian universities.

Blackboard Inc. has announced a new partnership with Santa Clara, California-based Chegg Inc., an online homework help and textbook rental resource. The deal will allow Blackboard to offer Chegg’s tutoring and study services through its software, which is currently used by 900 education organizations around the world.

The three-year deal includes a guaranteed payment from Chegg to the D.C.-based learning management company, as well as a plan for revenue sharing for any Chegg subscriptions gained through Blackboard.

Chegg was founded in 2001 as a textbook rental service. In 2005 it began offering subscription-based homework help. For $15 a month, Chegg allows users to post a limited number of questions about any school subject. These questions can then be answered by other users in exchange for credits.

Users can use credits to ask more questions or exchange them for discounts at online retailers including Target and Amazon. Chegg also has an online tutoring service called InstaEDU that sets students up with tutors for one-on-one online sessions.

According to Chegg’s website, the service has helped more than one million students.

Nathan Schultz, Chegg’s chief learning officer, says Chegg’s services will work seamlessly with Blackboard learn.

“[Our services] are presented right at the moment students are actually doing their work,” he says. “We know – for instance – that you are currently studying biology. Chegg Study is tuned into where you are in the course and the homework you are currently engaged on. In the case of tutoring, you might only see the availability of biology tutors for an online session.”

He says students will have to wait until next year to see any changes to their BlackBoard Learn pages.

Connor Wentzell, a fourth-year geology major at Dal, says he’s been using Chegg for about two months. He says he earned enough credits on the site to make up for the money he spent on subscription fees.

“Even if I didn’t earn the [Amazon and Target] gift cards,” he says, “the help I’ve gotten on my assignments has been worth $15 a month.”

Wentzell, who applied to be a tutor for Chegg’s InstaEDU service, says it would be helpful to see some of Chegg’s services integrated with Blackboard Learn.

“[Chegg] is a neat little tool, I think it would make Blackboard a lot better,” he says.

Dal students shouldn’t expect to see any major changes to their Blackboard Learn pages any time soon. Dalhousie is currently reviewing which learning management system it wants to use in the upcoming school year. Along with other universities in the province, Dal is comparing Blackboard Learn to two other LMSs: Ontario-based Desire 2 Learn and Utah-based Canvas.

Dal’s LMS review coordinator Doug Rogers says he doubts Dalhousie students will see Chegg’s services integrated into Blackboard Learn before the review is completed.

Rogers says he’s skeptical Blackboard would even include these new features in the software version used by Dal. “But who knows?” he says.

Update: Brad Wuetherick, executive director of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at Dalhousie, says the BlackBoard Inc. and Chegg partnership will not effect the learning management system review or Dal’s current use of BlackBoard. In the future, he says, Dal could choose to use the tools the Chegg partnership will make available, but there are no current plans to do so.