There are only a very small number of homework help websites that provide answers to math, science, and computer questions with sufficient quality and detail to be useful to students. The question is, are the use of these websites a legitimate way for college students to get homework help?
It is important to realize that the difference in behavior between an honest, diligent student and one looking for a free ride is not found in the environment, but within the student. In other words, put an honest and dishonest student into the same environment where cheating is possible without repercussions of any kind, and the two students will distinguish themselves by the difference in their behavior. The honest student will simply ignore the opportunity, the dishonest one will partner with it.
If we regard homework help websites as part of a student's academic environment, a similar result will be obtained when both types of students have access to these websites. The honest student takes the material from the site, studies it, learns what he can from it, and uses that knowledge to improve his ability to perform on his next test or homework assignment. The dishonest student may simply submit the material as if it were his own, not even bothering to study what he has received.
Good homework help sites, such as 24HourAnswers.com, allow follow-up questions at no additional charge, which increases the prospect of improved understanding and retention. A good student will take advantage of the service; in fact, the best students push these services to their limits, and that is as it should be. The right service with the right student places the homework help site in the category of educational resource or academic enrichment. Coupled with a decent, online tutoring capability, the site can literally be a school away from school, reaching students in remote areas where perhaps there are no schools at all.
Like anything else in life, the character of the student will be determined, in part, by how that student decides to use the academic resources available to him. Homework help websites are no exception to this rule.
Lowell Parker, Ph.D.
Empire State College