OPINION: Subscription-based homework services are an unnecessary burden


In this day and age, technology is king. As such, many professors prefer to have attendance, homework and other assignments online, providing ease of access. As someone who witnessed the rise of personal computers and smartphones, I love when new technology is used in the classroom.

However, a few of the technological advances used by professors are not provided by the university. This means they must be paid for, and the students are the ones paying for the privilege.

A common example of this is the iClicker remote used to take short quizzes in class for attendance or quiz points. IClickers require no subscription, just a one-time fee for buying the physical remote. One benefit of the iClicker is that it can be re-registered to someone new, so you can pass on your remote once you do not need it.

iClickers are carried by the Kansas State Campus Store, but they often sell out, forcing students to search elsewhere for a remote. The physical remote can be found on Amazon for around $40, which I suppose is not bad if you have multiple classes that use the remote.

If you do not want to invest that much money, you can also pay $15 for a six-month subscription to the Reef Polling app, which is run by the same company that created the iClickers.

Another app rising in popularity among professors is TopHat. TopHat is similar to Reef Polling in that you can answer questions in class, but you can also view presentations while the instructor is presenting them. TopHat can be used for attendance points, in-class quizzes and even short homework assignments.

However, TopHat requires a subscription, which is offered for a semester, a year or four years. The cost for a one-year subscription is $38.

Most of my professors that use TopHat have used it for attendance points, which usually constitute 5 percent of the overall grade in the class. Even paying $26 for one semester, that seems like a huge waste of money for such a small portion of the overall grade.

iClickers can account for a larger portion of your grade. Both the iClicker remote and TopHat may be used for one class or many, but there is no way to predict how many classes you will need it for.

Purchasing a subscription to either Reef Polling or TopHat is a gamble, and it could end up costing you more than is necessary in the long run. These apps also have a possibility of crashing, which could completely mess up your quiz or homework grades.

However, the major offenders to an average student’s bank account are paid homework services, such as McGraw-Hill Connect or MyOMLab by Pearson. Subscriptions to these services can cost upwards of $90, and they are mostly used for small homework assignments.

I personally think being required to pay a lot of money just to do my homework is preposterous.

We are already paying an average of $309 per credit hour for in-state tuition, and increasing that cost to almost $400 is completely outrageous. College is already difficult to finance for many people, and increasing costs make it even harder for people to pay for their education.

I would love to see subscription-based homework services either decline in popularity or simply lower their costs. K-State already provides plenty of free homework-related resources through Canvas, which many professors are thankfully taking advantage of.

Hopefully, new alternatives will appear to help relieve the inconvenience of paying top dollar just for the privilege to complete homework assignments.

Jason DeFisher is a junior in animal sciences and industry. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.