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I am a mostly self taught programmer. I read books and make things in my spare time. I want to go back to school soon for a CS degree and one of the ways I stay sharp is to help with stuff that's within my ability on Stack Exchange or Reddit. For example things like "How to print the reverse of a string" or whatever.

My question is that a lot of schools have policies against letting your work be used in someone else's assignment. As far as I'm concerned helping out on internet forums is just doing a public good but are there schools that see it differently? Could that come back to bite me when I'm enrolled somewhere? Should I hold off from answering questions until I'm through the educational system? Or is it a baseless concern?

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    When answering these questions you generally don't know what the OP plans to use the answer for. Unless it is obvious (to you) that they plan to do something unethical (like cheating) or illegal there is no ethical concern here and I would surprised if a school had any regulations prohibiting it. – Roland Mar 12 '19 at 8:51
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Answering Questions from others on stack is one thing which is fine - it is outside your course.

Posting an assignment to get it solved for you or posting the solved assignment for others is not...

Students have long helped each other, by working through problems and applying the process etc but NOT by handing over a complete solution to a graded assignment - that is cheating and most institutions will be after both the cheat and the person helping them...

  • So if someone asks for help with a specific problem (like "how to print the reverse of a string") and I say "here's how I did it, maybe this can help you." Am I doing something wrong? – some_guy632 Mar 12 '19 at 6:31
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    If it is not graded then students help each other - usually by working through step by step... BUT not just by handing over a complete solution to a graded piece of work... – Solar Mike Mar 12 '19 at 7:21
  • What if it's not graded? Just a random question on the internet, ostensibly not related to any assignment? And I provide a solution that worked for me in the past in my own projects (none of which have been graded due to me being self taught)? Is that fine? Or should I just not give out complete solutions? – some_guy632 Mar 12 '19 at 7:23
  • What was not clear about "usually by working through step by step"? – Solar Mike Mar 12 '19 at 7:24
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    @some_guy632 The difference is actually fairly straight forward: Is the end result meant to be used to assess the abilities of the person you are helping? If it is, then some amount of caution is necessary to make sure you are not helping someone cheat. If not, then you are just helping someone. – Tobias Kildetoft Mar 12 '19 at 7:44
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one of the ways I stay sharp is to help with stuff that's within my ability on Stack Exchange or Reddit. For example things like "How to print the reverse of a string"

Perhaps what you should do is change the way you assess whether something is within your ability. If you tackle questions which you're not certain you can answer then

  1. You can't possibly be giving away your answers to homework, which addresses your main question.
  2. You stretch yourself, and that will sharpen you more than doing the same thing again and again. For all that katas are popular, programming isn't karate.

I would also recommend not giving full working code to any question which you think smells like homework. That's partly playing it safe with zealous honor committees, if your university has them, and partly trying to avoid fostering a culture of "help vampires".

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