I will not pay to access my assignments!

Post ImageI have three classes this term – one on MWF, one on TR, and an evening class on Wednesdays. It’s a pretty sweet schedule actually, because my weekday classes are at 3 PM and 3:30 PM which means I have most of the day to work or sleep. My first class was today, and it was ASTRO 122. It did not go so well. Here’s a rundown:

  1. The professor introduces himself. Here’s his website, and here he is on ratemyprofessors.com.
  2. While going through the course outline, he comes to the point about assignments. He says they are done completely online, using webassign.net. I’m thinking “wicked!” I hate paper.
  3. Then he says we only have access to webassign for two weeks. After that we need an access code. Apparently the code comes with the textbook or can be purchased separately for $11.

At this point, I stuck up my hand.

Me: “Are you saying that I need to pay to get access to my assignments?”
Him (hesitating): “Yeah, that’s right.”
Me: “Well that’s kind of dumb.”
Some of my classmates chuckled…

At the end of the lecture I went up to talk to him. I said that I thought it was ridiculous that I had to pay to get access to my assignments, and that this had to be against some kind of university regulation. He really didn’t say much so I went on and on and on and finally he asked if we could take this up in his office later. I said sure, and left.

The only time he really spoke as I was complaining was to disagree with me about the textbook. He said it was required, so it was assumed that I should have the code. My argument is that you are NOT required to purchase a textbook simply because a professor says it is required for the course (I have searched the Calendar and have found no such regulation). Furthermore, you are NOT required to purchase a new textbook, which would be necessary to get the access code in question.

Here is the message that the webassign website shows after I log in:

According to our records you have not entered an access code for this class. The grace period will end Monday, January 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM GMT. After that date you will no longer be able to see your WebAssign assignments or grades. After you enter an access code, you will again have access to your assignments and grades.

The assignments are worth 20% of the grade in this course. I don’t believe I should have to pay anything beyond the registration for the course in order to get access to the assignments. If there is optional material that requires an extra expense, that’s one thing. There’s absolutely no way however, that I should have to pay extra for something that counts towards my grade.

I’m going to do something about this, I’m just not sure what yet.

I almost feel like I should try to do something beyond just this single issue. The root problem here is that professors are free to use any system they like for course materials, or no system at all. What the U of A needs is a campus-wide system for courses. Something like WebCT, but better. And all professors should be required to use it. In my time at the U of A I have used WebCT, Moodle, ulearn, and many other “systems” that a professor has hacked together. It’s a truly sad state of affairs.

56 thoughts on “I will not pay to access my assignments!

  1. I agree with your position. Have you spoken with the Department Head? Write a letter to the Gateway.

    Is there anyway that you could get a classmate to copy and paste the assignment and send it to you – not that you should have to do that, but as a stopgap measure.

    I agree that the university needs a one system. In Arts, I used WebCT. In Business, I think it was uLearn or Blackboard and now in Law, I use TWEN which is put on by the law books publisher Thomson Carswell.

  2. Atrocious service.

    Why is it that universities seem to fail to recognise that they are a service provider and some how think they are above contractual law unless it’s to point out some regulation you have breached?

    If you have paid for the course and no additional fees were disclosed then I’d be looking to see if it constitutes a breach of contract (subject to the contract in play of course) or a misrepresentation of an offering in some way. Disclaimer: Seek legal council, at your own expense of course 🙂

    Bloody typical!

    I don’t think I would have brought it up in the class the same way, but I would probably be all over it too.

  3. I haven’t spoken to the department head, but I probably will. I was thinking about the letter to the Gateway too (or even another guest column) – I may do that, but I think it needs to be more about the root problem than the issue in my class.

    You might be on to something Colin…it definitely feels like misrepresentation! I don’t know if I’d seek legal council though. It’s just the principle of it all, and hopefully I could make a point without resorting to lawyers…

    I brought it up in class because I find it hard to believe that I’m the only one who objects.

  4. It’s the principle of it all Megan! It’s crazy. And if I can make a stink and help to ensure it doesn’t happen to future students, then I’ll do it.

    And yes I do care about my mark. I just don’t feel that I need to get an A in every course.

  5. I understand completely what you’re saying, and I even agree with you. But considering you’re the kind of guy who goes to class at the beginning, for the midterm and before the final, it strikes me as odd that a mere 20% of your mark is upsetting you.

    And don’t lie. "D is for degree, and that’s good enough for me…" Haha.

    I read the prof’s website. He sounds like a real winner. *cough cough* My prof, on the other hand, is Russian and talks like elmer fudd. He says "pwanes" instead of "planes". It’s funny.

  6. I also don’t agree that ALL professors should e forced to use some kind of online whatever to supplement their classes. If that’s the case, then why the hell do we pay $600 a course for stuff that’s online? Some courses don’t work when there’s stuff online, because there needs to be discussion and arguments and actual interaction, otherwise the entire point of a university education is lost. We don’t just learn "stuff", some of us even learn how to interact with people when we talk about the "stuff". But if most (or all) of it is online, there’s less actual human interaction, which is the reason that people go to university and don’t do their entire degree online.

  7. I wish you would stop applying that "mack doesn’t care" mentality to all my classes. There are certain classes I don’t care about, that’s true, but I do care about most. And for the ones I do care about, I actually do try to go to class regularly.

    I don’t think we pay $600 for "stuff". You could buy the textbook on Amazon and read it yourself if all you wanted was the "stuff". We pay $600 for the ability to go to a lecture and talk to a human being (too bad that rarely happens). What I am saying is that when that human being decides there is course materials beyond just talking (lecture notes, assignments, etc.), those materials should be available online using the same system as every other course.

    If magically some class did not have course material that could be posted online, it should STILL be part of the online system, because at the very least it will have a course outline.

    Actually, ideally we wouldn’t have course outlines (because again, every professor reinvents the wheel every semester). Instead, every course would be in this online system, and the professor would just fill in the blanks for contact information, office hours, and grade breakdown.

    I could go on. There are a lot of inefficiencies with the way things are currently done.

  8. First of all, you’ve said it yourself: as long as you don’t fail or do horribly, you’re ok with it. I don’t make this up. I also don’t see the need to get an A in everything, since my non-A average got me a job.

    Second of all, there is something in a piece of paper (ie. a syllabus) that makes the entire procedure more concrete. I’m going to speak for many people here, because I know it’s true: most people do not remember that they have to check WebCT or whatever for class info, but they DO know to look at their syllabus for whatever it is, and if the information isn’t there, they’ll get in touch with the prof. It’s a pretty simple process, one that doesn’t require ample technology.

    Most English classes, for example, don’t have stuff that can be posted online, bcause the majority of thos classes are discussion based. Same with History, Poli Sci, Anthro, Religion, most Education classes, Music, etc, etc, that AREN’T taught by PowerPoint (and let’s not get started on THAT). If that’s the case, and there is no need for course material to be online, what’s the use of having other information (like a syllabus) online? Most people are not going to be accessing the website often enough to check course information, because there is nothing new \on the website. And, since most people would end up printing out the syllabus anyways, the prof might as well do it for them so that on the first day everyone has their own tangible paper copy, rather than having to write down a URL and then later go access the syllabus and whatever else is on the site.

    I also don’t think we SHOULD be paying $600 for the stuff, but in many cases we do. In many classes, I’ve found that profs lecture straight from the textbook. When this is the case, I usually still go to class, but I’m not nearly as engaged as when I’m learning something new because "I’ve already read this" and then I get bored.

    Back to the original point: If I had a class where I had to pay to get my assignments, I’d firebomb the building my prof’s office was in. Or, at the very least, take it to his Department Head and point out the injustice of it all. Or, you know, maybe pay the $11 and NOT buy the textbook, which in an Astro class is probably a way better deal anyways.

  9. I was quite upset over a similar matter concerning my Italian 111 course.

    The past semester for Italian 111, we have received textbooks and workbooks for the course. After submitting a couple workbook assignments on paper, we are told mid-semester, that the availability of the workbook was a mistake.

    We were all required to hand-in our workbook for the trade-in online code for the textbook’s assignment online system. Here’s the kicker: I like to keep records and tangible evidence of my brillance (haha!); for the same price (I’ll talk about the price point after) for a workbook — tangible and full of paper, marks, and notes — I have access to the online system for only 18 months after the book key has been activated.

    To some people, 18 months is no big deal. Heck, some people just take one language course and then forget about it. However, I’m a language major and I’m interested in pursing the language. The workbook is something I could keep and refer back to and use for review for years to come, whereas the online system is only accessible "now", meaning I would have to pay over and over every 18 months just to check the exercises. And believe me, I have checked over exercises in Japanese I have done FOUR YEARS ago to ensure that I know I am correct over a grammatical point and not just believing I’m right because it "feels" right when I tutor others.

    Anyway, back to prices. The University of Alberta had the text with the exercise manual for a joint price, a "deal" of some sort. Now I don’t know where the mistake was, but here’s the kicker to this:

    The tangile exercise book costs $61.56

    Quia, the online exercise program, priced the book key at $45.27.

    (These prices I have checked at the Quia webiste and the Houghton Mifflin site, the publisher’s of Parilamo Italiano 3e.)

    Was it that I paid for the Quia and they sent the exercise books by mistake? Or was it that I paid for the exercise book and I just lost out on $20? The department has told me "the publisher’s representative has told [the department head] that there is no difference in costs between workbook and book key". Hmm.

    A lot of students were stunned at the fact that they had to hand-in their assignments online instead of on paper which we had all gotten used to before the "book key – exercise book" mix-up. We didn’t have a choice: we had to hand it in online or get a zero. For those who preferred the paper method of working on an assignment before handing it in online, we had to print out those exercises and, if you don’t own your own printer like me and would have to print it out on campus, the paper adds up.

    According to my Italian prof, he was forced to go online which is RIDICULOUS for a langugae course. As Megan pointed out, "Some courses don’t work when there’s stuff online, because there needs to be discussion and arguments and actual interaction, otherwise the entire point of a university education is lost." The whole point in learning a whole frackin’ language is to interact. An online system, though efficient in managing the collection of assignments, creates a HUGE wall between the professor and the student. Assignments were corrected, but when there was a mistake it was really troublesome to figure out why: my prof couldn’t remember why he marked something the way it was since he couldn’t write notes on the assignment anymore.

    Anyway, just thought to add in my two cents to your concerns. I was miffed at having to PAY for my exercises and assignments to be marked and graded.

  10. Ana, thanks for your comment. I think what happened in your class totally sucks! While I don’t share your love of keeping paper records (though I like to have records of my brilliance too ;)) I think you should be able to if you want to.

    There’s no way we should be forced to pay to get our assignments marked.

  11. am I right in thinking you are moaning and complaining over £11? (no dollar sign on uk keyboards)
    just pay it and get on. life is half as long as what you think its going to be.

    who really cares about the injustice in this?

    1. It’s fools like you that causes the education system to become a business. Tuition, activity fees, lab fees are enough to pay and a homework fee is unfair. Webassign affects the GPA and will change an ‘A’ grade to a ‘B’. That is what is unfair. Only a C-D student will have an opinion like yours.

  12. I’m in my physics II course right now, $35 for a 5 week long course. My physics I course ended last week and the website that prof used only cost… nothing. Mack, we have a right to be upset and try and do something about this extra cost to a course, especially when its not necessary.

    I drained my bank account to $5 for this course, I’m not going to take out a loan for an online course assignment, although for me its 25% of my grade. Good luck getting it changed.

  13. this is come bs, im in my second math class that requires web assign.

    i hate homework. and now i have to pay do do it.
    my grace period ended today. I wonder if the professors can extend the grace period until the end of the semester.
    that would be nice.

  14. SERIOUSLY!!! what the hell, i do NOT want to pay another almost $40 for an access code ON TOP of the already high tuition that I have to pay for the class AND the book! thats soo unfair!
    I actually have to buy mine right now 😦

  15. I stumbled across your blog when doing a search. I just found out that my course uses the same thing. But my access fee is $35. I also have to pay for the textbook. After paying for the class. Nowhere in the class info BEFORE I registered for this class didn’t it mention it. Sure, I have $35, but that isn’t the point.

  16. I have the same problem. I usually buy used books and this is the second semester this has happened to me. At least the access cards are only about $11 instead of $47 on the webassign site. But still, I agree with you.

  17. Actually, you’ve got it pretty good. I recently joined a Spanish class where the book costs $156.75 brand new and does NOT include the $79.25 book key. I agree that it’s absolutey ridiculous. and when you figure out what you’re gonna do, let me know.

  18. RIGHT ON BRO. I FEEL THE SAME WAY.
    I am being charged 35.00 to just VIEW MY HW AND GRADES. this is BS.
    I told the professor I refuse to pay the 35.00 and I took it up with the chair of the board.
    I told him to just tell me what the problems are and I’ll write them out and hand them in. IM NOT PAYING 35 DAM dollars just to see what my HOMEWORK assignment is.

    more power to you man.

  19. Yeah they want $99.95 for an introductory spanish book key. i think im just going to go to home depot and get some free spanish lessons

  20. lmao! I feel u, although this post is 4 years ago, I am going through it now, i was told my prof, are u for real? i have to pay to receive my homework? i had to pay 17 bucks for it 

  21. I completely agree with you. I’m in high school and my AP Physics teacher uses it though it is technically not legal to require students to pay for it via the website rather then through the school (especially at a public school). It would be legal if it would be legal if it was covered in the class fee and your teacher gave you access code. I believe the same should apply to public colleges and you could actually sue over it (you wouldn’t get a jury in the case because the cost of the access code is less then $20 [according to the Seventh Amendment {stupid Seventh Amendment 😡 [Brackets inside of squigley-brackets inside of brackets inside of parantheses FTW!]}]).

  22. I’m dreading right now because i lost my previous code that came with my $103 textbook and purchasing another code alone is $70. To hell with this system >:/

  23. What a spoiled bunch of little cry-babies you people are…
    The sense of “entitlement” just overwhelms me…
    boohoo…I am crying my eyes out for you…Go ahead and talk to the department head…it was probably the Dean’s idea to use WebAssign any way…

  24. I’m with you pal! As a fellow U of A student I have used webassign before and personally think it is stealing money from students, forcing us to pay for it because if we want a good grade we really have no other choice but to oblige and shell out the cash.

  25. Fucking hate this automated online piece of shit that we have to pay in order to do homework. What the fuck! I agree with you and I just dropped my class because of this shit.

  26. At my normal university, Texas A&M, that I spent my fall and spring semesters at, I didn’t have to deal with this. It was either part of my tution/fees already, or it was bought by the university. I came home to community college for summer school, and they want to charge me $75 for the code to do my math homework and view my grades. While I don’t have an issue with doing math homework online, I don’t see the reason behind charging $75 dollars for a code that I will only be using for 5 weeks, its just insane. I am already an Engineering major, so every textbook is priced like it is written in golden ink, so charging me $75 after trying to sell me the book for nearly $200 is just beyond any logical reason for me.

  27. Yesss!! I think it is ridiculous! And my teacher gave us the option to buy just the book or the online code?! And its like if i just bought the book.,,, then how the hell am i going to get my assignments…

  28. I attend MSJC in Menifee/San Jacinto, CA. I’m in the middle of a similar frustration. I’m enrolled in an online course and the “required” text can be physical or digital…however, the homework assignments and activities are strictly online…and for access to most of them, I have to pay $113! I have been getting through many of college courses without buying texts, but rather borrowing others or using the ones on reserve in the library. I am going to see how far I can get in this class while still maintaining a decent grade. If I can’t maintain an “A” or “B”, I will choose to Withdraw from this course with a “W” on my record. If you get this issue fought & won, please post for all the rest of us frustrated folks.

  29. Depending upon your university, you probably paid around $2,000 for the course and another $200 for texts. Now, you are being asked for $11 and you are going to forfeit everything over that? You probably paid more for hidden charges like “course fees” and don’t even know it. Why don’t you see the dean about that? How petty can you be?

    1. It was $11 eight years ago. Now that Cengage/Webassign has contracts in place on a large scale it’s pushing $100. Every semester, for each student…

  30. I agree 1,000,000%. More students must protest to the correct chairman and dean of the department of the course that is using these textbooks. The webassign is a business itself and the school will receive a percent commission according to the number of clients they can recruit. The correct approach is to change the policy of the course syllabus such that webassign access does not hold enough weight that can affect your GPA. Fight!!, my fellow students, FIGHT!!!!

  31. It is ridiculous, I have to pay $29.95 for a physics 230 course myself … and that didn’t include the book which is $100 as well.

  32. I’ve just run into this fiasco at Mars Hill University. It’s $80 at the campus bookstore just so we can submit homework.

    Everyone should look at this too: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0538738103/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=#customerReviews

    BUT PLEASE NOTE that the EWA&eBook-STB access code prefix on the product reviewed in the link is not currently an option on the webassign.net access code check utility: http://www.webassign.net/user_support/student/cards.html
    I’m a 50 year old new student and a big reason for the student loan debt crisis is already obvious to me. Publishers are abusing copyright protections to merely re-package info that’s at least 100’s of years old and then requiring students to purchase the info from them at outrageous prices through shady contracts with institutions of higher learning.
    This scam ranks right up there with private prisons … “…the love of money…”…

  33. I’m having this issue in a Calculus class. My professor told us day 1 that we would not be required to have the assigned textbook, but then went on to talk about WebAssign, which is 10% of my grade, and I can only get the access code with an online textbook. This makes the price for the code between $80 and $120 for a code to access my homework problems and a textbook that I don’t need. Additionally, I took this class in high school and at another college, but my credit wont transfer because of how my past school conducted that class. So I’m supposed to spend $100ish on a textbook I don’t plan on using, because this is an easy class for me, just to get my homework problems.

  34. I can find all of my textbooks online for free. Now with this i have to pull money out of my pocket to do my homework. It is preposterous!

  35. Least your Webassign homework was just $11. Mine was $94 dollars for a College Algebra class. I rented the textbook separately for cheap only to learn I have to buy the new expensive ebook when I really only need webassign for the homework access.

  36. I agree! Its ridiculous that I have to pay so much money for online access when its worth absolutely NOTHING! I had to pay over $100 for WebAssign access just because my code wont work for the 7th edition of calculus. They are just stealing your money! Pathetic!

  37. I just discovered this problem. I can’t believe this hasn’t brought nationwide outrage. Can anyone tell me if it is possible to do all the assignments in the two week period? or are some locked?

  38. what I don’t understand is why do I need an online access code to my assignments if im in class to get my assignments and grades. also why have teachers at the school teach an online course if they aren’t the ones teaching you and they send you to watch videos of other teachers teaching. personally i feel any online teacher trying to teach should be required to do a recorded lecture for that class so i know I’m being taught by my teacher and not someone from another school.

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