Part of being a student is struggling with the escalating costs of education. Whether it is tuition or textbooks, the financial burden might sometimes feel overwhelming. However, one expense that seems to be overlooked, yet often hurts our pockets, is the mandatory purchase of homework software and apps.
In recent years, it has become increasingly common for various departments and classes at Drexel to make it compulsory for students to purchase specific homework software platforms such as Pearson, Zybooks, WileyPLUS, and Cengage. While these tools are marketed as essential for improving the learning experience, offering interactive assignments and immediate feedback, their high costs — often about $100 per subscription or more – add yet another expense to our already tight finances.
What’s especially concerning is the lack of clarity about who is making these decisions. Are these mandates coming from individual professors or the department? Students are frequently left in the dark as to why a particular software or app is considered important or mandatory for their course. Is it truly improving our learning experience, or is it merely an attempt for the department to increase revenue?
Here are just a few examples from students around campus of amounts they have paid for mandatory homework software and the corresponding classes:
Cengage: $133.27 for ECON 201
McGraw Hill: $120 for BUSN 101
WileyPLUS: $140.69 for PHYS 152-154
Pearson: $118.79 for ENVS 260, $91.80 for MATH 101, $140 for PHYS 101, $113 for MATH 171, $132.49 for PHYS 101
Zybooks: $64 for ENGR 131, $81.62 for CS 171, $56.71 for CS 172
AKTIV Learning: $25-$45 for CHEM 101 and 102
Lab Investigations Manual: $84 for PHEV -146
These examples show the significant financial burden imposed on students by mandatory homework software purchases across various majors and departments.
Furthermore, the question of accessibility cannot be ignored. Not all students can afford these costly software licenses, leading to inequality in resource availability. As a result, several students in the past had no choice but to drop classes causing major setbacks to their plan of study and academic journey. This contradicts the values of equity and inclusion that Drexel strives to uphold.
As the bills pile up, it is becoming evident that the existing approach is not working in the best interest of students. I believe it is time for an open and valuable discussion about the decisions driving the mandatory software purchases. It is also crucial that both departments and professors should explore alternative options and be transparent about their reasoning.
So in the end, I do wonder who are these homework software benefitting- is it the students, faculty or university publisher tie-ups?