Being a teacher, I have detected a student(s) massively outsourcing his(their) homework to several Stack Exchange sites.


The Yandex School of Data Analysis is spread over five Russian cities, having hundreds of students. The educational program lasts for two years and consists of several courses, including "Algorithms and Data Structures" (AD) and "Discrete Mathematics and Probability Theory" (DP) courses as well as some others. My name is Stepan Gatilov, I am the teacher of AD course in the Novosibirsk department.

In order to get semester grade, any student has to solve a list of home assignments (aka "homeworks") for each course. These homeworks must be solved without outside help. For obvious reasons, it is very undesirable to have the problem statements publicly available in the internet. Having problems with solutions available in public is even worse =) That's why we want several questions to be deleted completely.


We have noticed a user (or users) who asks people on stack exchange sites to solve the problems from his homework for him. After some time we have found two more users doing the same. Right now we are confident that at least two of these users are actually owned by a single person. Here is the list of users detected:

Bad behavior

Since we have deadlines imposed on the homeworks, the student has to push his questions to community's attention to have them solved faster. As a result, he does some nasty things which are not welcome in the community. You can see some list just below. Note that most likely it is not full.

  1. Trivial question edits:
  2. Simultaneous cross-posting over different sites:
  3. Math overflow users complain that's exercise, not "research-level" math:
  4. Editing question to a completely different problem instead of asking a new one:


So, we want to ask for the help of moderators on the following matter: Could you please delete all the problematic questions? Deleting the whole user accounts is probably also OK, since they have posted only a little of content not related to the school.

Questions list

The full list of problematic questions is given below. They have format "course homework-problem: (user/site)", the part in parentheses links to the question.

  1. AD 3-1: (g-h/SO).
  2. AD 2-3: (g-h/SO), was reformulated incorrectly BTW.
  3. DP/LinAlg 1-4: (g-h/SO).
  4. DP 3-15: (g-h/math).
  5. DP 2-12: (g-h/math).
  6. DP 2-6: (g-h/math).
  7. DP 3-12 and 3-13: (g-h/math).
  8. AD 3-2: (g-h/math).
  9. DP 2-1 and 2-2: (g-h/math).
  10. DP 4-12: (g-h/math).
  11. DP 3-9 and 3-14: (g-h/math).
  12. DP 3-4: (g-h/math).
  13. DP 4-13: (g-h/math).
  14. DP 3-15: (g-h/MO).
  15. DP 2-12: (g-h/MO).
  16. AD 3-1: (g-h/cstheory).
  17. DP 4-7: (user44255/math).
  18. DP 2-9: (user44255/math).
  19. AD 2-2: (user44255/SO).
  20. DP 4-2: (susua-kionio/math).
  21. DP 3-11: (susua-kionio/math).
  22. DP 3-10: (susua-kionio/math).
  23. DP 3-3: (susua-kionio/math).

Note that I cannot publicly post the original problem statements to prove my words, but I can provide them privately to any moderator.

  • 3
    Cross-site dupe of meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/295420/… ? – Nathan Tuggy Dec 10 '15 at 5:31
  • 4
    related: Open letter to students with homework problems "...If your question on Programmers.SE is just a copy paste of homework problem, expect it to be downvoted, closed, and deleted - potentially in quite short order." – gnat Dec 10 '15 at 5:54
  • 2
    @gnat: Unfortunately, this guy is not stupid enough to post complete copy-paste (it is in Russian BTW) of problems on SO. There are a lot of complete copy/paste questions on Mathematics though, but they got upvoted a lot, regardless of the fact that they are obviously homework. – stgatilov Dec 10 '15 at 5:58
  • 1
    Helpful reference – Dawny33 Dec 10 '15 at 6:27
  • @Dawny33: I do not see how your reference helps. Perhaps 30% of high-rep users are disciplined enough to ask whether a question is a homework in 60% cases. But the majority of people (especially the "rep-hounds") answer everything being asked. I'm sure that any homework question would be properly answered and upvoted unless it is really badly formulated. Just look at the research-level math question being answered. – stgatilov Dec 10 '15 at 6:33
  • 1
    @stgatilov My point is that, nothing much can be done about it (as the answer by animuson says) – Dawny33 Dec 10 '15 at 6:38
  • dhmo.org/facts.html – user147520 Dec 10 '15 at 7:54
  • If looking up up the solution to a homework question online results in the student learning less, and they consequently to worse in the exam, it's their own damn problem. If it results in more efficient learning, perhaps the teacher should consider making the solutions available themselves. – CodesInChaos Dec 10 '15 at 14:21
  • 3
    I'm sick and tired of this. I ask questions that arise from homework all the time. Should my account be deleted? You are in absolutely no position to call out certain people for asking for help. If you can't help them, they'll find places where they will get that help. I don't mean to be rude or blunt, but had I seen this post on a site where I moderate, I probably would've issued a formal warning to you for attacking other individuals. We're not going to destroy content that others' find "unacceptable". We're here to create a compilation of knowledge, and we will keep it that way. – Zizouz212 Dec 10 '15 at 21:18
  • Here's some questions that fall under the "homework" category: stackoverflow.com/questions/31370403/… , stackoverflow.com/questions/32124779/… , stackoverflow.com/questions/30987737/…... Are these any 'unacceptable'? – Zizouz212 Dec 10 '15 at 21:22
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    @Zizouz212: Your questions are not of type "I have this problem, solve it for me". All the questions I link to are. Speaking of "compilation of knowledge", a lot of the linked questions would never be asked if they were not created for our homeworks, simply because they are too specific to be useful, they are exercises (just look at this). – stgatilov Dec 11 '15 at 17:52
  • 2
    @Zizouz212: Also I'm not sure that you have read my question completely. I was asking to remove only very specific questions. They are a one-to-one retelling of the problems we have created. I have no problem with homework-inspired problems in general, let them be =) – stgatilov Dec 11 '15 at 17:59

We cannot simply go and delete all of these questions. Many of them are upvoted and have answers which are also upvoted, and deleting them all pretty much wastes all of those users' efforts. We also cannot process deletion requests on another user's behalf.

If any of these questions violate any copyrights you might hold, then you'll need to fill out a DMCA notice as per our Copyright Policy to have each question removed.

While some of their actions in bringing attention to their questions are unsavory, those are site moderation issues that generally lead to warnings and suspensions if the behavior continues. They're not grounds for deletion of the questions themselves.

  • 1
    I definitely agree with this answer. This is a serious issue, but it's unfortunately one Stack Exchange can't create a global policy on. The issues of moderation should be flagged and handled, but the content can't be globally deleted. – Aza Dec 10 '15 at 5:30
  • 7
    Moral of the story: the only way to ensure students are completing problems without outside help is by putting them in a controlled testing environment. – bjb568 Dec 10 '15 at 5:33
  • @bjb568: It is not always possible. Sometimes we want students to be able to solve hard problems over significant time, not only crack trivial problems in fifteen minutes. – stgatilov Dec 10 '15 at 10:56
  • @stgatilov, then you have to make sure people have a code of honour, for example, as per en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice_University#Honor_Code "Almost all Rice exams are unproctored and professors give timed, closed-book exams that students take home and complete at their own convenience." – cnst Dec 10 '15 at 11:21
  • 1
    @stgatilov Hard problems that require sizeable amounts of code to be written are off topic for being "too broad". – Raedwald Dec 11 '15 at 18:30

TL;DR - I don't think they should be removed.

Suppose I now have homework question. I try solving it, I get stuck after a while.

I see no reason why I can't use Stack Exchange to help me solve it, as long as I follow the guidelines, e.g. posting what I have tried, explaining where I am stuck, and posting only relevant parts of the problem/code.

In those examples you brought, I didn't really see a complete copy&paste of homework question followed by "give me the codez". That would indeed be inappropriate and reason for deletion, same as posting "This code does not work, fix it for me". But otherwise, what difference does it make that it's home work and not part of a full time job project?

  • 1
    There are a lot of questions which show no info like "what have I tried". They contain only a reformulated problem statement (including the constraints like required precision and size limits), followed by "give me the codez" equivalent. Unfortunately, your proposed conditions are trivially abusable: it is very easy for a over-20-old person (our students are) to retell the problem statement, and show some visibility of an effort spent on the problem. – stgatilov Dec 10 '15 at 7:33
  • Also note that we have seen several solutions submitted by the guilty student to us, which completely retell the accepted answer posted on Mathematics.SE, word by word. I have no bureaucratically correct reason for deletition. I'm only asking for help. – stgatilov Dec 10 '15 at 7:37
  • 6
    @stgatilov I see, but that's your problem as a teacher, not of Stack Exchange as a Q&A site. Give them score of 0, expel them from the course, etc. (That said, this is just my personal opinion as ordinary user. The author of this answer is SE employee, making his answer official.) – Shadow Dec 10 '15 at 7:45

It's a good question hence the upvote.

StackExchange is not a site for keeping world just/fair. StackExchange is a commercial project specializing on creating a large knowledgebase on a wild variety of topics. As soon as you define it in that (realistic) way it probably becomes obvious enough that the goal of this site is orthogonal to questions published here being hometask or not. Not morally policing participants which are contributing according to the goal of community has a busload of hidden and obvious benefits and that's why SE is not doing this.

It is however valuable for the site to have helpful answers and those can only be given to well-worded questions. Pasting homework question CC will make it suitable for closing as "not clear what you are asking". I could not care less about whether it is homework question or not but I do care about it being practically reusable and searchable. So even if a homework question ends up being on SE it will typically be edited so that you won't be able to easily find that without knowing how to ask good questions.

Asking SE to delete questions is like trying to fix a water tube which fell apart with finger.

  • Cheating is cheating – Ramhound Dec 7 '17 at 4:23
  • 1
    @Ramhound bread is bread. You skipped entire first paragraph while reading my answer. – Euri Pinhollow Dec 7 '17 at 16:38

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