Personal Vendetta of a Biology Student vs. Pearson Successnet | Arts + Culture

Every Monday and Wednesday night of the week, I drag my tired butt up to the second floor of the Lommasson Center to sympathize with other students against the scourge of almost any science student’s existence: Pearson Successnet.

My three hour study jam should be all about learning chemistry. Instead, I waste my time staring at a computer screen, trying to figure out which name I misspelled in a long list of amino acids. The chemistry is tough enough, but this online Common Core program is so boring that even George W. Bush’s standardized tests couldn’t compare.

For those who haven’t had to undergo this program, Pearson is an online teaching platform where teachers can organize online learning modules, tests and assignments and track student grades. For subjects like basic math, which uses numbers, integration, and whatever math jargon you like to think about, Pearson is tolerable. But more advanced courses usually boil down to a set of predefined questions that Pearson has regurgitated online and called “learning.”

As other students and I have discovered, we learn nothing, despite Pearson’s rhetoric about his innovative character. Each question is either long and difficult or a cut and paste answer that you can easily find on Quizlet or Chegg.

I have encountered similar problems in subjects other than chemistry. My aversion to the program dates back to seventh grade, when my teacher thought teaching biology through Pearson was the answer to all his prayers. Spoilers, it wasn’t. The kids cried, complained to their parents, and we finally got our homework on paper.

But here I am, seven years later, still living in Pearsonville. And Pearson, like your annoying landlord, doesn’t make your life easier.

“It’s terrible,” said Harley Benoit, a sophomore forestry student at UM in an introductory chemistry class. “The questions are not clear; it is very easy to get the questions wrong. This is probably the worst online program I have ever used.

Jackie Olexa, a sophomore student at UM and study tutor jam, said tutoring students using Pearson is frustrating, especially because the material used in homework is not the same as the material examined in progress.

“I understand why the professors think this has merit,” Olexa said. “But half of the questions don’t make sense. I think this is nonsense and I think teachers really need to look at their questions before assigning homework.

So why do schools continue to use the program?

The simplest answer is the business. Over the past three decades, education reform has swept the country to push more standardized testing and alternatives outside of the traditional classroom – most provided by private companies. Much of this movement has been supported by business communities, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and takes a free market approach to education.

This mix of education and business can blur the line between learning and profit. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if lawmakers are sticking to education because they care about student learning or because they just want to make a profit. I’m going to go with the latter, not just because of Pearson, but because of every standardized test that has graced every public school in America (I’m looking at you, SAT).

On the surface, I can understand the practicality of Pearson. It’s easy, it notes everything automatically and it’s probably less work for UM teachers. But after all the Zoom bullshit we endured over the last year, I think we can understand the barriers this type of online education creates for learning.

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