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What Should Ethical Homework Help Online Be Limited To?

Now that the internet is available in most classrooms and homes throughout the country, cheating on homework has become easier and more prevalent than ever. Students can readily find answers to specific problems or cut and paste sections of or entire essays to pass off as their own. While most people will agree that these examples are generally thought of as cheating, not many will agree where we should draw the line when it comes to online homework help.

Are Homework Help Sites Depriving Students of Their Chance to Learn?

With an estimated 250 plus homework help sites out there, it’s generally accepted that if a student wanted to find an answer to a math problem, download an essay, or get help for any of a dozen of other types of homework assignments that student could do so in a matter of a few minutes. But after this there is a critical step that many don’t consider when discussing the ethics of homework sites: what does the student do next with this information.

For years educators have encouraged students to use answers provided in the back of textbooks or sample essays as guides to learn from. Having access to answers is no different if students decide to use online homework help in the same way. Answers are the quick way out, but students are still faced with the need to understand the work on their own. Seen this way, it’s hard to point the blame on homework sites, since the responsibility to learn still rests on the student.

Will Limitations That Encourage Independent Thinking Work?

With so many websites offering homework help it’s hard to imagine that limitations made by just a few sites will be enough to change students’ behavior. According to a Rutgers University study the polled high school students about the ethics of cheating, over half didn’t feel that copying a few sentences without citation, sharing test answers, or getting answers provided by someone who had already taken the test were considered cheating.

Looking at these results makes one think that the problem isn’t really with setting ethical limitations but rather changing students’ behavior altogether. Online homework sites let students find solutions and short cuts to complete their assignments. If a few sites set limitations, students will find another way to share answers while holding onto the belief that they aren’t doing anything wrong.

Students now live in an era where community is formed and developed through technology. One moment a student can be chatting with a friend who is on vacation overseas and the next moment email a friend he or she has never met outside of a social networking site. The internet has become their community, their playground, and the place where they get their work done. Online homework websites help students get their work done quickly with more upside than downside. Perhaps it’s not a question of ethics but one of revision.