Please remove all answers to 'how to solve Kepler's equation' Students are using the answers to cheat.

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Dr. Anna Haywood
Dr. Anna Haywood on 27 Oct 2015
Commented: Jan on 30 Oct 2015
Hello MATLAB Central, I am a Professor at ASU, and I have assigned a homework on solving Kepler's equation for E (E - e*sin[E] = M) Unfortunately, I see many answers on MATLAB Central. Can those answers be removed or modified so that students have less opportunity to cheat? Thank you, Dr. Anna Haywood
Jan on 30 Oct 2015
I'm astonished that this question got one vote only yet. Homework questions are an important problem the forum has to solve every day.

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Answers (2)

Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 27 Oct 2015
The Answers facility gets a lot of questions from students, and so acts as an educational resource. The major volunteers do not hesitate to push students to put in efforts. But we also explain; and by the time a student has worked everything through, a substantially complete answer might be present.
The MATLAB Answers volunteers in effect act like tutors. The answers are worked out in public to act as future educational material for other people. If a student brings a problem to us and we assist the student in working it out, and another student reads it and learns from it, then we have done something useful and educational, just the same way that people who publish hardcopy textbooks and tutorials are engaging in useful educational activities.
MATLAB Answers "competes" with thousands of other sites, (absolutely definitely including Facebook), in which students get together and share techniques and solutions. It also "competes" with the services that offer to write any program for $5. But here, the people who stick around as volunteers are conscientious about pushing students to learn, not copy. And by being public, educators can check to see what is going on here. For us to delete types of questions would not prevent the questions from being asked and answered elsewhere. You could perhaps think of us in the "harm reduction model" sense ;-)
The ability of students to spread questions around quickly and seek answers from diverse sources would not go away if MATLAB Answers were to close today. Unfortunately that implies that educators must adapt when assigning homework. By, for example, incorporating student identity information into the question, so that if a student just blatantly copies someone else's answer, it will not work for them.
When I was getting started in programming, students sometimes copied assignments by duplicating someone's card deck, or by having a student copy their program to paper tape and then read in the tape. The better-off students photocopied notes in their parent's office. It was just after the era that students would mimeograph notes for their study circles. The problems are not new.

Jan on 27 Oct 2015
No, unfortunately removing all answers concerning the Kepler equations is not a feasible option. You have found a better solution already: identify the potential sources for cheating. This is a reliable step to control this problem.
You can tell your students, that there are some useful Matlab forums and that they can get assistance there, but that you know them also and recognize copied solutions. Mention that you let a student explain his code if you are in doubt. And explain that plagiarism is a serios problem in science, even dissertations of famous politicians and articles in important journals are concerned.
Motivate the students to ask you in case of problems. When I studied my professor mentioned, that he offers positions for a diploma thesis or a PhD not to those, who deliver all homework solutions correctly, but to those, whose face he can remember from the lessons. So asking more questions and showing more interest was more important and cheating of homework had less impact.

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