Avoid Cengage when possible: Save money

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, February 21st, 2019 at 10:27 AM

Chances are, if you’ve taken public speaking, a math class or a business class, you’ve had to pay for access to a site that you don’t get through the school. Services like Cengage and Pearson offer educational features to students and professors alike, but are they always worth it? And are they worth requiring when D2L exists through ‘Boro?

Let’s start with Cengage. It can offer students an online textbook, flashcards, extra video resources and a place to take quizzes, which certainly can be useful for the engaged student.

Another aspect of Cengage we must note is that there’s two levels of service. The first is for a single class, with some limits on what you can do on the website. The second is Cengage Unlimited, a “first-of-its-kind digital subscription that gives students total and on-demand access to all the digital learning platforms, ebooks, online homework and study tools Cengage has to offer — in one place,” as described by the website. 

Pearson (or Mylab), primarily for math courses, offers an e-textbook, an interactive place to do homework, and resources that are supposed to improve the way you study and the skills you have.  

Let’s look at D2L. 

The free-to-student service through Edinboro offers discussion boards, a place to take quizzes, a place to turn in assignments and to check grades. And again, it’s free. So, is that enough of a price difference to balance out the lack of increased interactivity that one of these more advanced programs offers?

Cengage and D2L are pretty similar in their functions, with the main standout from Cengage being they have a video bank of extra resources. Pearson and D2L differ because Pearson is used for math classes and D2L doesn’t have the ability to do math homework the way Mylab offers, but D2L is pretty similar in everything else.  

Cengage Unlimited can be cheaper than traditional textbooks, though, if you have multiple classes that use it, but in my experience, that doesn’t happen often, which makes the $119.99 fee attached to it a hassle if professors recommend it. 

We asked staff writer Beau Bruneau his feelings on the conundrum.  

“As someone that has a hard time using physical copies of books because of disability, eBooks can make reading a book so much simpler. Even though Cengage offers this advantage, as well as flashcards, study guides and exams the professor can use, I still consider it to be too expensive. Sometimes the price can get as high as $120 for a four-month rental, especially if the extras are mandatory.”

Another argument that could be made is whether or not these extra features are even helpful. Many issues ago, we argued that interactive teaching, discussions, and activities that challenge students’ tactile skills are more conducive to learning than testing and memorization will ever be. So does it make sense for students to spend so much money on programs that may not even be taken full advantage of ?

The quizzes, flashcards and homework offered by these sites can help you memorize something or pass that test you need to, but are you actually absorbing and learning the information in this digital avenue? If not, it’s a waste of money and college is already expensive enough without extra costs. The College Board estimates undergraduate students are to spend $1,240 on books and supplies in 2018-2019.

These additional expenses, that come from having to buy access codes with books or buying an upgraded version, add to a market that can already be expensive. The price of textbooks and the additions sometimes required can even cause students to avoid buying textbooks, according to Students Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG). In fact, 65 percent of students surveyed by this organization have not bought a textbook because of the cost, and 95 percent of those students worried it would negatively affect their grades.  

Another issue besides the initial cost is that it affects the second-hand book market and the money students make from that. Students that buy books often look to sell them back to the university or elsewhere, but these books attached to websites lose value if other features are cut off (when access codes expire).You see, access codes typically only allow access for a limited time, similar to renting a book, or they only allow you access to certain things after your code expires.  

Simply put, these websites can undermine the money some students get back after the semester (or the money they would get back from a more traditional e-textbook or standard book). 

The solution? 

Students, talk to your professors about their use of websites like this, especially if you think how you’re using it isn’t worth the money. Professors, evaluate whether or not these sites that cost students more money are worth it, and if their use of it is worth what they cost to students. Also, take a deeper look into D2L and how using it instead of these websites can benefit students. Here at ‘Boro, we’re proud of the fact that our students work hard, and an unfortunate reality is that according to raise.me, a website that helps students get scholarships, 95% of the incoming freshmen receive scholarship or grant aid and 47% of the freshmen receive federal grants, and we’d like to be able to make the most use of that.  

Another possible solution is a bill brought to the Senate in 2017 that has basically stalled in the U.S. committee for Education,  Health, Labor and Pensions. It’s called the Affordable Textbook Act and it would give grants to programs that would encourage use of open textbooks. An open textbook “means an open educational resource or set of open educational resources that either is a textbook or can be used in place of a textbook for a postsecondary course at an institution of higher education,” according to the bill. It was the second time that Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) had introduced the bill and hopefully if it’s introduced another time, there will be more support for it as, according to the Students PIRG, more access to open textbooks could save students $1 billion.  

College is expensive and textbooks add to that cost. If students aren’t benefiting from services they pay for, why are we paying for them? Or is traditional class presentation all that bad, given it adds to the students ability to sell back books at the end of the year? 

If you’ve taken a Cengage or Pearson course before, we want to hear from you. Email voices.spectator@gmail.com.


Erica Burkholder | voices.spectator@gmail.com


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