Illinois SOPPA restrictions prevent use of Quizlet services in the classroom

Gabe Curtis, Staff Writer

District 203 schools will no longer use Quizlet as a teaching tool due to a discrepancy with SOPPA,  a law that protects student data from being distributed or used inappropriately. 

SOPPA, or the Student Online Personal Protection Act, was amended heavily on July 1 of this year, providing further protections over the privacy of students and their data. It requires companies like Quizlet to verify that they are capable of securing student data via contract.

The school district attempted to resecure a contract with Quizlet, but were unable to reach a consensus. 

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure a SOPPA agreement with Quzlet,” said Alexander Mayster, Executive Director of Communications for the district. “We have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to obtain an agreement.”

For students, this change will not affect access to Quizlet, but for teachers, any data or lesson material that was once used for class will no longer be available for in-classroom use. 

“This will affect my teaching,” said Piling Chiu, a Chinese teacher at Naperville North and Naperville Central. 

Now that Quizlet is no longer allowed as a teaching tool, she and many other language teachers have turned to a newer teaching tool called Gimkit. 

“It takes time,” she said. “If the district is going to hold the use of Quizlet right away, I think it discourages me from creating more kits within Gimkit. It takes about 10 minutes to export each of the study sets in Quizlet, and I have maybe 200.”

Gimkit also has some drawbacks compared to Quizlet. Quizlet automatically integrates phonetic symbols and pronunciation tools into the software that allows for easy translation from the original language to English. 

“These are phonetic symbols,” she said. “I didn’t do this, Quizlet did it for me. Could you imagine if I had to add those little marks over every single character?” 

Gimkit does not have this functionality. 

“For Gimkit, it is totally different,” she said. Her students consider Quizlet to be “so user friendly, so convenient, and so easy to use.” 

“I just don’t think it’s fair for the district to say, ‘teachers, you should stop using Quizlet,’’ she said. “They approved Gimkit for world classical language teachers who have requested Gimkit, so they only pay for those teachers who have requested it. It’s not for every teacher.”

“The bottom line is we hope that we can continue to use Quizlet without hiding it,” she said, “We’re still using it.”

Student privacy is an important issue for language teachers, who recognize the importance of SOPPA.

“With SOPPA, they do have a legit reason to protect student’s privacy, and I really hope that in the near future, this issue could be resolved.”

For students taking a foreign language, Quizlet has proven to be a valuable tool for learning in the classroom.

“I use Quizlet to study the vocab words for my German class,” said senior Anna Carroll. “It’s a really convenient way for me to study for my classes and tests.”

Gimkit’s functionality has also proven to be less comprehensive than Quizlet’s.

“Gimkit is more of a class learning activity than an individual learning activity for language classes,” said Carroll. “I wouldn’t really use it on my own.”

For students, Gimkit may serve as a “next best thing” until the Quizlet issue is resolved. 

Students and teachers continue to use Quizlet in the classroom, using unspecific usernames and accounts without personal information.

“It’s a staple of my language class,” said Carroll. “I really like learning from it and it would be weird to transition to something else.”