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Friday, September 25, 1998 Published at 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK


Homework for cheats

"Students will not have to write papers themselves ever again..."

Pupils who cannot be bothered to think for themselves when doing their homework can turn to a Website that has collections of essays that have attracted high marks.

"The purpose of our high school homework collection is to offer quality information to students in need," the site says.

"If you have ever had to write a paper for school you know how boring that can be. Our database will some day contain so many papers on so many topics that students will not have to write papers themselves ever again... "

"If you have any essays, term papers, stories, interpretations, book reports or other types of homework saved on your hard disk, it would be really cool if you could send it to us via email."

The slick-looking Cheatweb site began in Germany. It says it is now "one of the largest homework collections for German students on the Net."

Swiss and Austrian versions soon followed. There are fledgling English language sections.


The idea appals teachers.

"It's like forgery really - it's a crime in my view," said Bill Bailey, head of Woodkirk High School in Leeds.

"The problem is that it's going against what assessment is about, which is judging pupils' ability to have knowledge and to use it to formulate hypotheses, draw conclusions and so on."

In England, the Department for Education and Employment says one of the main aims of homework is to encourage pupils to develop the skills, confidence and motivation needed to study effectively on their own.

"This is vital given the importance for pupils in the future of lifelong learning and adaptability," it says.

Inundated by e-mail

The Cheatweb site was devised by 20-year-old Bastian Wilhelms. In 1995 he was using the Web to search for help with his own school homework and says he was surprised not to have much success.

It gave him the idea of collecting useful homework resources in one place - but he did not know how to go about it.

He got the necessary technical knowhow during an exchange trip to the United States. He drew up plans, revised the concept, and made the first site live in December 1996.

He says it was so successful that in the second week of operation his service provider's mail server crashed under the weight of 54Mb worth of e-mail. The database of essays grew rapidly.

He now claims to have between 3,000 and 5,000 users a day, most of them aged 16 to 20 - one third female, two thirds male.

There are other homework help sites, such as GCSE Answers in the UK or the US-based Homework Central, which claims to be "the biggest study site on the Internet, linking everything that's fit to learn", and plenty of local and homepage resources.

They are usually intended to assist, not offer a cheat's way out.

"I want to make things easier for other young people," Bastian says. "So that they can spend less time doing their homework and more checking out which disco is playing the grooviest music..."

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