Students assigned hundreds of pages to read a week are finding ways to lessen the workload. But are resources like SparkNotes preventing students from actually learning the material?

By Madeline Anderson
Published: February 1, 2009

This past summer UW-Madison sophomore Clint received a letter in the mail detailing his removal from the university.

Originally enrolled in the nursing program, Clint had failed one class and barely passed his other three the second semester of his freshman year.

“I had tunnel vision at the time,” he said. “I thought other things were more important than school.” Instead, Clint put hanging out with friends, video games and his girlfriend at the top of his priority list.

But when Clint received his grades for the spring semester, he knew he had to change his approach to college life.

“There’s that balance that every college student faces,” Clint said. “I had to learn that the hard way.”

UW-Madison senior Kevin Clutson said SparkNotes helped him get through all the reading material in his English classes.

“With two jobs and an internship, I just don’t have time to read the books thoroughly,” he said.

SparkNotes is a series of books and a website that provides free study guides for works of literature.

Though an easy alternative to reading countless pages, this timesaving tool could be hurting students’ writing and reading abilities in the long run.

The harm in using SparkNotes

Associate English professor Sherry Reames has noticed an alarming trend throughout her thirty years of teaching that may be attributed in part to websites like SparkNotes.

“Students’ vocabularies are much smaller in general than they used to be,” Reames said, “and their ability to make sense of long, complicated sentences has also declined.” --NewsHammer 2/10/2009

Continue reading the Feb 1, 2009 article from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's The Daily Cardinal.