Pay to learn, pay to test

How much does a class cost? We’re all familiar with the number that appears on our invoice every semester, but is that it? The majority of university classes will at the very least require students to purchase a textbook or course readings, but that’s not always the end of it. Tactile textbooks have long circulated around university campuses on a quasi-black market, offering students a way to bypass the soaring prices common at the bookstore.

The introduction of online textbooks was supposed to be a saving grace for students, with online content available more readily and for much less. But is it really?

The majority of the classes I’ve had with online versions of textbooks have cost nearly as much as a paper copy and the reasoning is often attributed to it including access to online interactive content.

Every semester of my undergraduate career thus far has featured classes incorporating online homework or quizzes as a part of my grade. While much of this online content can be opted out of, this information is often withheld from students. Arguably worse, I’ve had a professor explain that online content was not mandatory, while not-so-subtlely hinting that succeeding in the class was dependent upon investing in the quizzes.

I think the problem here lies not with incorporating online content into the learning environment, but the immense reliance I’ve noticed on using third-party resources.

It’s true some programs use specialized software that is only manufactured by a certain company, and requiring students to access it is simply ensuring that they’ll be prepared for their future careers. You cannot, however, justify to me the need to purchase costly access codes simply to complete a collection of multiple choice quizzes.

Laurier currently hosts a website known as MyLearningSpace, which all students and faculty have access to, free of charge. What a growing number of professors seem to be unaware of is that this website has a built in quiz tool. Any professor can easily compose their own questions using course content and require students to complete these as a component of their grade. No extra charge involved, no need to download special software and no need to purchase a brand new copy of the required readings.

I understand a professor’s time is precious and that creating these types of quizzes takes a little more effort on their part than making us pay for access to the publisher’s content. Nonetheless, if I’m paying hundreds of dollars for you to teach me, I shouldn’t have to pay more for you to test me.

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