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I teach a course, every week I assign homework. I put several hours to choose the right homework problems which cover the course material and permit them to be prepared for the exams.

I encourage students coming to my office hours and to ask all of their questions, I may also help them to solve the homework problems. During the class I normally give some hints about the homework's difficult problems (in any).

The homework load is (in my opinion) reasonable: 4-5 exercises, maybe 3-4 out of them are easy and maybe 1-2 is a little challenging. The homework has 10% point.

Today, to my surprise I saw a user who has asked all of my homework problems (including the easy ones) on math stackexchange. And all of them have been answered. Regarding the particularity of my homework problems and the time of posting the questions, I am sure that the user is one of my students, I am not sure which one.

To be precise I had not prohibited the students about posting the homework questions online as I was not expecting this situation.

My question is what is the best strategy to deal with this situation.

marked as duplicate by ff524 Oct 15 '14 at 15:48

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • This question is not the same as yours, but I think you may find the discussion helpful: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/28206/… – mhwombat Oct 15 '14 at 14:36
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    A great way to see if someone has learned the content is to collect the homework and then do a surprise quiz with similar/identical questions right after you've collected it. – Compass Oct 15 '14 at 14:59
  • @ff524 Although there is a similarity between my question and the question pointed out by mhwombat and you, I think my question is different. In that question, the student has asked one of the assignment questions (maybe the difficult one), but in our situation, the student has asked all of the questions (including the easy ones). – Name Oct 15 '14 at 15:58
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    You could also possibly narrow down who it is by giving every student a unique set of problems by email. 10 problems in a pool is 252 combinations. I'd prefer you to use this to warn the student rather than for disciplinary action, though. I'm sure all of us here have used the internet for help on homework at some point. – Compass Oct 15 '14 at 16:08
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    @ff524 I feel like the question this is linked to actually is two questions in one. First: How to get proof? Second: How to deal with it? It deals with the second question quite well, but the first, not so much. – Compass Oct 15 '14 at 16:25
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I am not sure what my opinion of this really is.

On one hand is asking on the internet really that different from asking a friend how to do a particular piece of homework, or even just looking up the method in a textbook.

Presumably you think that looking the answer up on the internet will not result in your students learning the material as well working out how to do it for themselves. The result of this is that the students will do worse in their final exams which are worth distinctly more than 10%.

You could give your students a gentle reminder of this at the start of the next lecture/course. Hopefully, they will listen to you and try and do the work on their own. If not, I wouldn't feel bad for them if they did poorly in their exams.

Some people may be concerned that not punishing this behavior is encouraging students to cheat and gain extra marks for their homework. I would say you are quite naive if you think students wouldn't ask each other how to do the homework anyway. It is very hard to police these sorts of things which is probably one of the reasons they have a relatively low weighting.

Personally, I would give homeworks zero weighting as this removes any incentive for students to try and improve their mark this way. The questions would probably still be asked but that is more because students don't like going to office hours.

While you probably could try punish the offending student under your institution's academic integrity rules, I think you will have difficulties identifying the culprit without significant effort and possibly underhand tactics from your part. Even if you could identify them I wouldn't for the reasons outlined above.

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I had this happen in my biostatistics course a few years ago, with Yahoo Answers.

I told that class that every single person was going to get an F for the semester for academic misconduct unless the student(s) came forward and admitted their action.

Then I went to Yahoo Answers, made a bunch of fake accounts, and posted tantalizingly wrong answers to all of my own HW questions. I have told all subsequent students not to google the HW answers because there are wrong solutions out there.

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    I'm on the fence with this one. It technically does solve the problem, but it seems immoral, especially as it may negatively impact people with genuine non-homework questions in a related vein. – Compass Oct 15 '14 at 14:56
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    "I told that class that every single person was going to get an F for the semester for academic misconduct unless the student(s) came forward and admitted their action." This sort of bad-cop behavior was common enough a generation ago, but -- at least in the North American university systems I'm familiar with -- really doesn't fly anymore. If I heard a student tell me this, I would advise them to get the threat in writing and take it from there. It is no longer the professor's prerogative to fail a student -- much less a class -- for academic misconduct. – Pete L. Clark Oct 15 '14 at 15:20
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    "Then I went to Yahoo Answers, made a bunch of fake accounts, and posted tantalizingly wrong answers to all of my own HW questions. I have told all subsequent students not to google the HW answers because there are wrong solutions out there." Well, that's a lot of your time spent disseminating misinformation. What happened next? Have you spent the last few years posting tantalizingly wrong answers in all your courses, or did you (I hope!) change the homework assigned and/or its grading? – Pete L. Clark Oct 15 '14 at 15:25
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    @Dr Porkchop I am never taking a course taught by you – Works On Mine Nov 14 '14 at 21:18
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    Asside from the obvious moral issues I doubt this tactic would work on stackexchange. Stackexchange is much better at dealing with bad answers than yahoo answers is. – Peter Green Feb 13 '16 at 0:16

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