Although similar Meta questions have been asked before and have been well-received, I still find that there are many homework-like questions which are posted from time to time on Ask Ubuntu, most of them being of hardly any use to other viewers since they are very problem specific and/or involve slightly but subtly modified versions of existing questions, making it difficult to close them off as duplicates sometimes.

I am all for helping the OPs by pointing them in the right direction and giving hints without actually solving the problem for them, especially since the purpose of the homework is defeated if they don't try to solve the problem on their own.

Is it not possible to implicitly or explicitly mention that such homework questions should be avoided as much as possible and instead encouraging them to be posted as chat messages or so instead?

On a side note, @hbdgaf's posted image is a good example -

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  • "the purpose of the homework is defeated if they don't try to solve the problem on their own" - no, the purpose of a test is defeated if they don't try to solve the problem on their own. The purpose of homework is to teach someone how to do something. Many people learn best through observation and seeing the answer can shed light on problem, especially when a person is stumped. If they don't actually want to learn, their test results will suffer so what's the big deal?
    – mchid
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 5:25

4 Answers 4


How you deal with homework on an ethical level is up to you... But as far as the system goes, we only care that it's an answerable question and not an assignment dump ("do this, do that, show this").

The way you answer should be constant. Provide an answer with an audience-suitable explanation of what's going on and why like you would for any other question. The exception would be a question that explicitly stated it didn't want the answer, just the explanation.

I don't think there's any value in attempting to force people to label their homework on the site. It leads to pointless hand-wringing over whether or not it's fair (anybody can use SE) or to counter that, people might feel the need to lie about things not being homework or defend the fact they're asking about homework. Situations where it's easier to lie are probably focussing on the wrong thing.

It's better to just be agnostic about the base motives behind a question and get on with it.


My stance on HW is the same as with anything else: Apply the following tests:

  • Does OP show some effort? Has OP tried something and came up against some error?
  • Irrespective of the above, while solving it, have I learned something?
  • Is the problem so trivial that I could post an answer in a minute? (This can happen to the best of us, and to the very beginners - so I am somewhat forgiving of this.)

These tests are then OR-ed.


As a note: if I were their teacher, I would actually encourage using sites like this, simply because that is how it works in real life. I would be worried about students who don't.

That implies a teaching method in which is checked if the student understands what he is producing, and if his or her knowledge is genuine. If so, both the student and we did a good job.


I agree with Oli and muru.

It should be about getting constructive feedback for a given problem. That usually differentiates students with lack of effort from motivated students that struggle to find a working solution or understanding the actual problem.

Also expect a teacher to be able use the Internet and check for plagiarism. Of course there are different kinds of teachers, but always remember that you only learn for yourself and not someone else. (I found myself sometimes strongly disagreeing with some teachers, which made me study the subject even deeper to prove them wrong and write what they couldn't label as false, in the end they were just happy to give me good grades.) Copying someone else's homework or text from the Internet may buy you free time, but doesn't teach you anything.

On the other side, I would love to see more people who left school long ago doing "homework" again and ask questions here or elsewhere to get up to speed again. Not only students should learn the state of the art and review their knowledge.

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