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The homework dumps are coming - how about a network-wide policy?

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I'm starting to see the first signs of the inevitable "homework dumps" on Software Development as the site is gaining traffic a bit. The criteria for a homework dump is roughly:

  • A raw copy/paste of a school assignment. It is not necessarily even asking a question, it could as well be a work order: "your task is to-...".
  • There is no effort or background research at all made by the OP.
  • The OP is unresponsive to any comments or feedback, they just want their homework done by someone else.

Dropping your homework as-is on top of unpaid volunteers and expecting them to do it for you free of charge is of course terribly rude and thereby violates our "be nice" Code of Conduct.

These are a problem & a constant source for conflicts over at SE - they never managed to solve the problem. So I was hoping we could deal with them more sternly than they do, because simply closing & deleting the questions isn't working out very well. They never managed to get the word out that "posting your homework on site x will get you banned". (Even though this ultimately happens because of various secret algorithms looking at new question reception.)

I was about to propose on Software Dev that we deal with these by letting the moderators or even trusted users hand out 1 week ban from the site, as a first reprimand, to signal that this behavior is absolutely not ok.

Then I realized that this will be just as big a problem on the other technical/scientific communities, in particularly Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering. It would be great if we could moderate these consistently across all sites. So how about coming up with a network-wide moderation policy for how to deal with "homework dumps"?

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Do we need a policy about this? (3 comments)

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Speaking personally, not for the team: I don't think we should impose a network-wide policy, but I do think we should work out a policy draft that communities can adopt or adapt.

We don't know what kinds of communities we'll ultimately attract here. Some might be more interested in mentoring, coaching, or basic questions than others. Sometimes the lines around "homework" are fuzzy. I therefore don't think we want to impose a one-size-fits-all policy.

However, many communities, both ones already here and ones in the future, will see people trying to get answers to their homework questions. We should help them, rather than expecting each community to work out its rules on its own. The ideal outcome, in my opinion, would be a policy resource for communities, who can then decide to turn it on as-is, adjust it, or omit it.

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Homework (2 comments)
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Response to homework dumps should be site-specific. On Electrical Engineering, we addressed this up front by explicitly mentioning homework in the Allowed Topics help file (See the very last bullet at the bottom of that page).

So far we haven't had enough of a problem so that an official policy that dictates a specific response makes sense. I'd rather deal with each instance on a case by case basis. An official policy would just constrain my actions as a mod.

For example, I wouldn't ban a user at all for a single blatant homework dump question. I'd probably close the question and leave a comment that it's not acceptable. That way everyone can see that it's not allowed. If the same user did it again a few days later, then I might consider a ban.

In some ways, users answering homework are actually worse than those asking.

If we ever get a significant number of homework dumps, then we may have to develop a more formal policy. But, let's leave that to later when there is actually a real problem to solve.

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+3
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I'd actually love the idea of having such a policy when it comes to homework questions. We could start off though with how SE could deal with such homework questions, apart from closing them and deletion of dumps.

Here's my draft of such policy:

Homework guidance

If you're willing to ask a question that's your homework, please do the following before posting:

  • Re-address your question by specifying the actual problem you're facing. This helps others to answer your question.
  • At least try solving it yourself. This is a huge role when it comes to these. If you decided to post the question without trying to solve it, then it would end up being subjected to getting closed, or worse, deleted. Show what you've tried as it is proof you have tried answering it.
  • State all the specifics. To be able to solve a question, you need to identify the key factors on what the problem could be or why it happens. State all the descriptions of the question you're trying to answer by adding the topics you're learning, adding additional info that's crucial to the question, and other helpful additions.

That's all that I'd do for now, but these are a good start on the policy. If a new user joins the network, they can be greeted with a message asking if they're a student so we could send them to the policy link by a new tab, I suppose. Though this could be a bit of a problem to handle, as it is indeed likely for the students to simply ignore the message and ask right away.

I have a solution for this. Let's say we warn them that next time they ask a question, they might want to read the policy. Again, they might ignore it, so we might as well invite them to the chat so we can tell them about it and hope they'd understand (I was about to say listen. lol).

Note: This is only the beginning on how we can stage such policy, and we can go further once the devs can take care of the situation alongside us.

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2 comment threads

Current policy on Software Dev. (2 comments)
Information (2 comments)

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