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Students often seek help from a variety of sources, including private tutors, who can be found either locally or remotely on websites such as Wyzant, Chegg, Tutor.com, Varsity Tutors, etc.

As a relative newcomer to the world of online tutoring I am gradually coming to realize that protection of academic integrity, while somewhat fundamental to the entire enterprise, is somewhat of a challenge; this is especially true when tutoring remotely. Academic integrity is a potentially sensitive subject, in the sense that it is easy to impose an unintended policy (or one with unintended side effects) on others by accident, either actively or passively.

I am wondering if it is appropriate for tutors to be in communication with their students' teachers in order to ensure that their lessons are not somehow incompatible with school or class academic honesty policies or integrity frameworks. On the one hand, teachers and Professors could benefit from knowing if a large number of their students are seeking outside help to understand lessons, and from having transcripts of one-on-one tutoring sessions as well. On the other, there is a small possibility that, for any number of what would amount to legitimate reasons, they (individual teachers and/or Professors) might regret this knowledge, and that the set of appropriate stewards of tutoring sessions (or the "relevant data" thereof) does not include them, but rather consists of a comparably* sparse network of educators and administrators that is nonetheless robust. Would it be generally acceptable to leave this decision in the hands of the student? Or is there a more appropriate (more graceful or less awkward) way to maintain academic integrity for tutoring sessions?

*That is, with respect to a "radically open" network that includes everyone who might have any interest whatsoever, including the course professor.

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    Your location is important, as the student-professor relationship (or teaching philosophy) depends heavily on the country (and also heavily on other factors).
    – user111388
    Feb 5 at 23:36
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    If you screw your clients you will quickly not have them anymore. If I was leading a tutoring service and an employee attempted to give away client information I would fire them instantly. Feb 6 at 16:55
  • @FourierFlux, thanks for sharing your perspective. If it helps, my question is geared more to independent tutors than to CEOs of relatively large tutoring companies where liability would be somewhat non-insignificant, and where fancier third-party approaches to observing academic integrity can probably be afforded.
    – TLDR
    Feb 6 at 23:46
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Academic integrity is the responsibility of the student. Everyone has a responsibility to decline to knowingly assist cheating. Only the instructor and university have a responsibility to actively discourage cheating.

So no, you do not need to contact professors unless your employer requires it.

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  • Some universities have honor codes that differ from this, but honor codes only apply to affiliated individuals. Feb 6 at 0:15
  • I appreciate your sharing your point of view. I would also add that anyone who acknowledges such a responsibility probably 'has' that responsibility as well, and I'm not sure that I would trust someone who did not understand the basis of academic integrity to effectively discourage its corruption, independently of where they happen to work.
    – TLDR
    Feb 6 at 23:56
  • Also, even if someone's employer required their being in contact with their students' professors, would it be "correct" for them to do so unconditionally (as opposed to, say, quitting?)
    – TLDR
    Feb 6 at 23:59
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I recommend that you have a clear policy, accepted by the student, that you will contact their instructor at the start of your work with them, announcing yourself and asking for any guidance or ground rules that you should follow.

This policy makes it unnecessary to ask the student for permission and then wonder what to do if it isn't given. It also makes it clear to the student that you are a supplement to their instructor and not a replacement. Finally, it should make it clear that you won't listen to requests to do unethical things.

Moreover, as a newcomer, you might get some valuable pointers that will help you be more effective. For example, the idea that it is best to give students only minimal hints when they encounter problems.

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    Agreed. As a teacher, I would also love to be notified of any student being tutored for my course – and be happy that they've got that support, but aware of the fact. Feb 6 at 13:30
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    @EthanBolker I'm one of the downvoters, and I suspect that the vote mix reflects, as many other cases here, the different mentality between US (and maybe Britain) and old Europe. For me, what a student does to study outside a class should be none of the professor's business: for me a student can get tutored, helped by friends to solve homework, go to ask for help online, consult any book they want etc. And, for me, neither a university nor a professor should have a say on any of these.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Feb 6 at 17:04
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    @MassimoOrtolano Fair point. "Get tutored", yes. "Hire someone to do one's homework", no, Even in Europe I hope. A tutor anywhere should refuse the latter. I suppose that honorable person could just tell the client "no" without informing the teacher of the relationship. Feb 6 at 17:10
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    @EthanBolker I explained my policy about homework here, so for me it doesn't really change anything if a student hires someone to do their homework, it's just wasted money for them. And when I was a student virtually every professor gave solutions to homework problems. All my colleagues give solutions. It's up to the students to use homework to learn something or not.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Feb 6 at 17:31
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    Buffy, it's a private tutor not a university one, I wouldn't give any guidance to a private tutor: they're the ones who want to do business.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Feb 6 at 17:39

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