Quizlet’s paywall proves that students are its last priority

Katherine Haden, Staff Writer

Quizlet is the latest casualty of corporate greed. Want to do more than 5 rounds of Learn mode per set? You’ll have to pay for Quizlet Plus: $35.99 for an annual subscription. Sets assigned by teachers allow unlimited rounds of Learn mode, but if you like to make your own sets or use sets made by other students, then you’re out of luck.

Flashcard mode and Match mode are still free, but Test mode can only be used once per set and the Write and Spell modes have been moved under the Learn mode umbrella, meaning that they are also limited for free users. In other words, the only features that were actually useful are now unusable, so if you try to study for a history test your eyes will glaze over as you click to flip over a digital flashcard for the millionth time. (Or is that just me?)

Another inexplicable change is the removal of Gravity mode: Quizlet’s official reasoning is that “it wasn’t used as much as other study modes, so we made the decision to focus on making the core activities that we know most students use more engaging and efficient.” Yet, if you add the word “gravity” to the URL of a study set, Gravity mode will magically appear, completely functional! What’s the point of deleting the button then? Quizlet wins the award for the Most Pointless User Interface (UI) Change Ever.

Quizlet is leveraging its monopoly on the education market. Although there is a scattering of similar free software out there, none of them have the same level of popularity, features, or ease of use. For example, Anki is a program that offers digital flashcards, but its UI is confusing and it has nothing similar to Learn or Match; Quizizz and Kahoot, other quiz sites which are popular in schools, only offer multiple choice questions.

Quizlet has stated that the changes were made to “better reinvest in building great products that can help millions of students around the world.” To that, I would ask: if Learn mode is the most popular feature, why would you lock it behind a paywall, if not to squeeze as much cash as possible out of those millions of students you claim to want to help? What product could be “greater” than that?

By paywalling Learn, they’re abandoning economically disadvantaged students and damaging their chances at success far into the future. In a time when higher education is already prohibitively expensive for many, with added strain from COVID and the precarious state of the economy, no one wants to add yet another subscription service to their budget. While students were stuck at home and struggling to learn as the pandemic was raging in May 2020, they raised $30 million from investors and were valued at $1 billion–yet they’re willing to completely alienate the majority of their users for a mere chance at profit.

It’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube–Quizlet might have gotten away with paywalling the majority of its features if it had done so from the beginning, but witnessing its slow descent into soulless corporate dystopia has been genuinely saddening. As a student, I’ve relied on studying with Quizlet for years, but now that it’s choosing to gatekeep learning, it’s become just another frustrating reminder that the top priority of a company is always its bottom line even when its very purpose is to make education more accessible. After all, who cares about the future of the next generation when there’s profit to be made?

Check out the links below to learn more:

Quizlet’s statement about the changes: http://: https://help.quizlet.com/hc/en-us/articles/5865262982029-What-s-new-on-Quizlet-

Source for May 2020 fundraising amounts: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/13/quizlet-valued-at-1-billion-as-it-raises-millions-during-a-global-pandemic/