Web Mucking up Education

June 30th, 2009 | Sources: NY Times


There once was a time when college students asked classmates or TAs for help when it came time to prepare for exams.

Now it seems, these tried and true resources have been replaced by Web sites which offer answers to textbook problems, copies of old exams, lecture notes, and on-line help from paid experts among other things.

maybeillcheckoutcoursehero“Many professors won’t tell you how you got (something) wrong — just that it’s wrong. This way you complete the feedback process, which is essential to learning,” Columbia sophomore Chris O’Connor explained to the New York Times.

On Course Hero for example, students can access 3 million student-submitted items from 400,000 courses at more than 3,500 schools, including study guides, lecture notes, lab results, presentations, essays, research papers, and homework assignments.

Those who submit the goods can navigate Course Hero for free. Everyone else forks over a monthly fee. The site has several hundred thousand users.

On Cramster, 500,000 visitors have sought answers to science and math textbook problems. Answers to odd-numbered problems are free, but for those particularly tricky even-numbered problems, students must pay $9.95 per month.

Advocates for the Web sites, which include some professors, argue that many documents housed on the sites have been accessible to fraternity and sorority members since Animal House.

cramsterrip-offDavid Sachs, an associate dean at Pace University who has joined Cramster’s advisory panel, argues that “if Cramster and all these companies disappeared tomorrow, you could still do a Google search and find what you’re looking for in 5 minutes.”

And William Kinney, a Physics professor at SUNY Buffalo believes the system is “self-policing.” “If the students just copy down answers to the homework, they will not do well on the exam,” he told the Times.


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