Monthly Archives: October 2017

On online homework services

I understand the value to teachers of not having to spend time grading homework, but when I have a class where (math or science problem) homework is administered via a third party online service where you have to type in answers, I often spend at least as much time wrestling with the software than I spend actually completing the homework. So like, 2 hours of homework is actually 4 hours, where half that time isn’t actually about studying. It increases the likelihood that I am going to search online for help with a problem as soon as it starts to look complicated, rather than puzzle over it for a while and experiment (good for learning!), like I would do if I actually had all 4 of those hours available for doing homework.

I can’t speak strongly enough for what so many teachers have done over the ages: assign a selection of problems from the book whose answers are listed at the back, then give a checkmark or whatever to students if they at least make an attempt at a majority of the problems. The teacher doesn’t have to evaluate if the student is doing things right: that’s up to the student to ask for help if they are getting answers that don’t match the book. For classes where the homework counts for like 10% of the grade, this isn’t unreasonable and takes a minimal amount of time for the teacher: for an unreasonably large 40 student class in which all of the students actually turned something in, this should take no more than 10 minutes. Alphabetize the stack, then go through the gradebook and add a mark for each one that looks like work was done.

And it means the student isn’t stuck shelling out for the cost of this routinely crappy online service.


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