This question is aimed almost entirely at “higher” education faculty, regardless of the branch(es) of knowledge that they represent.
My intention is not to be rude and/or to insult people here, jut to give some of my thoughts about an assignment of homeworks and/or similar tasks.
I did some research in the field of “assigning homeworks and/or similar tasks”, mostly by talking via my facebook chat with students and people who finished their college and who are from Croatia, and, when they had some courses in which there was an assignment of homeworks or similar tasks, some instructors(professors) insisted that the homework must be solved and given to them, while some were not so strict and for them the student had either the possibility of giving her/his (or his/her) homeworks so to obtain extra points which could affect their final grade in that course.
If you ask me, both of these methods of work are not good enough, the first one is extremely destructive, and the second one is destructive (but not extremely), and what is being destroyed is relationship professor-students and, also, the motivation and inspiration for the course itself.
Because, the professor should do precisely this:
1) She/He should do all that he can to motivate and inspire as much as possible as many students as possible in such a way that they do see that the course that they are attending is interesting and worthy of research, and is probably needed later in such a way that other courses will be built by some (or all) knowledge that comes from the course she/he is giving to the students.
2) She/He should explain to students that it should be good for them to try to solve some exercises in the books they encounter, and she/he could give to them some exercises that could help them to gain better understanding of what is going on in the subject-matter of the course, because even if some youngsters are determined to do very good research work and/or to teach, or to do one of those two things, they will probably do it better if they actually were solving some exercises and problems and saw from that how generalizations are and can be obtained, and how an attitude toward doing some exercises can raise questions that can clarify a lot what exactly is going on.
3) She/He should explain to students that the test(s) they will have to write (or, more generally, attend to) will include in itself the obvious requirement that they were not lazy during the duration of that course, and that they will have a better chance of passing the exam if they decided to practice (during the course) various approaches and methods in their adventure of solving some exercises and, more generally, tasks, and the more they exercise in a right way the more they will master the subject-matter of the course.
The approach where students must do a homework, or where they need not to do it, but if they do not do it then their grade can be lowered down, or be not as high as it could be if they did the homeworks are non-inspirational and contain in itself an elements of force (I could also say violence, but will not), because, some gratitude should be shown to those youngsters, because they actually came to listen to you, and want to learn something new, and want that you inspire them, and want that you be good to them, and want that they have as much freedom as they can during the attendance of your course and during an activites that are related to your course.
And what do you do? You put on their shoulders a burden of “necessary” homework or of “not needed but I could reward you if you do it” homework.
But, they can work in groups and/or with themselves only, even if they are not forced or “almost-forced” to do something. They will surely do exercises if they are interesting to them and if they are presented to them in an interesting and clever way.
Yes, there will be some that will not do them them even with almost the nicest and cleverest approach presented to them, or they will do them but will not feel the need to present them to someone, be it professors or colleagues attending the same course. And there will be some that will gladly do them and ask professors for better approach and/or advices. But neither group will not feel less worthy because some did the homework and succeeded in attaining the higher grade, and some did not and because of that their grade is lower than of some colleague who did all or almost all of the homework assignments.
So, I am just thinking of an approach where everything will be at least as good as it is, but where there is no tendency to reward in this or that way students who wanna do their homework and exercises in the course, and not to reward those who do not wanna.
I should tell that English is not my native and I am not good at it, so it could be that I did not reflect my thoughts crystally clear the way I wanted.
So, it would be nice to know what do you think about the concept of studying where there are no homeworks and/or similar tasks that must be done, and of the same concept where are also no homeworks and/or similar tasks where doing them could award some students, and not doing them could not-reward some other students?
Also, as I am not a professor anywhere, it could be that I am not competent for even asking something like this, or to go into discussion about approaches of this kind, and also, all of this was researched only with students or those who finished the college in Croatia, so that I do not know generally what is the situation in the whole world.