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It seems that a student has posted a question I have given my students as an assignment on this site.

Is there a policy regarding this?

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    $\begingroup$ The user has deleted their question, so this instance is moot. Is this still a matter you think needs discussion? $\endgroup$ – Raphael Oct 14 '12 at 21:43
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I think the general homework policy applies. Whether the exercise-assigning person is a member of the site is irrelevant.

Any measures towards penalising use of the site would have to be taken offline at your discretion.

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    $\begingroup$ The rational for that policy was that it is not possible to know if a question is a homework/assignment. The difference here is that we know the question is an assignment question. (Being member of the site or not is not important.) I wasn't thinking about punishment on the site. However I think we should help the instructors in these situations, for example, the policy you have linked to states that users should act responsibly regarding suspected questions like not answering the question for sometime. Putting a temporary lock on the question can be helpful in this regard. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 14 '12 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Hm, the policy does not say whether moderator action is justified. I tend to "no", in the spirit of the policy. Besides, whether the collective "we" knows might be up for debate, if push comes to shove. Is your exercise that original? If we were to codify means with which to treat proven cheat-like question, we would have to determine how to establish this definitiveness. And what about the next year, when the instructor poses the same question again? $\endgroup$ – Raphael Oct 14 '12 at 21:30
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As a general matter, I can see four things that you might want to rectify.

If your assignment text has been posted wholesale, that may be a copyright violation. This could only apply if the wording of the assignment is sufficiently original to be covered by copyright (sometimes there is a natural way to phrase a problem, it would be difficult to claim copyright on that). If you wish, you can send a takedown notice — see “Reporting Copyright Infringements” in the terms of service. Note that copyright takedown notices have to be sent to the specified email address, site moderators are not enpowered to deal with them. If the question has answers, we would prefer if it can be rephrased rather than taken down, so a flag in addition would be appreciated.

If your assignment has been posted without attribution, and represents a non-trivial, original wording effort, it may be plagiarism. In this case, please flag the post, or edit it to add attribution. If you do not have an account on the site, you can still suggest an edit to add the attribution, or you can use the contact form to contact Stack Exchange staff who can relay a request to site moderators.

On the topic of edits, please note that an edit that adds attribution is fine (“This question was asked to the CS 142 class of Miskatonic University.”) An edit that removes content from the question or that adds editorial text such that “do not answer this, it's homework” will be treated as the vandalism it is and will be reverted.

If you are unhappy that your students do not do their homework for themselves, you should lecture them. It's not a problem that we can solve for you. We, as a community, will certainly not forbid answering a question just because it was asked as a homework question. You may mention the origin of the question in a comment (note that you need to be a user with at least 50 reputation points to leave a comment), or with an edit (see above). This will typically dissuade some, but not all, of the participants from answering fully or at all.

If you gave the question in a graded exam, you should take measures to prevent Internet access during exams. We cannot enforce your security measures for you. If this is graded homework… you knew the risks when you chose that policy. Please note that the privacy policy does not allow either site moderators nor Stack Exchange staff to reveal any private information about the asker, except on demand from law enforcement.


This particular question has been deleted by its asker. It had not had any answer.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with most of this answer. However I don't agree with this part: "If you are unhappy that your students do not do their homework for themselves [...] It's not something we can help you with. We, as a community, will certainly not forbid answering a question just because it was asked as a homework question." The homework policy states that users should act responsibly regarding suspected homework questions, let alone when it is certain that it is. It states for example that users should delay answering it and we can help this by locking the question temporarily (e.g. for two weeks). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 14 '12 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh I am completely opposed to putting a lock on a question. According to our homework policy, “it is up to the users to decide how to act”. I will not use any moderator tool to prevent people from answering if they so wish. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 14 '12 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ That is difference from "It's not something we can help you with.", it is that you don't want to help. The policy also states that "we want to prevent students from exploiting cs.SE to do their homework". $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 14 '12 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ Anyway, the rational for the homework policy was that it is not possible in general to figure out if a question is a homework and that does not apply in this case. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 14 '12 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh I've changed the language if that bothers you. But it remains the case that if someone wants to answer, they are allowed to do so. You may attempt dissuade them, but answering is not forbidden. $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 14 '12 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Not solving the problem for the instructors is different from not helping them. Most certainly this will not solve their problem. However I think there is a clear intention in the policy to help the instructors in these situations. I am not sure why you are opposed to putting a temporary lock on such questions. It only prevents answering the question for a short limited amount of time. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 14 '12 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh See my position on a similar case on Meta.Math.SE $\endgroup$ – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 14 '12 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link. I read your answer. However I don't see this temporary restriction as a monopoly on questions/information/knowledge. I think that is an exaggeration and distortion of the situation. Unlike what you have written there the teaching tradition in academia is that instructors don't answer questions which they suspect are assignment questions given by their colleagues, definitely not when they are certain, and it seems to me that is the norm. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 14 '12 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ I most certainly do not think this will solve the problem since there are sites that anonymously solve assignment questions for money and do not post them publicly, however I think cooperating with instructors when they are asking for reasonable help (e.g. not violating the principles and policies of the site and not putting too much burden on moderators) is a more suitable and responsible. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Oct 14 '12 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh Since I wrote the policy proposal that got adopted, note that the intent was not to establish ground for locking questions. The reasons are the same for rejecting the homework tag: how can we (in general) tell a "this is homework"-claim is legit? How can we tell the OP has not encountered the problem somewhere else? (Most exercises are not novel.) What good does a delay do for future iterations of the course? That's why the parts you cite are clearly labelled as "guideline": we ask users to be careful when answering homeworkish questions, but we don't plan to enforce that. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Oct 14 '12 at 21:37

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