Ebooks taking all our ‘dough’

Abigail McAuley, Guest Columnist

Tired of textbooks that cost more than your tuition? The recent trend of high price driven access codes is detrimental to the cost of attending college, and even to the educational experience itself for students of Los Medanos College.

There are a lot of things to love about LMC, but one repeated theme I’ve seen in the qualities that draw students here is that it is much more affordable than other four-year colleges. However, the way access codes are used, they often require students to buy a new textbook (buying used or renting) that’s not bundled with the access code.

Not only do these students have an added cost of the codes averaging $100 each, but they also may be forced to spend more on the textbooks themselves. If you’re lucky, the textbook and the access code can be sold separately, but even then, there’s no chance of reselling the access code at the end of the semester or sharing with someone else in the class. Students end up paying more than they bargained for when they enrolled.

One of the most alarming aspects of the access code industry is that students are now paying for things that used to be included in the cost of tuition. Now instead of paying for tuition, books, and classroom supplies, students are expected to pay to do homework and take quizzes.

Somehow, forcing students to pay for essential functions of the classroom has become the new norm.

If a student is not able to get an access code for a class that requires one, they will not pass. This creates an enormous barrier to student success at an institution that is branded by affordability. Access codes create another obstacle in the form of technology. It is bold of professors to assume that every student has access to a computer to use for homework each night, and most access code systems are not accessible by phone.

It is easy to see why a professor might favor access codes over assigning homework and quizzes; these online systems provide a bulk of the curriculum and grade their work instantly.

This can have an adverse effect, as access codes use multiple-choice questions that are automatically graded, which don’t allow professors to see what mistakes are being made or who is falling behind. It is also much easier for students to cheat on online homework and quizzes. A student may have no problem copy and pasting every question into Google, even if their work is timed. Many access code systems give a set number of attempts for each problem, so guessing becomes a more viable option while still getting full points. Either way, the online experience proves to be less enriching.

Professors might think that they are providing their students with even more learning opportunities via digital tools, but in reality, they are assigning generic busy-work that may not be suited to the topics that students learn in class.

One LMC student (who wished to remain anonymous) pointed out that, “my professor doesn’t even know what questions are on our online homework assignments, and they never match her in-class quizzes.” The access code format, in fact, decreases professor involvement in student coursework because with the click of a button they can assign work from a third-party site and not give their curriculum a second thought.

Professors should know the cost of their required materials, weigh the option of whether to require access codes, and be flexible for students who may not be able to spend the extra money for basic coursework. What might seem like an advancement in technology might  just be something that sets  the whole class back financially and lower the quality of their education.