As part of his recently released budget proposal, California Governor Gavin Newsom pledged a 5 percent annual funding bump to the University of California and California State University over the next five years. However, this pledge comes with a caveat. The university systems must make significant strides towards lowering tuition, raising graduation rates, reducing achievement gaps, and better preparing students for the workforce. Given these funding guidelines, it would be wise for California’s universities to shift their attitude towards online resources, which can help achieve these goals.
Currently, many faculty members and administrators at universities turn up their noses and cast aside online learning resources like Chegg, Quizlet, or Brainly, as second-rate or even improper tools. There is often a negative stigma surrounding the use of these platforms, and many in the world of higher education wrongly assume they provide students with an avenue for academic dishonesty.
To say that these companies exist solely to facilitate cheating is highly problematic. While a small share of students who use online resources may abuse them, these platforms have made it clear they do not tolerate cheating, and many work alongside academic institutions to address and dissuade academic dishonesty when it occurs on their sites.
When appropriately used, as they are by millions of students every day, these tools can provide much-needed support, allowing students to supplement their education, study more effectively, and take full advantage of their academic experience.
Chegg provides students with guided answers, teaching them how to solve a problem step-by-step, which is particularly helpful for some notoriously difficult subjects that can feel impossible without knowing how to move from one step to the next. Brainly pairs students with online experts and provides a platform where students can easily engage in peer-to-peer learning. And Quizlet provides a virtual toolbox of study tools, including study sets and the opportunity to create personal flashcards.
Successfully graduating from college is no easy feat. Less than half of all college students nationwide graduate on time, and over one million college students drop out each year. Many students who struggle within the higher education system simply lack personalized support capable of meeting their individual learning needs.
I have many responsibilities, and I understand the challenges that come with tight time constraints. Juggling multiple commitments — such as work, caregiving and self-care — is a common theme for modern students, and many cannot take advantage of traditional support, like free tutoring on campus or the limited faculty office hours professors sometimes provide. Online education platforms give these students the flexibility to seek outside personalized support on their own time, at any hour of the day or night.
Higher education institutions across the country need to adapt to today’s changing academic landscape and increasingly diverse student population. Each student needs support that can meet their unique needs, and online learning platforms offer one cost-effective avenue for this support.
As the University of California and the California State University both work towards meeting the funding guidelines set out by Governor Gavin Newsom, I hope faculty and administrators across these two major university systems will reassess their view of online learning tools and consider the vital role these technologies can play in helping our students graduate and achieve.
Bryan Lopez has a bachelor's degree in public policy from the University of California and a masters in public administration from California State Los Angeles.