Chegg, the largest online textbook rental company, is unveiling two new services today to help expand its reach into the university student market. Describing it as an effort to personalize its offerings, Chegg will now offer homework help as well as course scheduling information to its customers.
These new features aren't a surprise. They follow Chegg's acquisitions last year of CourseRank and Cramster. The former offers course scheduling and review information, and the latter offers homework help. The services these companies offered have now been integrated into Chegg so that its textbook rental customers can easily take advantage of them.
Using the course scheduling tool, students at 600 participating universities will be able to pick their classes armed with a lot more data: not just the class schedule (the key, of course, is to always avoid classes on Fridays), but the average grade for the class (so students can access its level of difficulty) as well as students' reviews. Of course, once students have picked their courses, Chegg will automatically show which textbooks are required and, with one click, add them to the rental shopping cart.
The homework help option isn't as fully integrated into the system as the scheduling tool, but it will offer access to 24-7 help, crowdsourced Q&A, as well as a database of "answers from the back of the book" - again, based on the textbooks that students have rented.
While Chegg has expanded its offerings with the acquisition and integration of Cramster and CourseRank, it still seems largely focused on its core mission, which is textbook rentals. Nonetheless, students will probably appreciate the new tools, as students already turn to their peers for some of this data that Chegg can now provide - namely, is this a difficult class, and how much will textbooks set me back?
Furthermore, by offering homework help, Chegg will be driving students to the site not just at the start of each semester, but throughout the school year - a step in making the company a more important part of a student's world. That may become increasingly important, not just as other textbook rental companies like BookRenter challenge Chegg's dominance, but as textbooks move from print to digital.
Chegg says it plans to continue to build out these offerings and hopes to have the CourseRank feature in place at 1000 universities by the time school starts in the fall.