Homework of the Future

Online Homework and Instant Feedback

Students are anxious to get instant feedback and responses on their homework. College kids’ lives are fast paced, and their homework needs to have fast replies as well. Online homework appears to be becoming very popular in finance, math, and science classes. The subject has been viewed in both a positive and a negative standpoint. Studies have been performed to attempt to reach a conclusion as to whether students have more success with electronic homework compared to traditional written homework. The youth of this generation is known as the “digital natives”, thus technological advances in online homework will become even more common in students’ lives. Students who get assigned online homework get better grades, and the homework also leads to higher scores on tests.
Not only does online homework benefit youths, but it also helps instructors. They no longer need to spend hours grading hundreds of assignments and individually returning them in class. The instant feedback that is provided by online programs eliminates passé, laborious homework checking.

Setting Options

Teachers who use online homework have options in the specific settings that they use. In one accounting class the “online homework accounted for 13% of the final grade for the MBA class and 23% in the undergraduate class” (Smolira 3). Instructors for this accounting class used a system called Homework Manager which gives them the option to choose the number of problems for each assignment based on the prediction that it will take an approximate amount of minutes to complete (Smolira 3). “For each homework assignment the instructor allowed one-five times or an unlimited number of times…however, to receive credit for the assignment, the grade on the homework had to be 70% or higher. A homework grade below 70% was counted as a 0” (Smolira 3). Some people think this is unfair, but it creates a way to encourage students to think actively about the homework and pay attention in class. Another setting that teachers can adjust is the time frame for when each assignment is due. For this accounting class “the end date for each homework was assigned to be one week after the expected completion of the chapter material. This schedule encouraged students to complete the work while the material was fresh” (Smolira 3). Emily Stroker, a student at the University of Colorado, comments, “Right after I get out of my lecture I immediately do my online homework, so I can get it out of the way and the information is clear…the homework is set up so we can do part of it one time and finish the rest later”. All of these settings make drastic upgrades in this modernized homework, and they are important to the students. Students value the new adjustments to homework because they provide opportunities to help them succeed.


Some problems have come up with online homework. An obstacle that students have to work around has been that some of the homework questions have multiple steps. Each step requires the students to round their answers, which can cause trouble due to the amount of decimal places the number is rounded to. To fix this problem the programs created a range for each answer. Another common problem arises when students may enter a number as “5 million” or “5,000,000”. This is very frustrating to the pupils since they ultimately had the correct answer. To fix this problem the teacher must go through each student’s homework manually and regrade the problem (Smolira 3). An additional complication that teachers run into is that the option of multiple submissions may lead to students using the trial-and-error strategy instead of thinking through each question (Bonham 1). As these problems appear, the homework programs continue to find solutions and make improvements in the technology.

Students' Thoughts

Students’ opinions toward online homework have been very positive. A survey was given to the pupils who took the accounting class mentioned earlier to find out the perceptions of the effectiveness of online homework. Results showed that students were positive towards the assignments. “Eight (16%) of the undergraduates and 10 (33%) of the graduate students reported that it was extremely helpful, and 34 (68%) of the undergraduates and 16 (53%) of the graduates reported that it was somewhat helpful” (Smolira 4). Online homework can act similar to doing homework right next to a professor because of the instant feedback that is given. Another question on the survey displayed that 32 (64%) undergraduates and 21 (70%) graduates said that online homework was more useful and they benefitted from it more than traditional homework (Smolira 4). The chart below displays this survey.
Question Response options Undergraduate Graduate (MBA)

How helpful was online homework in improving your understanding of the class? Extremely helpful

Somewhat helpful 8 (16%)

34 (68%) 10 (33%)

16 (53%)

Was online homework more valuable than traditional homework assignments?
More helpful
32 (64%)
21 (70%)

College students in large lectures have more success from online homework because it provides more comments than their professors can deliver to each individual student. In a separate study done that compared students who took a math course and used the online homework MyMathLab and students who did the same homework but it written form, it was revealed that the students who did the online homework had a 70% success rate while the ones who did traditional homework only had a 49% success rate (Kadippili 1). At the University of Colorado, this can also be seen since often test questions come directly from the electronic homework.
Although most students are positive about online homework, some students have issues with it. Brooke Lambeth, a freshman at the University of Colorado, complains, “Every week I have online math homework due on Wednesday night, but my grade is suffering because I never remember to do it.” This shows that when some teachers assign the homework they expect their students to be responsible and complete it on time.

Benefits for Students

There are many helpful details in the online homework programs that help students succeed. College students these days can be busy with multiple classes, jobs, sports teams, and family. Online homework gives them the option to complete it at a time that works into their hectic schedules (Charlesworth 1375). In addition to the homework, specific programs such as Mastering Biology also give the option to take non-required practice homework and tests that do not weigh towards their final grade. Along with the evolution of traditional homework to online homework, electronic versions of textbooks have also been created. Online textbooks still cost money, but they are often cheaper than buying the expensive, hardcover, bulky books. At the beginning of the semester students taking the course were required to pay a fee for the program. Many of the online homework sites, such as Mastering Biology that is used at The University of Colorado, come with the online version of the book as well.
The students value the instant feedback that they receive when doing their homework, but they also get instant feedback on their grades. A freshman at the University of Colorado, Noelle Scott, explains, “Directly after finishing a problem on my homework I am notified with how many points I got for it. This makes it easy for me to keep track of my grades”. Since the homework immediately grades itself, students no longer need to anxiously wait to get their homework returned.

Benefits for Instructors

Online homework provides professors with less work. They no longer are forced to spend tedious hours grading and correcting homework. Students get frustrated when they are forced to wait weeks for their homework to be returned. Online homework is an effective way to solve this problem. “For large classes there are many issues associated with graded homework; even collecting it may take up a significant portion of class time…and many instructors opt to assign homework, but not to collect or grade it” (Allain 1). Since the students then knew that all of their assignments were going to be graded it increased their chance of completing the homework, which simultaneously raised their overall test scores (Allain 3). Electronic homework is essentially a way to make more time for instructors and simultaneously satisfy the students.


Many of the technology based homework programs help to eliminate cheating. The system cannot be one hundred percent cheat proof, but the programs randomize variables for each problem (Bonham 1). There are many definitions of cheating which makes it a controversial subject (Charlesworth 1371). At the University of Colorado, Dr. William Adams encouraged his biology classes to work with each other as they completed their homework. He suggested this because it results in students discussing the concepts in the homework, and it can even help them understand the information better. When students do the homework together they unconsciously provide instant feedback to one another.


Online homework has been proved to be an effective resource for learning. It provides students with instant feedback along with instant grading. Settings that the programs offer improve the all around quality of homework by allowing instructors to individualize their assignments. Although some complications have come up, solutions have been discovered to correct them. Studies have shown that students generally prefer online homework to traditional homework on account of it being electronic based, which youths are familiar with. Electronic homework allows instructors to focus more on teaching important material, and it does part of their job for them by providing the students with explanations. Ultimately the instant feedback that students receive improves their understanding of the material, which also helps their test scores.