A flock of homework help apps have surfaced in China in recent years. Demand for such apps surges as summer vacation starts, for teachers and peer-help are absent during the break. Among the 20 students who got interviewed by a Chinese newspaper at a local library in Hebei Province, 7 out of 20 students have used homework help apps; 9 never used one but knew about them; only 4 have never heard of these apps.


Operating on the same simple goal to help students finish their assignments, these homework helpers come in slight variations. For example, Zuoye Shenqi is a search engine for problem sets. Its location-based interface lets students see what keywords others nearby are searching.

Others, like Wenzuoye, Wenta and Zuoyebang, let users snap and post a photo of their problem, doing away the hassle of typing it out. Some also have a social platform for students to share thoughts and photos. Wenta even sells virtual products and lets contributors earn virtual points.

Students can either photograph the problem or type it out

These homework helpers have caused a lot of controversies. Parents and teachers see them as cheating tools. One middle school in Beijing reportedly bans the use of these homework help apps (article in Chinese). Students aren’t the only ones on these apps, though. Some apps claim that they have “stared teachers” to help students out real-time. As such, it’s up to the developers to code the apps in a way that resemble less a cheating tool but more a responsible helper.

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.

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