The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday May 30th

Letter: Online resources democratize education


Derek Fulton wrote in “Online textbooks have crossed the line,” that digital classroom resources are a waste of money. 

I am writing to disagree with his proposition that these online resources are a) over-priced and b) poor alternatives to paper textbooks. To the first point, as Fulton himself writes, Mastering Physics ($115) and SimUText ($80) are both cheaper than most hard cover textbooks ($132.50 in his example). 

Creating novel, interactive content also requires more thought than writing paper textbooks, as I witnessed last summer while interning at SimBio, the maker of SimUText software. 

Fulton’s assertion that “doing homework on paper and getting personalized feed back is free” is the most absurd. Biology classes here tend to be larger than 200 students. The time that taxpayer-paid professors would spend grading homework is certainly more valuable than student fees for online platforms. 

Unfortunately, the alternative to digital feedback at large, public universities is usually no feedback. 

But most importantly, digital resources enable more minority and first generation students to succeed in STEM. UNC biology professor Dr. Kelly Hogan was featured in a widely circulated NYT article about this very fact. 

Finally, if Derek takes issue with SimUText’s code being from 2008, why is he so defensive of textbooks made using the technology Gutenberg invented in 1440? I won’t claim that these products are perfect or should replace face-to-face classroom interaction, but they do and will continue to play an important role in democratizing education. 

And as they become more popular, they’ll become cheaper too.

Claire Drysdale

Biology and Studio Art


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