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Homework questions

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Joined: 2004-06-19

I can't be the only one whose noticed the proliferation of homework questions being posted here recently. I also doubt I'm the only person who has noticed that several are being answered with almost complete solutions which barely need any adaptation.

This is a really bad habit to get into and doesn't help. I am not objecting in principal to people posting questions and asking for help (even though this forum isn't designed for that), or about people offering guidance to genuine problems. This is how it SHOULD be, the collaborative theme of is a very healthy ethic to encourage learning and progress. But there are far too many obviously homework questions being answered when no attempt to solve the problem from the student is present.

As someone who has been through the system and spent two years tutoring first year programmers I can tell you are NOT helping anyone by posting the answer. Guide, suggest and advise, but PLEASE stop posting complete source code solutions! People are now treating this place like a free homework clinic where if they post brief problems without even attempting a partial solution, someone will step in and do their work for them.

Copy, Paste and (possibly) make a few minor adaptations and Hey Presto! Assignment finished, but the chances of the student properly understanding the what or the how, or more importantly the WHY of a solution is lost. It is one thing to take someone's code and see what they've done, but an entirely different and often harder problem to design an algorithm for a particular purpose from scratch.

Understanding code from someone else's design is one thing, still important, but the major point of the homework assignments like the ones commonly posted on this forum is to get students thinking about HOW you would want the computer to solve a problem in the first place.

So, please can we have a bit of discretion about posting entire solutions before the poster has made any obvious attempt to solve it themselves? As I said, certainly give guidance and advice and point people in the right direction (e.g. why don't you try building the Huffman tree first, how would you count letter frequencies?) but don't provide the answer upon first request just because it'll make you look like the big man/woman with all the answers.
If someone has provided mostly working source code and wants some help fixing a bug, then fine! Help, maybe even make a small correction, but again, don't just post equivalent to "Here, I've fixed your bug, here's the corrected code: ..." Ego-less programming is a good principle!

Sorry for the long rant, but I strongly feel that we are not guiding new programmers in the most responsible manner.